St. Chavara and Priesthood

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Jomon Joseph

            A priest first of all is a baptized man who has heard God calling him to a particular role in the Church – that of ministerial priesthood. After a long period of training he is ordained. Being ordained, or ordination, is a sacrament; that is a special blessing from God which makes an inner change in the man. Another word for this sacrament is ‘Holy Orders’.

            When a man receives Holy Orders, he is configured to Christ, which means that when he carries out his ministerial work he is acting in the power of Christ, and not in his own power. We call this a special grace of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit could be described as God’s power, energy and wisdom. In the most profound way possible, ordination creates a new man, one who, if living his vocation (calling) faithfully, can say with St. Paul: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.’ (Galatians 2:20). He is changed not because of what he can do, but because of what he has become. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) describes Holy Orders as ‘The sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time…’ (CCC 1536).

            ‘Everything a priest does in his ministry flows from what he becomes at his ordination: presiding at Mass, absolving sinners, anointing the sick, proclaiming and explaining the Gospel, giving blessings, and his whole pastoral leadership of building up a local community of faith.. The priest does what he does because of what he is a priest of Jesus Christ. The roles of a catholic priest are there in nature; teach, guide and sanctify. As we look into the life of St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, we can understand that he was a holy priest who had fulfilled all the priestly roles in its fullness and perfection. At the age of 13 in 1818 he entered the seminary at Pallipuram where Malpan Thomas Palackal was the Rector. He was ordained priest on 29th November, 1829 and at Arthunkal and celebrated his First Holy Mass. After the ordination he was engaged for some time in pastoral ministry; however he soon returned to the seminary to teach and also to officiate for the Malpan Thomas Palackal during his absence. He was willing to administer the sacraments especially the anointing of the sick and confession when there was a danger for his own life.

            He was always ready to teach others and he firmly believed that there will be a radically change in the community and society only through the proper education to the younger generation; focusing this he started a school in Mannanam when there was only the higher class was promoted to gain education. His school was open for all irrespective of caste, creed and gender. When he became the vicar general of then the Nasarani Church he ordered to start a school each close with the parish churches.  It reveals his committed attitude towards the goal of priesthood. Above all he was a holy priest who knew the mind of God and the needs of the people and responded towards it in a positive way. So he is loved and respected among the millions of the people in their hearts.

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