The Holy men of the Medieval period regarded the priesthood as a Sacred Order of men dedicated to God and His message. In his epistle to the Christians of Smyrna, St. Ignatius, Martyr, says that the priesthood is the most sublime of all created dignities: "The apex of dignities is the priesthood." St. Ephrem calls it an infinite dignity: "The priesthood is an astounding miracle, great, immense, and infinite." St. John Chrysostom says that though its functions are performed on earth, the priesthood should be numbered among the things of Heaven." According to Cassian, the priest of God is exalted above all earthly sovereignties, and above all celestial heights—–he is inferior only to God. Innocent III says that the priest is placed between God and man; inferior to God, but superior to man. St. Denis calls the priest a Divine man. Hence, he has called the priesthood a Divine dignity. In fine, St. Ephrem says that the gift of the sacerdotal dignity surpasses all understanding. For us it is enough to know, that Jesus Christ has said that we should treat his priests as we would his own person: "He that hear you, hear Me; he that despise you, despise Me." Hence, St. John Chrysostom says that "he who honors a priest, honors Christ, and he who insults a priest, insults Christ." Through respect for the sacerdotal dignity, St. Mary of Oignies used to kiss the ground on which a priest had walked.
Such is the dignity of the priesthood that even saints would not want to enter its order. The Priest is chosen by God to administer all his possessions in this world. His office is Divine and is never to be joked with. Once ordained to the sacred order of the priesthood, the anointed one has been given authority to perform transubstantiation – the mystery of changing the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Such is this authority and power that it is not available for any ordinary person. Such, the priest is an offering of the community to God.
Recently, we had read in papers that an Italian priest had been kidnapped in southern Philippines. Fr. Giancarlo Bossi of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions was abducted by unknown kidnappers early June and has not yet been recovered although news circulated that Fr. Bossi had been borrowed by an armed group in Southern Philippines. This is a great slap on the face of the Filipinos after claiming to be the only Catholic nation in South Asia.
The incident reminded me of a great event in the history of the local church of Bacolod, The Negros Nine. It was during the dark years of the Marcos years when a group came out to malign the priests in a southern town of Negros. Three priests together with six lay leaders were accused of conspiring for the killing of the mayor of the town. It was a great harassment for the local church. It placed the local Church in the international pages. The three accused priests were: Fr. Vicente Dangan (+), secular; Fr. Niall O’Brien (+), and Fr. Brian Gore, both Columban missionaries.
God was protecting his people by sending all types of calamities to the Philippines. Political, social, economic and religious crises beset the country, especially Negros. God reminded the people never to play with his ministers. The rich clamored at the sinking prices of sugar. Insurgency went very high and many business gone down. It was like God was telling us that there is something wrong with what you are doing.
Bishop Fortich was also a victim of ridicule for standing on Justice and peace. He was maligned. If there was communication technology that time surely he would have fall victim of text messaging.
Also, I am reminded of what people had done to Fr. Edgar Saguinsin. It was because of his form stand against the corruption in government that he was arrested and later had to exile himself abroad.
Many more priests and persons of God were martyred and humiliated for standing in the truth. Now, the question, are the assailants and detractors of these men of God now happy? Where are they now? They must be turning around and crying for destroying a man of God.
Today, many of our priests have been maligned through new forms of media. You hear one being attacked on radio as if the priest is a normal guy. You could sometimes read messages putting the priest as a subject of ridicule. These are some harassments a priest receive for following the footsteps of Christ.
But, I pity those who malign, ridicule and assassinate our priests. They must have forgotten the lessons they had in catecheses. Blasphemy and slander are two grievous sins especially when done for a priest or a man of God.
We must always respect the office of the priesthood. Slander may lead us to eternal damnation.
St. Ezekiel Moreno and Pope John Paul the Great, pray for us.
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by: Mr. Carlos Legaspi, Jr.