Speaking last month on the occasion of the first priestly ordination in his diocese since becoming its head in 2004, Helena Bishop George Thomas called the Catholic priesthood a marked sign of contrast to the values of secular culture.
The bishop’s comments come as the priesthood faces profound challenges because of recent sexual abuse scandals, controversy over homosexuals in seminaries and heightened secular scrutiny.
Overall though, Bishop Thomas said that “Eric [the new priest] is being ordained in a day and age when science and technology are king, and an understanding of priesthood eludes glib sound-byte descriptors.”
“He is being called to Holy Orders at a time when degrees, pedigrees and status symbols are often the measure of the man. The Catholic priesthood stands in marked contrast to these secular symbols of success.”
He went on to explain that “The identity of the Catholic priesthood is rooted in an other-worldly vision, a vision entirely unknowable, except as it has been revealed in Jesus Christ.”
“The whole Christian life”, he said, “is a communion with each of the Divine Persons, and [priests are] called, consecrated and sent to lead others into this great Mystery of Faith.”
Bishop Thomas stressed that “a priest must maintain an active and vibrant life of prayer so that he can keep his true identity ever in focus.”
He also cited the late Pope John Paul II, who, in a meditation on the priesthood wrote that, “The proclaimed truth must be discovered and adopted in the intimacy of prayer and meditation.”
“This”, the bishop added, “is why St. Paul wrote to Timothy, ‘I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands,’ (2 Tim 1: 6) referring to the laying of the bishop’s hands on the head of a candidate during ordination.
Eric Gilbaugh’s ordination took place on December 9th at the Cathedral of St. Helena.