MEDITATIONS ON THE CATHOLIC PRIESTHOOD. By Charles P. Connor (St. Pauls/Alba House, 2187 Victory Blvd., Staten Island, N.Y. 10314, 2005), xvi + 141 pp. PB $14.95.
Since the close of Vatican II in 1965 there have been some strange and disturbing things written about the Catholic priesthood. Many articles and books on the subject have wandered far from Catholic teaching and the tradition of the Church.
I am happy to report that none of these tendencies will be found in this excellent, short treatise on the priesthood by Fr. Charles A. Connor, a well-known theologian, author and lecturer. The chapters in this book are based on talks he has given to priests and also on television on EWTN.
The book contains twelve short chapters of ten to twelve pages each. The text is sprinkled with useful quotes from recognized Catholic authors such as Garrigou-Lagrange, Ronald A. Knox, Dom Columba Marmion; Cardinal Ratzinger, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, and Dom Hubert Van Zeller. While reading the book one gets the impression that he is listening to the voices of outstanding priests of the past reflecting of the great dignity of the priesthood of Jesus Christ in which priests have a share by reason of their reception of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
The first chapter deals with the nature of the priesthood, as it is understood in the Catholic Church. The definition he offers is that the priest is “One whose office is to perform religious rites, and especially to make sacrificial offerings” (p. 1). He sees the priest as one who is an alter Christus and who, when he offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, acts in persona Christi because he has been configured to Christ as both priest and victim.
In succeeding chapters the author reflects on the priesthood of Jesus Christ, priesthood on the mind of St. Paul, and how it was explained by the Fathers of the Church and the theologians in medieval and counter‑reformation times.
There are two fine chapters on the priest as a preacher of the Word of God and as the offerer of the Holy Eucharist. The book concludes with a fine chapter on the Blessed Virgin Mary and the priesthood.
Fr. Connor is to be praised for not wasting the reader’s time and trying his patience with the dead issue of the possibility of the ordination of women. Thankfully, the subject is not even mentioned as far as I can recall.
This is a book that I would recommend to priests, to seminarians and to young men who are thinking about entering the priesthood. The doctrine is sound, the writing is clear, and it is easy to read. I hope bishops will read it and recommend it to their priests. Some bishops might even consider sending a copy to every priest in the diocese.
Kenneth Baker, S.J.