SOUL TALK – Talk 7: THE CHRISTIAN–PRIEST & VICTIM
 The Second Vatican Council in the sixties emphasized the priesthood of the laity. Today, our Catechism on the Catholic Church reflects:
 1546 Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” (Rev. 1:6; Rev. 5:9-10; 1 Peter 2:5, 9) The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be . . . a holy priesthood.”
 1547 The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, “each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ.” While being “ordered one to another,” they differ essentially. In what sense? While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace –a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit–, the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians.
 During the fourth week of Easter, the Liturgy of the Hours gives us this reading from a sermon by Saint Peter Chrysologus, [380-450 A.D.] Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Sermo 108: PL 52, 499-500):
“Each of us is called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest. “ Listen now to what the Apostle [St. Paul] urges us to do. I appeal to you, he says, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. By this exhortation of his, Paul has raised all men to priestly status. How marvelous is the priesthood of the Christian, for he is both the victim that is offered on his own behalf, and the priest who makes the offering. He does not need to go beyond himself to seek what he is to immolate to God: with himself and in himself he brings the sacrifice he is to offer God for himself. The victim remains and the priest remains, always one and the same. Immolated, the victim still lives: the priest who immolates cannot kill. Truly it is an amazing sacrifice in which a body is offered without being slain and blood is offered without being shed.
 “The Apostle says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. Brethren, this sacrifice follows the pattern of Christ’s sacrifice by which he gave his body as a living immolation for the life of the world. He really made his body a living sacrifice, because, though slain, he continues to live. In such a victim death receives its ransom, but the victim remains alive. Death itself suffers the punishment. This is why death for the martyrs is actually a birth, and their end a beginning. Their execution is the door to life, and those who were thought to have been blotted out from the earth.
 “Paul says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a sacrifice, living and holy. The prophet said the same thing: Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but you have prepared a body for me” (Psalm 40: 7-9). Each of us is called to be both a sacrifice to God and his Priest. Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you. Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity. Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you. Keep burning continually the sweet smelling incense of prayer. Take up the sword of the Spirit. Let your heart be an altar. Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice. God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self-surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter, but by the offering of your free will.”
 This reading reminds me so much of the sacrament of the moment: the offering of my will moment by moment as a communion with Christ. This is the reality given to me by my baptism: I offer my body, my entire essence, the victim and the priest, to God moment by moment. I am a living sacrifice pleasing to God. As St. Paul says: “Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice. God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self-surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter, but by the offering of your free will.”
 The Venerable Concepcion Cabrera de Armida, often known simply as “Conchita” (Mexico, 1862-1937), was a married woman, mother and grandmother, as well as a Roman Catholic mystic and writer. Conchita’s religious writings and meditations total over 60,000 handwritten pages. In her writings she revealed a deep mysticism that rivals St. Catherine of Siena and St. Teresa of Avila.
 Note that in her diary, written 50 years before Vatican II, she helps us better to understand what it means to share in the priesthood of Christ: “You are altar and priest at the same time for you possess the most holy Victim of Calvary and of the Eucharist, which you can constantly offer to the eternal Father for the salvation of the world” (Diary, June 21, 1906). To Christ’s oblation she must join her own oblation. “You must perform the function of priest but by sacrificing yourself at the same time. There is the true priesthood: being victim with the Victim” (Diary, July 17 1906). The Chain of Love begins with insertion into the inmost life of God in baptism. This grace of filial adoption becomes personal and conscious and it normally demands a progressive identification with Christ the Priest, the center of every salvific design of the Father.”
 “…the flow and re-flow of the divine good communicated to man… is a chain which ties us to God, not a chain of servitude or of simple dependence as a creature, but a ‘Chain of Love’. “It is a synthesis of the fundamental experience of saved existence which members of the Mystical Body of Christ lead, a lived experience of the mystical incarnation which finds its consummation in the Unity of the Trinity. The Chain of Love is also the exercise of spiritual priesthood by which “all their works, prayers, and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily labor, their mental and physical relaxation, carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne – all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 P 2:5), (Lumen Gentium # 34). This spiritual priesthood continues in the celebration of the Eucharist: “Taking part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the font and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with it” (Lumen Gentium # 11). It is evident that to the extent that Christian life becomes more intense, spiritual priesthood is carried out with an equally and greater perfection and comes to be a living and continual contact with the Divine Persons.”
 Here, Jesus is speaking to Conchita: “You must live in continual contact with the Trinity, united to the three Divine Persons by the grace of the mystical incarnation: with the Father [you are] offering Him His Word, with the Son, [you are] giving delights to the Father, with the Holy Spirit [you are] accepting Him for your spirit, the inspirer of your feelings and of all that you are, transforming you since you are possessed by Him. “You must live, breathe, labor, in the bosom of these three Divine Persons. They must constitute your atmosphere, your breathing, your existence. Thus, you will sanctify your life and what you are, divinizing your whole being and each of your steps to heaven” (pp. 163-164).
 Fifty years before Vatican II, Jesus told Conchita: “You are at once altar and priest, since you possess the most holy Victim of Calvary and of the Eucharist and since you have the power of offering Him constantly for the salvation of the world. You are My altar and at the same time you will be My victim. Offer yourself in union with Me. Offer Me at every instant to the eternal Father, with the sublime intent of saving souls and of glorifying Him. Forget all and especially yourself. Let this be your constant concern. You have received a sublime mission. As you see, it is not for yourself alone but universal, obliging you with all purity possible to be at the same time altar and victim consumed in holocaust with the other Victim, the Unique Host, pleasing to God and able to save the world” (Diary,June 21, 1906, p. 99).
 Jesus tells us through Conchita: “I want you to be My host and have the intention, renewed as often as possible day and night, of offering yourself with Me on all the patens on earth. I want you, transformed in Me by suffering, by love and by the practice of all the virtues, to raise heavenward this cry of your soul in union with Me: ‘This is My Body, This is My Blood.’ Thus by making yourself but one with the Incarnate Word out of love and suffering, with the same intentions of love, you will obtain graces for the whole world. You will offer Me Myself and yourself also, with the Holy Spirit and through Mary, to the eternal Father” (p. 122).
 If you wonder what you can possibly do to save your loved ones and to draw down grace upon grace for the world, hear what Jesus says to her: “…one only Host, one only Victim, one only Priest immolating Himself and immolating Me in your heart on behalf of the whole world. The Father pleased, will receive this offering presented through the Holy Spirit, and the graces of heaven will descend as rain on the earth. “Here is the central nucleus, the center, the concrete ensemble and essence of My Works of the Cross. It is evident that My immolation, in itself alone, suffices and more than suffices, for appeasing God’s justice. What is it, the purest Christianity, the flower of the Gospel? Is it aught else but uniting all victims in one single Victim, all suffering, all virtues, all merits in the One, that is, in Me, in order that all this be of worth and obtain graces? What does the Holy Spirit intend in My Church save to form in Me the unity of wills, of sufferings and of hearts in My Heart? What was the desire of My Heart throughout My life, but to bring about unity in Me by charity, by love? Why did the Word descend into this world save to form with His Flesh and His Blood most pure, one sole blood to expiate and to win souls? Has the Eucharist any other purpose than to unite bodies and souls with Me, transforming them and divinizing them?”
 It should be more than clear to us, especially after the revelations of Vatican II, with the confirmations of St. Paul, St. John Chrysologus, and the Catholic Catechism, that the teaching of the holy priesthood, a participation in the priesthood of Christ himself, is not just for Conchita, but for each one of us, every baptized Catholic, who, filled with the Spirit, participates in Trinitarian life, pouring out in love to the Father through the Holy Spirit. What is so remarkable to me is the perfect agreement of Father de Caussade’s teaching on the “sacrament of the moment,” in his Abandonment to Divine Providence. St. Theresa’s little way of love is also in perfect accord. What a revelation! What a consolation!
Catholic Catechism: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p2s2c3a6.htm#II
Conchita’s Diary: http://www.scribd.com/doc/25494858/Conchita-Diary-the-Venerable-Concepcion-Conchita-Cabrera-de-Armida [Note: Conchita: A Mother’s Spiritual Diary can be purchased at Amazon.com.]
Liturgy of the Hours — St.Peter Chrysologus: “Each One of Us Is Called To Be Both a Sacrifice To God and His Priest” http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=173
St. Paul’s Blog – “Mary’s Martyrdom of Solitude” [ including several sources on Conchita]: http://stpaulbr.webs.com/apps/blog/show/15757562-mary-s-martyrdom-of-solitude-a-new-devotion