Priest - the Believer
The priest must be a believer, one who converses with God. If this
is not the case, then all his activities are futile. The most lofty and
important thing a priest can do for people is first of all being what he is: a
believer. Through faith he lets God, the other, come into the world. And if the
other is not at work, our work will never be enough; When people sense that one
is there who believes, who lives with God and from God, hope becomes a reality
for them as well. Through the faith of the priest, doors open up all around for
people: it is really possible to believe, even today. All human believing is a
believing-with, and for this reason the one who believes before us is so
important. In many ways this person is more exposed in his faith than the
others, since their faith depends on his and since, at any given time, he has to
withstand the hard-ships of faith for them….
There is a mutual given-and-take in faith in which priests and lay people become mediators of the nearness of God for one another. The priest must also nurture the humility of such receiving in himself ….
The first “task” a priest has to do is to be a believer and to become one ever anew and ever more. Faith is never simply there automatically; it must be lived. It leads us into conversation with God which involves speaking and listening to the same degree. Faith and prayer belong together; they cannot be separated. The time spent by a priest on prayer and listening to Scripture is never time lost to pastoral care or time withheld from others. People sense whether the work and words of their pastor spring from prayer fabricated at his desk.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, from A New Song for the Lord, tr. by Martha M Matesich, NY: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1996, and quoted in Magnificat for Holy Thursday, March 24, 2005.
The Nature of Priesthood (1990 speech by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger)
Benedict XVI's Homily to Seminarians in Cologne: "If You Abide in
Christ, You Will Bear Much Fruit" (August 19, 2005 World Youth Day