Today I am continuing my translation of Mother Mectilde’s introduction to her Constitutions on the Rule of Saint Benedict and, once again, adding something in the way of a commentary after each section.
They will be victims to repair by their purity of intention the worship that wicked priests take away from the Most Holy Sacrament when they make use of this august Sacrament for their own gain, and for a thousand other criminal designs.
Catherine Mectilde de Bar is acutely sensitive to the grandeur of the priesthood and to the frailty of those who bear in their souls its indelible character. She knows that the priest has power over the real and mystical Body of Christ; she also knows that the power of the priest over the Body of Christ can be abused and misused. This tragic reality causes her intense sorrow and compels her to make adoration in reparation for priests, be they wicked, or simply weak.
Mother Mectilde grieves over priests who celebrate Holy Mass hastily, irreverently, carelessly, or without a suitable preparation and thanksgiving. She grieves over priests who offer the Holy Sacrifice having a material interest in mind, that is, the stipend or offering of the faithful. She grieves over priests who ascend the altar in a state of grave sin and, thus, offend Our Lord by their sacrilege.
None of these concerns of Mectilde de Bar, and none of her motives for reparation are limited to 17th century France. They are, in fact, as relevant today as they were four hundred years ago.
Mother Mectilde was a friend and correspondent of Saint John Eudes. She reflects the Norman missionary’s understanding of the priesthood, derived from that of Pierre de Bérulle and the other luminaries of the École française. She saw to it that the Feast of Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest, for which Saint John Eudes composed the Proper Office, was celebrated in the monasteries of her Institute.
In The Priest, His Dignity and Obligations, Saint John Eudes writes:
The priest is a mediator between God and man, causing the Eternal Father to be known, loved, adored and served, as well as feared, by men. His office is to make known the will of God to men, urging them to be faithful to their every duty. His concern is to be devoted unceasingly to “the things that appertain to God” (Heb. 5, 1).
The priest is one of the chief parts of the Mystical Body of Christ because he occupies the principal parts of that Body, namely, the head, the eyes, the mouth, the tongue and the heart. He is the head with the Chief Shepherd, sharing the right to rule and govern in His place. He is the eyes watching over the other members to enlighten and guide them, and to weep over them when they sin.
The priest is the mouth and the tongue to speak the language of heaven, to utter on all occasions the words of eternity. He is the heart circulating the blood stream of Christ’s Precious Blood to quicken and vivify the other members, that their works and functions may be ennobled and perfected.
A holy priest is a saviour and another Christ, taking the Master’s place on earth, representing Him,clothed with His authority, acting in His name, adorned with His qualifications, exercising His judgment on earth in the tribunal of penance. He is consecrated to exercise the highest functions Christ ever performed on earth, to continue the work of salvation. In imitation of His Redeemer he gives himself, mind, heart, affections, strength, time, all for God. He is ever ready to sacrifice his very blood and even life itself to procure the salvation of souls, particularly those of his own flock.
He is a god, living and walking on earth; a god by grace and by participation, clothed with the perfections and attributes of God, namely, His divine authority, power, justice, mercy, charity, benignity, purity and holiness. He is a god delegated to carry on God’s noblest works, the sacerdotal and pastoral duties, as great Saint Dionysius says: Omnium divinorum divinissimum est cooperari Deo in salutem animarum. “The most divine of all divine things is to cooperate with God in the salvation of souls.”
Saint Gregory Nazianzen asserts that the priest is a “God who makes gods,” Deus deos efficiens, that is, Christians who are given the name of gods in Sacred Scripture.