Why Are Catholic "Ministers" Called "Priests"?
Most Christian denominations refer to their clergy as ministers. Catholic clergy are called Bishops, Priests and Deacons. Why do we call our clergy "priests?"
The role of a Catholic priest differs significantly from that of a Protestant minister. The minister's role is just that; to minister to his congregation by preaching on God's word and tending to their spiritual needs to the extent that he is able. The Catholic priest's role is to serve the role of a priest; to be a mediator between God and man and to offer sacrifice to God on our behalf.
St. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:5 that Jesus is the sole mediator between mankind and God: "For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all." The Catholic priest's role as mediator is not in addition to nor in place of the role of Christ as the "one mediator between God and the human race." Rather, the priest acts "in persona Christi" - in the person of Christ. When the priest offers the sacrifice of Christ's Body and Blood to God in the Mass; it is Christ Who acts, through the priest, to offer His sacrifice to the Father.
The Mass is truly the sacrifice of Calvary re-presented to the Father. The Catholic Mass:
Every 4 seconds the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass begins somewhere in the world. Jesus, acting through Catholic priests, is offering Himself to His Father as a mediator for us for the forgiveness of our sins. It happens in Olney, Maryland every day. You are welcome to come and be present at the Sacrifice of Calvary. Follow this link for a schedule of Masses at St. Peter's Church. You are welcome to come and observe or contact us and we will arrange for someone to sit with you and quietly explain what is taking place.
- Is not a separate sacrifice - Jesus does not die again; "27 He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself." [Hebrews 7:27]
- Fulfills the prophesy in Malachi 1:11: "For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, my name is great among the nations; And everywhere they bring sacrifice to my name, and a pure offering; For great is my name among the nations, says the LORD of hosts."
- Is the sacrifice of Calvary made present: Commenting around AD 180 on the prophesy of Malachi, St. Ireaneas wrote, "[Malachi is]-indicating in the plainest manner, by these words, that the former people [the Jews] shall indeed cease to make offerings to God, but that in every place sacrifice shall be offered to Him, and that a pure one; and His name is glorified among the Gentiles." Since the faith of the gentiles comes after the Sacrifice of Calvary and because Christ offered Himself "once for all," this prophecy only makes sense in the context of the Catholic Mass.