To walk into the mystery of the Church is also to walk into the mystery of the priesthood. The priest, whether he wishes to acknowledge it or not, is Christ. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he gave us the Church so that we would not be orphans. He also gave us the Eucharist, the mystery which keeps the Church alive. He left us the Eucharist so that we might feed on him. This is one of the most fantastic mysteries of all. No wonder that so many of his disciples left him when he said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.” They left because they didn’t understand the language of a Lover.
The simplest things that a man could give his friends were bread and wine. Christ made these elements a vehicle of his love, of his strength, so that his followers could live his law of love. It is in the mystery of the Eucharist that we acquire the strength to live this law of love.
Yes, Christ is the bridegroom, and every man and woman is his bride—all men and women together. He wishes to introduce each one of us to his Father. It is through the bread and wine that God and myself became one. It’s a mystical union. No headwork is required. It must simply be accepted in faith. He who drinks his blood and eats his flesh becomes known to the Father in the most intimate fashion, as the bride becomes known to the husband.
From the very beginning of my apostolate, when I sold all that I had, God gave me a tremendous love for the Church and for priests. This Church cannot perish. When you love the Church, you even love those in the Church who do evil. You know that over the centuries the Church has been ruined over and over again, and each time she has risen anew more splendid than ever. God has given me an overpowering love for the Church. Call me a fool. I am a fool. I see Christ in the Church.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Fragments of My Life
Reflection – Well, this is just so beautiful I don’t think I need to add too much to it, eh? It is always a bit difficult as a priest reading what Catherine says about the priesthood. Her sense of the priesthood is so awesome and exalted, and of course I’m just a poor bum, hardly able to put one foot in front of the other some days.
But… yes. It is so. The priest is Christ, whether he wishes to acknowledge it or not. And the Eucharist which is the heart of the priesthood is Christ’s body and blood given as a Lover to lovers, as the food and drink of love. And it is through this mysterious gift of God flowing through the priests to the world that each comes to know the Father’s love in its ultimate depths, which is why priests are called ‘Father.’
For those who don’t know Catherine’s life story, it is perhaps worth noting that these priests she loved so much and who were Christ to her also, to a great extent, were the very ones who nailed her to the Cross time and again. She was denounced from the pulpit by priests, opposed, sneered at, betrayed by priests numerous times. These men who were Christ to her in faith were also the Judas who betrayed her, the Peter who denied her, the apostles who abandoned her, the Thomas who doubted her, the crowd who mocked her, the Sanhedrin who condemned her.
Her love of the priesthood was not some naïve schoolgirl sentimentality. She knew all about the humanity and the sins of priests, and suffered deeply from it, because she loved us so.