BY THE REV. H. NOLDIN, S.J.
AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN.
REVISED BY THE REV. W. H. KENT, O.S.C
We cannot imagine it possible that a priest or candidate for the priesthood, who by the diligent practise of mental prayer and reading often realises to himself what that spirit, those dispositions are, will not with the help of divine grace gradually learn to love them and make them permanently his own. That is indeed a precious fruit of devotion to the Heart of Jesus!
Nothing contributes so powerfully and efficaciously to cleanse the soul from faults and implant in it the virtues befitting the priest, to enhance also and consolidate them, than frequent reception of holy communion; provided, that is, that at the same time a sincere effort is made to live as those ought to live who communicate often. The Council of Trent does, it is true, only prescribe monthly communion for candidates for the priesthood, (Sess. 23, c. 18.) but they ought not to rest satisfied with that. As the layman who only approaches the sacraments once a year fulfils the precept of the Church and of the Fourth Lateran Council, yet does not correspond to Our Lord's intention and satisfy the needs of his soul, so the aspirant to the priesthood by receiving the sacraments once a month complies with the precept of the council, but does not fulfil the object of the seminary and answer to the requirements of his vocation.
The Most Holy Sacrament is rightly termed the centre of the sacerdotal life. This indeed it ought to be for every priest, as it has been and ever will be for all good and true priests. The most sublime acts appertaining to the sacerdotal office, the most sacred duties of the priestly calling are immediately connected with the Blessed Sacrament. The priest ought to habituate himself in all his troubles and difficulties, whenever he is oppressed with grief and anxiety, to seek counsel, help, and strength at the foot of the altar, before the tabernacle; he will not find what he needs, he will only encounter disappointment and deception if he relies on man, if he trusts to human aid. He will have to communicate daily when he offers the holy sacrifice.
The years passed in the seminary are to prepare the student for life as a priest, and the more this life becomes to him, so to speak, a second nature, the more perfectly will the training of the seminary have done its destined work. Therefore it is most important for the candidate for the priesthood oftentimes to visit the Blessed Sacrament, to communicate frequently, and this the more frequently as the time for his ordination approaches. It may undoubtedly be regarded as a great grace, and as a surety that a good spirit prevails there, if it has become customary in the seminary for the students to receive holy communion once or twice in the course of the week. Yet it cannot be expected that the virtues befitting the priest will be engendered and strengthened by frequent communion unless a man's life and aspirations are in keeping with what is to be looked for from one who communicates frequently.
What manner of life, then, must his be who often approaches the Holy Table? To put it briefly: He must so live that holy communion may conduce to his welfare and profit; or more exactly, he must live so as not in any way to impede or frustrate its operations, but rather to give free scope to its salutary action. Consequently, we must first of all acquaint our selves with the effects of holy communion. And should a candidate for the priesthood become aware that holy communion cannot produce its effect in him fully and wholly, let him beware of concluding that he will do well to communicate less often. Frequent communion is so completely an integral part in the aim and work of the seminary that he ought rather to think: I will order my life and direct my efforts so as to enable me to communicate more often. For when he is a priest, he cannot offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass less often; he ought to be worthy to celebrate daily. It is absolutely necessary that the seminarist should accustom himself to live in a manner becoming to one who often approaches the Lord's table, for if he does not venture to do so whilst in the seminary, how can he communicate daily at a later period?