What is a Priest according to the Heart of God?

by St. John Eudes

He is a little god on earth, a living image of Jesus Christ, an Angel for his purity of soul and body; these are some of the many titles the great St. John Eudes confers upon authentic priests.

The most precious gift and the most remarkable favor that Divine Goodness can do to a church is to give it a good shepherd, whether a bishop or a pastor. For this is the grace of graces and the gift of gifts, which contains all other gifts and all other graces. […]

Mediator between God and men

The Good Shepherd – Blessed Sacrament Church in Bronx, New York

A good shepherd is one of the commanders of the army of the Great God, always armed and fighting incessantly for His glory and for the defense of His Church against His enemies – the devil, the world, the flesh and sin – in order to conquer kingdoms for Him; that is, to conquer souls, for every faithful soul is a kingdom of God, more valuable to Him than all earthly empires.

Such a shepherd is one of the princes of the Kingdom of God and one of the kings of His Empire, which is His Church, established by God to rule, according to the laws and evangelical precepts, as many kings and queens as Christians under his direction, and to make them worthy to possess eternally the same kingdom with the sovereign Monarch of the universe.

He is an apostle and an evangelist whose main mission is to announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ ceaselessly, in public and in private, by word and deed, and to continue on earth the functions to which the Apostles dedicated themselves, as well as the life and virtues they practiced.

He is the sacred spouse of the divine Spouse, that is to say, the Church of Jesus Christ, and he is so inflamed with pure and most holy love for her that day and night he only seeks by all means to embellish her, adorn her, enrich her, and make her worthy of the eternal love of her heavenly and immortal Spouse.

He is a mediator between God and men, to help them know, adore, serve, fear and love God; to communicate to them His will; to direct them to render Him every homage; finally, to be continually occupied, in spirit and in heart, in word and in deed, in the things that appertain to the service and glory of God (cf. Heb 5:1). […]

A living and itinerant god

What shall I add?

A good shepherd is a savior and a Jesus Christ on earth, taking the place of Christ, representing His Person, vested with His authority, acting in His Name, adorned with His qualities, exercising His judgement in the Tribunal of Penance, performing the highest functions exercised by Him in this world. Constituted to continue the work of the Redemption of the universe, he employs for this, in imitation of Christ, his entire spirit, his heart, his affections, his strength, and his time, always ready to give his blood and sacrifice his life in order to achieve by every means the salvation of the souls entrusted to him.

He is a living and itinerant god; a god by grace, by participation and by a very strong and particular likeness; a god clothed with the qualities and the perfections of God, namely: His authority, His power, His justice, His mercy, His spirit, His charity, His goodness, His kindness, His purity and His holiness; a god engaged in God’s most important works, as are all pastoral and priestly functions, for the great St. Dionysius the Areopagite said: “The most divine of all divine things is to cooperate with God in the salvation of souls.”1 Finally, as St. Gregory Nazianzen says, a god who produces gods,2 that is, Christians who in the divine Scriptures bear the name of god.

He is a shepherd in whom one sees a living image of the goodness and vigilance of the great Shepherd of souls. He is a shepherd who does not abandon his sheep to the mercy of the infernal wolf who devours them, but is habitually in their midst, in order to keep them always in his sight to lead them, and so that they may always see him and follow him. He is a shepherd who knows all his sheep and is attentive to their needs, weaknesses and illnesses, ready to remedy them.

Leading his sheep by good example

He is a shepherd who feeds his flock by word and example, spiritually and corporeally, as far as is in his power; he is not one of those about whom a holy Doctor comments: “The Divine Judge will rigorously judge the laity, with greater rigor the religious, and most rigorously the wicked and dissolute shepherds. Of these, God will demand strict accounts for not having supplied their sheep’s needs through temporal assistance; and even more severe accounts for not having sated them by the word and heavenly doctrine; and the most severe accounts for not having supplied them with the example of a good life.” […]

Whoever speaks of such a shepherd and such a priest, speaks of a man who often and carefully considers the obligations of his office; who is informed of the needs of his sheep in order to take action; who carefully investigates the disorders in the flock to eliminate them; and who applies himself in every way to promote the glory of God and the salvation of all the souls entrusted to him, for which he must answer, blood for blood and soul for soul.

Whoever speaks of such a shepherd and such a priest, speaks of a man who applies all of his capacity, his action, his heart, his thoughts, his affections, his words, his time, his goods, his life – all that his is, knows, and can do, to demolish the tyranny of satan and of sin, and to establish Christ’s Kingdom in the hearts of those whom God has confided to him.

A Cherub for his clarity, a Seraph for his charity

Finally, to speak of such a shepherd and such a priest is to speak of an Angel for his purity of soul and body, a Cherub for clarity and knowledge, a Seraph for love and charity, an Apostle for his zeal, effort and holiness; a little god on earth, with power and authority, patience and kindness; a living image of Jesus Christ in this world, of Christ watching over, praying, preaching, catechizing, working, sweating, weeping, going from city to city and village to village; suffering, agonizing, dying and sacrificing himself for the salvation of all souls created in His image and likeness.

Such a shepherd and such a priest is the light of those who lie in darkness and the shadow of death (cf. Lk 1:79), the recovery of the wayward, the hammer and destruction of errors, schisms and heresies, the conversion of sinners, the sanctification of the just, the strength of the weak, the consolation of the afflicted, the treasure of the poor, the joy of the good, the dread of the wicked, the confusion of hell, the glory of Heaven, the terror of demons, the joy of the Angels, the ruin of the kingdom of satan, the establishment of the Empire of Jesus Christ, the adornment of the Church, and the crown of the sovereign Shepherd. He is, in a word, a universe of goods, of graces and of blessings for the whole Church, especially for the one in which God established him.

Taken from: Oeuvres complètes.
Le Mémorial de la Vie Ecclésiastique.
Vannes: Lafolye Frères,
1906, t.III, p.23-32.


1 ST. DIONYSIUS THE AREOPAGITE. De Cœlesti Hierarchia, c.V.

2Deum existentem et Deos efficientem” (ST. GREGORY NAZIANZEN. Orat. Apolog.).

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