First Truth: Know Who You Are!
“[The Archangel] Gabriel said to me: ‘Daniel, you see me; I have come down to teach you how to understand. When your pleading began a word was uttered, and I have come to tell you what it is. You are a man specially chosen. Grasp the meaning of the word, understand the vision.’ (Daniel 9:22-23)
“Tell us,” exclaimed the seminarian, “who we are. Tell us who we are so that no matter what we do or where we are, we will know that our life is worthwhile because we have an identity that is worth everything we have sacrificed.”
Agere sequitur Esse [ Action flows from Being]: if the priest knows who he is then he will know how to live and act as a priest. He does not need to invent his identity by philosophical speculation or by sociological polls: it has already been determined from eternity to eternity; decided by God himself who calls us to take on the “form” or essence of the priesthood of Jesus Christ, the unchanging Eternal High Priest. It is a reality to which he must configure his personality raising himself by the power of grace to its sublime grandeur.
The priest’s identity is due to a real change – an ontological event – that occurs in priestly ordination: “priests, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are signed with a special character and thus configured to Christ the Priest, in such a way that they can act in the person of Christ the Head” (Vatican Council II: Presbyterorum Ordinis). From that moment on he is different, with a difference more marked than any change from youth to old age because while aging is merely an evolution, the new quality that irrupts into his soul is completely new – a revolution or, more accurately, a creation.
This is the sacramental character, the indestructible and unchanging quality making him into an Alter Christus, someone marked in his soul as a man identified with the person of Jesus Christ, Head and Spouse of the Mystical Body. And he is marked forever for “not all the water in the rough, rude sea can wash the balm from an anointed king” (Shakespeare). Along with the sacramental character there is a special fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit of wisdom, knowledge and counsel to enable him to fulfill his mission to sanctify, rule, and teach as he accomplishes the most important mission a man can receive: the eternal salvation of souls.