Summary of Vatican II’s Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests “Presbyterorum Ordinis”


  • To all priests – especially diocesan.
  • 3 munera.

Ch. 1: The Priesthood in the Ministry of the Church

  • Ministerial priesthood: (1) Trinitarian but focused on Christ = “By the sacred power of orders to offer sacrifice and to forgive sins,” ministerial priests “perform their priestly office publicly for men in the name of Christ”; (2) Share in episcopal order = to build up, sanctify and rule Christ’s Body, to preach the Gospel; (3) Overall focus = glorify God & sanctify man = Set apart from faithful in order to serve them fully (need human virtues to serve them well).

Ch. 2: The Ministry of Priests

  • Section 1: Priests’ functions – (1) Minister of God’s word = proclaim Gospel to arouse faith; (2) Minister of Sacraments – Eucharist = source & summit; (3) Educators in faith – form Christian communities.
  • Section 2: Priests’ relationship with others – (1) Bishops – should regard priests as their brothers & friends (and priests show them respect & obedience) + presbyteral council to advise bishop & college of consultors to make decisions; (2) Brother priests – community life to live out intimate sacramental brotherhood; (3) Lay people – as brothers, lead them like Christ, give them responsibilities.
  • Section 3 – The Distribution of Priests, and Vocations to the Priesthood – Make incardination and excardination rules easier to allow for better distribution.

Ch. 3: The Life of Priests

  • Section 1 – The Vocation of Priests to the Life of Perfection – Double call to perfection & configuration to Christ by means of Baptism & Ordination: “Priests who perform their duties sincerely and indefatigably in the Spirit of Christ arrive at holiness by this very fact” (13) = Giving sacraments makes you holy. Pastoral charity focus.
  • Section 2 – Special Spiritual Requirements in the Life of a Priest – Focus on obedience (a humble and mature obedience able to take initiatives), pastoral charity, celibacy (undivided heart, nuptial sign), voluntary poverty (house never unapproachable).
  • Section 3 – Aids to Life of Priests – Sacraments, spiritual reading, Mary, meditation, adoration, spiritual retreats, spiritual direction, mental and vocal prayer, the Office, study and pastoral knowledge, just remuneration, social security.

Conclusion and Exhortation

Difficulties are real, like “the seeming unproductivity of work done, and also the bitter loneliness which men experience can lead them to the danger of becoming spiritually depressed” (22).  But take courage in Christ!

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