Guiding souls
HINTS AND TRACES - Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - July 19, 2018 - 12:00am

This is quite a tough job. Guiding souls is indeed a delicate job, requiring nothing less than entering into the inner life of a person with the intention of helping and of eventually leading that person to God. But how can this be?


Priests are supposed to be sacramentally configured to Christ as head of the Church and therefore as the ultimate guide of souls, the redeemer of mankind. They are supposed to have the mind and sentiments of Christ. And if they are truly identified with Christ, they will also share in the power of Christ.

But is this possible? If we have faith, the answer is yes. The sacrament of Holy Orders configures one to Christ with an effectivity, called in Latin as “ex opere operato.”

It means that by the mere reception of the sacrament and as long as there is no formal impediment to such reception, that sacramental configuration is achieved, not so much by the qualities and dispositions of the recipient as by the power of Christ Himself.

Would we think that the apostles had the qualities and dispositions of becoming the first bishops in the Church? If going by our human standards, we would have serious doubts about that. But Christ made them our first bishops, and bishops they were.

The priestly ideal of being another Christ as head of the Church certainly demands everything from them. But given that priests are men, with their share of weaknesses, among others, that ideal will be pursued in stages, with its ups and downs, twists and turns, and drama.

We, priests, should do our part of resembling more like Christ with our daily effort to be faithful to our identity and ministry. This can never be overemphasized. And everything should be done so that at least its approximation can be gained.

As guide of souls, we should learn how to deal with all kinds of souls with their respective consciences. There are those with a certain and delicate conscience, those with erroneous, doubtful, lax or scrupulous conscience, etc. Of course, these consciences bring with their own lifestyle. We must learn how to deal with each one as he is and help him in the way that is proper to him.

Nowadays, we have to deal with people who are over-pious as to be self-righteous, those who are hostile to God and religion, those in irregular marital and family situations, those affected by all sorts of addictions and ideologies. The priest as guide of souls must be prepared to handle each case.

Priest should strive with God’s grace and his effort to be all things to all men, as St. Paul once said, in order to save all. This requires him to forget himself and try his best to have the mind and heart of Christ whose love for us is universal and for always. He must be humble so that he can always be open to new possibilities rather than put limits because of his subjective standards.

Obviously, he has to study and go deep into the sciences that deal with caring of souls. Hopefully, he can see the subtle distinctions between what is true holiness and the forms of fake sanctity, giving guidance accordingly.

That is why the formation of priests will always be ongoing, and especially these days with so many developments around, there are also many new things to learn and to tackle.

It also pays that the priest is willing to go to where the Spirit leads him as he guides souls.

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