The Priest in Union with Christ by Garrigou-Lagrange - Table of Contents

The Priest in Union with Christ

By Garrigou-Lagrange

This text has been produced by computer OCR, and only quickly edited and proofread. Errors may remain. A better reprint is available in book form: See reviews or order The Priest In Union With Christ (as of August 2021, quite expensive).




Professor of Dogma and Mystical Theology in the Angelica, Rome

Translated by REV. G. W. SHELTON, S.T.L.

Professor of Philosophy and Lecturer in Ascetical Theology at Oscott College, Birmingham


Westminster, Maryland 1954

Nihil Obstat:

Henricus Franciscus Davis, D.D., M.A. Censor Deputatus


+ Joseph

Archiepiscopus Birmingamiensis

Birmingamiae, die 16a Septembris, 1951

First Printing 1952 Second Printing 1954

All rights reserved


To the Holy Mother of God as a token of gratitude and filial obedience


Two years ago I wrote a short work entitled De sanctificatione Sacerdotum secundum exigentias nostri temporis (Turin, Marietti, 1946), which has recently appeared in a new edition. The central theme of that work was the urgent need of a deeper faith both amongst the faithful to enable them to stand firm against the principal errors of the day—especially against the materialist and atheistic spirit of the communist creed—and also amongst the clergy so that they would be able to communicate this gift to all Christians. In developing that theme I discussed the duty which falls on every priest—not excepting secular priests—of tending towards Christian perfection, and I stressed the exalted nature of this state of perfection as revealed in the eight beatitudes, which are concrete expressions of that perfection, and in the supreme precept of love of God and one's neighbour. Special emphasis was also given to the fact that this precept commands the perfection of charity not as something to be put into practice at once but as the end towards which all the faithful must be striving, each one according to his own particular calling in life, either as a married person or as a priest or as a religious—whether in sacred orders or not. But if the faithful in general in their state of life have this duty of constantly tending towards a greater love of God and their neighbour and towards the full perfection of charity which will be found in Heaven, how much greater is the obligation of priests to make a similar effort in order to be true lights of the world and the salt of the earth.

In this new work The Priest in Union with Christ the spiritual life of a priest and his special priestly functions are considered with a view to underlining the following three points.

In the first place, the priest of to-day, no less than his counterpart of yesterday, must never forget for one moment the words spoken by Christ: "Make it your first care to find the kingdom of God, and his approval, and all these things (i.e. food and clothing) shall be yours without the asking" (Matt, vi, 33). In other words, the end of all our endeavours must not be a mere earthly happiness for the human race freed from every form of oppression, but eternal life—the Kingdom of God. True, it is the final thing to be obtained, but it must always be the foremost of all our intents and purposes. A certain amount of temporal well-being will help us along the road towards eternal life but it must always be subordinate to the final end.

In times past the priests who served in the Synagogue made the mistake of looking forward to a Messiahship entirely of this world, as though the Messias intended to found an earthly kingdom with Israel as the ruling power. At the present time a similar danger seems to exist, a danger which has been noticed by many bishops in different parts of the world. Men and women are eagerly awaiting another earthly "messianic kingdom" in which the workers are to be completely free. This is a very different situation from that which existed some years ago when little notice was taken of the apostolate amongst the working class. Although this apostolate is now under way it is in danger of being inspired by a purely naturalist spirit, a mistake already made by Lamennais, who imperceptibly lost sight of the true mission of the Church—the guiding of men towards eternal life—and began to preach more and more in the vein that the true goal of the Church was the temporal happiness of mankind freed from the yoke of oppression. That is well explained by Fr. A. Fonck in the Dictionnaire de Théologie catholique, under the heading "Lamennais", cols. 2478, 2493 seq. Signs of his error were already evident even before his apostasy, but afterwards became still more apparent in his book Les Paroles d'un croyant, a naturalist's imitation of the Gospel written under the influence of the teaching of J. J. Rousseau and the romantics. Towards the end of his life Lamennais denied all distinction between the order of grace and the order of nature; from the very outset he had always maintained that the only form of faith necessary for salvation was the acceptance of the universal consent or general reason of mankind, which he thought had originated from some primitive revelation.

Recently many bishops have expressed their fear of a similar danger arising amongst those who are anxious to "christianize" Marxist doctrine in their desire to remedy present-day evils. In so doing they are laying too much store by the temporal happiness of the people and neglecting their eternal welfare, which is their true final end and ought to be their dominant

intention, something they earnestly desire, not merely the object of an ineffective wish. Above all must it be true of a priest that lie constantly renews this primary intent of striving for the final end, if he wants his activity to be supernatural and fruitful. On the efficacy of that intention will depend all his other intents, decisions, and actions. That is why Christ said: "Make it your first care to find the kingdom of God, and his approval, and all these things shall be yours without the asking"; that is to say, food, clothing, and a certain amount of temporal well-being for mankind but in due proportion to their final end. But he never promised to relieve man of the daily carrying of his cross. The Catholic priest must remember this if he desires to attain to a genuine union with Christ our high priest and victim, and to make his apostolate supernatural and fruitful.

The second point I want to emphasize in the course of this work is that Christ the Saviour and high priest of mankind came on earth for the special purpose of revealing God's love for his creatures who stood in need of redemption. He came "so that they may have life, and have it more abundantly", to put within their grasp the perfect life of eternity as the full flowering of sanctifying grace, the seed of glory. This abundant life is far and away superior to any earthly happiness and begins for the faithful follower of Christ even here amidst the difficulties of his present life in the following way (although the communist is violently opposed to such an idea): "Blessed are the poor in spirit, the patient, those who mourn; blessed are the merciful, the clean of heart, the peace-makers and even those who suffer persecution in the cause of right." These have received already an abundance of life as the prelude to eternal life.

In order to counteract the errors of Protestantism and Jansenism the priest should be continually reminding his people (hat "God does not command impossibilities, but by his commands he exhorts you both to do what you can and to pray for what you are not able to do, and he helps you to have the necessary power", which the Council of Trent (Denzinger 804) quotes from St. Augustine. All who accept this teaching and put it into practice will receive abundant life: that must be the constant burden of the priest's preaching.

And thirdly, I want to point out that Christ desires to live in us as his members—especially in his priests—as a means of

showing God's love for men in their need of salvation. Therefore the priest should never forget to live day in and day out and at every moment of the day in an ever-deepening union with Christ, whether he is celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, directing souls, or preaching, so that in all his work he is another Christ, the minister of Christ. Never should he be a mere functionary of the Church, since Christ himself has that ardent desire to live in him for his own sanctification and for the salvation of souls.

This book has therefore been divided on the basis of those three ideas, and is taken from my course of spiritual theology, the principal parts of which have been published in French under the title Traité de théologie ascétique et mystique: Les trois ages de la vie intérieure, Paris, 2 vols., 641 pp. and 866 pp.1

1 This work has been translated into English by Sister M. Timothea Doyle, O.P. The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Herder, St. Louis, 1949.