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"to calumniate a priest is sacrilege. One who lays violent hands on a priest is excommunicated."

Why should Catholics show honour and reverence to the priest?

Catholics should show honour and reverence to the priest because he is the representative of Christ Himself, and the dispenser of His mysteries.

1.The dignity of a priest is higher than any earthly dignity, for he is the representative of God. He has power that the most powerful civil rulers do not possess. The humblest priest by his word can call down God upon the altar and convert bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. He can say to the sinner “I absolve thee,” and the sinners’ soul is saved from hell. What earthly dignity can compare with this? Not even the Blessed Virgin possessed the power to forgive sins, to grant absolution that erases the very guilt of sin.

Even the pagan conqueror, Alexander the Great, respected the ministers of God, recognising their dignity as His representatives. In one of his military expeditions he came to Jerusalem. The people were in a state of great fear, and offered prayers to obtain divine protection. The high priest with the rest of the clergy, clad in their ceremonial vestments, finally went to meet the king, to beg for mercy.

When Alexander saw the high priest, he bowed down low before him, while all present were filled with surprise. Upon later being asked by one of his generals why he had so humbled himself before one who he had conquered, the king replied. ”I did not pay reverence to the man, but to God, Whose priest he is.”

2. We owe the priest reverence due to his dignity as representative of Christ. Even if a priest’s life does not correspond with the requirements of his office, we should give respect; this we offer to his office.

The priest is “alter Christus” –another Christ. Our Lord calls him “a city built upon a hill,” the “salt of the earth.” He is in the world, but not of it. St. Francis of Sales said of priests: “I will close my eyes to their faults, and only see in them God’s representatives.”

3. When we meet a priest, we should salute him: women and girls should bow, and men and boys should raise their hats.

We should not gossip about the priest, even if we should notice something we do not like in him: to calumniate a priest is sacrilege. One who lays violent hands on a priest is excommunicated.

4. In recognition of his dignity and the respect and support we owe him, we should not neglect to help our priest, with money or other means, such as teaching catechism, attending to the cleanliness and decoration of the church, and helping with expenses.

A good way of helping the priest is to join the parochial organisations he forms, such as Catholic Action and Confraternity of Christian Doctrine units, sodalities, leagues, etc.

A Manual of Religion
A Catechism in Pictures, pp 336-337
copyright 1949

“If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I would greet the priest first and then the angel ... If there were no priest, the Passion and death of Jesus would serve no purpose. What use is a treasure chest full of gold if there is no one who can unlock it? The priest has the key to the treasures of Heaven."

-St. John Marie Vianney, Cure d'Ars
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