Dear Father Angelo,
during a baptism ministered at the Easter vigil, we were told that “with baptism we become kings, priests, and prophets”; the priest spoke of a “royal priesthood”, he said that we lay people also enjoy a form of priesthood, and that we can, for example, bless our home.
What is the meaning of this? How can I carry out this priestly function? Could you explain it to me in a better way?
Pray for me, Father.
1. It is true.
With baptism we are all grafted into Christ like branches to the vine and we become partakers of his triple prerogative of being kings, priests, and prophets.
2. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church is written:
“783 Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and established as priest, prophet, and king.
The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ (…).”
784 On entering the People of God through faith and Baptism, one receives a share in this people’s unique, priestly vocation: “Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men, has made this new people ‘a kingdom of priests to God, his Father.’ The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.”
785 “The holy People of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office,” above all in the supernatural sense of faith that belongs to the whole People, lay and clergy, when it “unfailingly adheres to this faith … once for all delivered to the saints,” and when it deepens its understanding and becomes Christ’s witness in the midst of this world.
786 Finally, the People of God shares in the royal office of Christ. He exercises his kingship by drawing all men to himself through his death and Resurrection (Jn 12:32). Christ, King and Lord of the universe, made himself the servant of all, for he came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). For the Christian, “to reign is to serve him,” particularly when serving “the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder.” The People of God fulfills its royal dignity by a life in keeping with its vocation to serve with Christ”.
3. Subsequently, the Catechism brings a quotation from St. Leo the Great, pope, to signify how this priestly and royal dignity of ours is realized.
“The sign of the cross makes kings of all those reborn in Christ and the anointing of the Holy Spirit consecrates them as priests, so that, apart from the particular service of our ministry, all spiritual and rational Christians are recognized as members of this royal race and sharers in Christ’s priestly office.
What, indeed, is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God?
And what is as priestly as to dedicate a pure conscience to the Lord and to offer the spotless offerings of devotion on the altar of the heart?” (St. Leo the Great, Sermones, 4, 1).
4. I could add, taking up the words of the Catechism, that we become prophets (which literally means speaking for someone else) by adhering to the Gospel and the doctrine of the Church, and by bringing its light into our personal life and into this world.
5. The priest you heard specified that the laity also exercise their priesthood by blessing houses.
Of course, they can do it, just as they can bless their children, even without making the sign of the cross because this is the prerogative of deacons and priests.
However, there is a difference between the blessing of the layman and the blessing of the ministers of God.
Here is what St. Thomas writes:
“Here it should be noted that to bless [bene-dicere] is to say something good. This can happen in three ways:
First, by asserting a good, as when one person praises another’s good points.
Secondly, by commanding: to bless in this way belongs to God by Whose command something good comes to creatures, or it belongs to His ministers who invoke the Lord’s name upon the people: “So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them” (Num 6:27) (Commentary on the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, chapter 12, lesson 3).
Thirdly, one blesses by desiring: “And with none passing by to call out: the blessing of the LORD be upon you!” (Ps 128:8)” (Ib.).
And he adds: “Blessing in the first and third ways belongs to everyone.
Blessing in the second way, by commanding, belongs only to God and His ministers” (Cf. Peter of Bergamo, Tabula aurea, v. benedictio 2).
6. The lay, therefore, bless by desiring, by invoking.
It is a form of prayer.
Indeed, it is the prayer of the children adopted by God, addressed to their heavenly Father.
We can say: how could God not answer it, since if he is asking us to pray, it is because he wants to grant our prayer?
7. Instead, the priest’s blessing is imperative.
At that moment, when he raises to bless, his hand blends in with God’s hand.
And if, for example, he raises it to cast out demons, they must go away.
I will gladly remember you in prayer and bring you with me to the Holy Mass which I will celebrate shortly.
Meanwhile, I wish you well and bless you.
And I bless you in the second way that St. Thomas speaks of.
This is no small thing!