Those ordained to the priestly ministry are called to promote the unity of Christian communities, their continuity in the faith ‘that comes to us from the apostles’, and their pilgrimage towards the heavenly kingdom. This thesis sets the ordained ministry, its sharing in the one priesthood of Christ, and its service within a broader mission and context that includes but extends beyond presiding at public worship. Those ordained are not only presiders at the Eucharist but also preachers of the Word and pastors of the people. Through their prophetic activity as preachers/teachers and their ‘kingly’ activity as pastors, ordained priests play a major (but obviously not unique) leadership role in promoting communion among the faithful, guiding them to their final goal, and preserving and actualizing the lifegiving revelation that comes from Christ and his apostles, as well as sharing with all people the good news that is Jesus himself. In their inseparable, if distinguishable, roles as priests, prophets, and kings, ordained ministers are called to be Christ’s instruments who face, so to speak, in three directions. As prophetic teachers they are to maintain continuity with the apostolic past; as priests they visibly actualize Christ’s powerful presence through the Holy Spirit; and as pastors they lead the faithful towards God’s future kingdom. Just as with the priesthood of all the faithful, so the priesthood of the ordained must be set in the wider framework of the three offices and their exercise. Thesis 2 above about the baptized faithful finds its counterpart in this thesis about the ordained.


Ordained to act in the person of the invisible Christ, priests act and intercede for others as his visible representatives. Augustine, as we noted, understood the Church’s ministers to be visible signs of the invisible but dynamically present priesthood of Christ—sacraments of Christ, the Head of the body that is the Church. In 1964 Vatican II linked the pastoral work of priests to the Shepherd and Head (LG 28). In a subsequent document of 1965 the Council returned to this thought and portrayed priests as being ‘configured to Christ the Priest in such a way that they are able to act in the person of Christ, the Head’ (PO 2; see also 6) and as ‘servants of the Head’ (PO 12).