To Fling Out His Broad Name
The Sacrament of Holy Orders
(paragraphs 1546, 1552-1553, 1565)
Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father” (1 Tim 2:5). The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are consecrated to be a holy priesthood.
The ministerial priesthood has the task not only of representing Christ — Head of the Church — before the assembly of the faithful, but also of acting in the name of the whole Church when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice.
“In the name of the whole Church” does not mean that priests are delegates of the community. The prayer and offering of the Church are inseparable from the prayer and offering of Christ, her head; it is always the case that Christ worships in and through his Church. The whole Church, the Body of Christ, prays and offers herself “through him, with him, in him,” in the unity of the Holy Spirit to God the Father. The whole body, caput et membra (head and members), prays and offers itself, and therefore those who in the Body are especially his ministers are called ministers not only of Christ, but also of the Church. It is because the ministerial priesthood represents Christ that it can represent the Church.
Through the sacrament of Holy Orders priests share in the universal dimensions of the mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles. The spiritual gift they have received in ordination prepares them, not for a limited and restricted mission, but for the fullest, in fact the universal mission of salvation to the end of the earth, prepared in spirit to preach the Gospel everywhere.
The document that follows was approved in its final form in 1558. As you read it, realize that the language may be a bit unfamiliar. St. Ignatius, who placed this at the beginning of the Constitutions for the Jesuits, intended that those considering entrance into the Society reflect carefully and seriously on this section. He writes briefly of the Society’s history, its aims and purposes, and what it expects of those who join it. Part of what shines through is the way St. Ignatius expects Jesuits to know of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, each other’s hopes and fears. This sharing of one’s heart and mind, especially with superiors, is what allows Jesuits to be sent on missions and to be as effective as possible in serving the Kingdom.