success stories

The Meaning of Christian Priesthood
Gisbert Greshake
Four Courts Press, Westminister, Maryland, 1982

Opening Paragraph of Chapter 1
A crisis can be brought about by talk. One can select elements in a situation which are debatable, distorted and apparently contradictory, and write them up as a crisis — failing to notice that they may only be superficial phenomena, which do not affect the central, let alone the total, reality under discussion. For some years now people have been saying — at least in the West — that the priesthood is in a state of crisis. True, this is more than a crisis brought about by talk — although the media are happy to overlook that fact that there are large numbers of priests who still seek to live their life of service with obvious confidence in their vocation and in the assured help of the Spirit promised at their ordination.

Table of Contents:
Part One
Towards A Theological Definition of Priesthood
1. Priesthood in crisis
1. ‘Everything is tottering’
2. Post-Vatican II change
3. New questions and perspectives

2. Ministry as a ‘representation’ of Christ: the Christological foundation of ministry
1. Basic lines of the New Testament concept of ministry
a. The mission of the disciples before the Resurrection
b. Paul as an example of apostolic ministry
c. Paul and the community
d. The priestly character of apostolic office
e. A priestly people and priestly office

2. From Apostolic office to post-apostolic office
a. Continuity in discontinuity
b. The significance of laying-on of hands and consecration
c. Church office and the commission to celebrate the Eucharist

3. The theological significance of church office as representation of Christ
a. Sacramental nature and official character of representation
b. Unity of testimony and witness
c. The concrete handing on of God’s pastoral care

4. Summary, According to the Second Vatican Council there is an ‘essential difference’ between priest and layman. What does this mean?

5. A note on the intrinsic unity of priestly ministry
a. The ministry of the word as the basis of this unity
b. Pastoral office as the basis of unity
c. Sacerdotal action as the basis of unity
d. Specific mission as the basis of unity
e. All these theories taken as one

3. Ministry and ‘representation’ of the Church — the ecclesial-pneumatological foundation church office

1. Exegetical and historical introd0uction
a. the concept of representation in the early Church
b. Medieval views of ‘twofold’ representation
2. A Trinitarian dimension of the work of salvation
a. The trinitarian dimension of the work of salvation
b. Church office as the intersection of authority (of Christ) and communio (Of the Holy Spirit)
c. Trinitarian tension and human contention
d. Office and the consent of the Church
3. Ministry and Charism

Part Two
The Spiritual Life of the Priest
4. The Basis of the priest’s spiritual life
1. The centre of the priest’s life
2. Office and holiness
a. Character indelebilis; the unchanging promise of God and a sign of human lowliness
b. ‘Imitate the things you handle'
c. Holiness, a ministry for others
d. Lifelong
5. Imitation of Christ in practice
a. Celibacy
b. Obedience
c. Poverty
d. Summary
2. Priestly office is a service
3. One of the community and distinct from it

6. Central points of spirituality
1. Pastoral ministry in practice
2. Prayer
3. Study and spiritual reading
4. Priests among themselves and working with each other
5. Concern to provide successors

Instead of an epilogue:
Ten principles for a priest’s life pattern
1. How I live as a priest is more important than what I do as a priest
2. What Christ does through me is more important than what I do by myself
3. It is more important for me to live in union with the presbyterium than to be alone and absorbed in my work
4. The ministry of prayer and the word is more important than serving at tables.
5. It is more important to work united with my fellow workers than to do the maximum number of jobs all by myself
6. It is more important to concentrate on a few points and to influence others, than to be hurried and incomplete in everything.
7. Joint action is more important than isolated action, no matter how perfect. Thus cooperation in work is more important than work, communio more important than action.
8. The cross is more important than efficiency; it is more fruitful
9. Openness to the whole (community, diocese, Church throughout the world) is more important than a particular interest, no matter how important that may be.
10. It is more important that the faith be witnessed to all, than that all ‘traditional’ demands be satisfied.

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