“Aquinas on the Priest”
November 27, 2012
The following article by Fr. Romanus Cessario, O.P., appeared in the English Edition of Nova et Vetera (Vol. 8, No. 1 : 1-15).
Aquinas on the Priest: Sacramental Realism and the Indispensable and Irreplaceable Vocation of the Priest
Fr. ROMANUS CESSARIO, O.P.
St. John’s Seminary
The Priest as Head, Shepherd, and Bridegroom
THE CHURCH today uses biblical language to describe the unique identity of the Catholic priest. Aquinas uses another biblical term to deﬁne the priest: mediator. He ﬁnds warrant for this usage in the New Testament book that offers the most explicit instruction on the priest and on which Aquinas was one of the few medieval theologians to comment–the Letter to the Hebrews. Aquinas explores the grace to be a priest through the prism of the place that the priest occupies within the ecclesial community: Christ brings divine gifts to men, and he reconciles the human race to God.1 Aquinas identiﬁes mediation with the special character that the sacrament of Holy Orders confers on the priest.2 Thus the subtitle for this essay: Sacramental Realism. To understand what is real about the sacraments, we ﬁrst need to recall why we need sacraments. “Redemption is meaningless unless there is cause for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.” More than 35 years ago, these words were written by the American author, Flannery O’Connor. Were she alive today, Miss O’Connor no doubt would have dropped the qualiﬁer “secular.” For she would have discovered that not a few Catholic theologians spread the belief that there is no cause “in the actual life we live” for Redemption. (…)