Called by Name: The priest is called by name to lay down his life for his friends

Father James Wilcox

Directory of Vocations

North Texas Catholic


Where are the mystery and the wonder?  In the midst of a world that moves so quickly, do we take time to ponder the mysteries of God and to wonder at his marvelous presence in our lives?

The question is rhetorical, but nonetheless it offers an opportunity to consider the grandeur that comes when we turn our thoughts to the Lord. Now, specifically, can we turn our thoughts to the mystery and wonder of ordination? Can we consider the mystery of being called to the priesthood and saying “yes” to God?

Bishop Michael Olson will ordain men to the transitional diaconate and to the priesthood in these following months (April 29 and May 20, respectively). And in a special way, the Church enters into the mystery of the priesthood at the ordination when the man is called by name as he is presented to the bishop. This calling harkens back to Jesus Christ calling the Apostles by name, and even to the instance of calling Simon, the brother of Andrew, and changing his name to Peter.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminded us about the importance of name as the indicator of identity: “Peter, who received his name from Jesus Himself, here asserts that He, Jesus, is the stone. In fact, the only true rock is Jesus. The only name that saves is his. The apostle, and therefore the priest, receives his ‘name,’ his very identity, from Christ. Everything he does is done in [Jesus’] name.”

The building of the Church happens in the love of God by those who fully trust in Him. In following the call of Jesus Christ, the priest is seeking to share in the same destiny of Our Lord, including the daily acceptance of the cross and the sacrifice of self for others. This sacrifice of the priest, while similar to first responders who work to save others, is very different.  

In January, I attended the SEEK Conference in San Antonio, where 13,000 Catholic college students came together for worship, prayer, invigorating talks, and the opportunity to reignite their faith. The great Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz spoke one morning to the men. Describing the first responders on that fateful date of 9/11, Holtz spoke admiringly about those who gave their lives to save others. Leading us deeper into the wonder and mystery of God, Holtz then challenged us to think about salvation. He said, “Saving someone’s life is terrific. Saving someone’s soul is unbelievable!”

This is the sacrifice of the priest: a sacrifice with everlasting effects. To save one’s life has finite rewards of years for that person, but to save one’s soul has infinite effects. This is how the priest, who daily offers the sacrifice of the Holy Mass, deepens his identity with Jesus Christ.  

“No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). As Jesus Christ freely laid down his life, the priest makes the free choice to answer the call for a life of self-donation. At ordination, he is consecrated for those that God will give him. And following the example of St. Peter and the Lord on the Sea of Tiberius, the priest must follow the command of Jesus Christ to “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). As each priest is the recipient of this prayer of Jesus Christ, so too is he the collaborator in feeding the flock, which belongs fully and rightly to God.  

Being called by name to align his identity to Christ, accepting the call to offer his life as a sacrifice for souls, and tending the flock of God, the priest enters sacramentally and existentially into the prayer of Jesus Christ. Daily, this prayer is firstly and preeminently the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He is deepened in nourishment through the Liturgy of the Hours, lectio divina, the Holy Rosary, spiritual reading, and the Holy Hour.  

The priest who prays well comes increasingly out of himself and is drawn more deeply into unified relationship with Jesus Christ. When the man conforms his life to Christ the High Priest, he offers himself to the Lord, to whom he is bound in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. 

May we, in the Diocese of Fort Worth, continue to pray for the men in formation and continue to pray for and encourage those men that Jesus Christ is calling by name to lay down their lives for their friends. 


Where are the mystery and the wonder?  In the midst of a world that moves so quickly, do we take time to ponder the mysteries of God and to wonder at his marvelous presence in our lives?