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This is the third and final part of a short series on lukewarmness. It relies heavily on Doctor of the Church St. Alphonsus Liguori, especially his work titled Dignity and Duties of the Priest. Translations of this book are available in several places online, including those linked throughout.
Unfortunately, some priests may think that they need only avoid the really awful sins to preserve their soul in a state of grace — and that paradise is easily obtained.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you are a priest, you are obliged to take a narrow path of perfection. Treading water is not enough, even assuming it to be sufficient for anyone.
Your soul cannot be saved by lukewarm faith or by treading the broad path. When you say you have done "enough," you are lost. They that are called to be saved as saints but settle for imperfection risk not being saved at all.
The reason for this is simple.
A priest is able to walk in the way of perfection by cooperating with the manifold graces God gives to him. As St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote, "Hence, when he exercises his ministry with negligence, amid defects and faults, without even detesting them, God pronounces a curse against him: 'Cursed be he that does the work of the Lord deceitfully,' says the prophet (Jeremiah 48:10)."
Woe, then, to the bishops and priests who support homosexuality and contraception. Woe to the clerics who remain silent on abortion. Woe, also, to laymen who use political power to promote these vices. Their crimes call out to Heaven for God's vengeance.
Saint Alphonsus notes, "God (observes a certain author) wishes to be served by His priests with the fervor with which the seraphim serve Him in Heaven."
If God be not pleased, He will withdraw His graces and permit His priests to sleep in lukewarmness. They will then fall, slowly but surely, down the path to Hell. The lukewarm priest, weighed down by so many venial sins and inordinate attachments, remains in a state of numbness. He is inured to his own faults.
A lukewarm priest receives minimal grace from Mass, Holy Communion, his daily recitation of the Office or other devotions. It's as though he has placed all his spiritual exercises and prayers in a bag riddled with holes — the merits slip away from him. Furthermore, as a result of many defects in the performance of these exercises, he renders himself constantly more deserving of chastisement.
The lukewarm priest is not far from perdition. Saint Alphonsus warned:
The heart of a priest should ... be the altar on which the fire of divine love always burns. But what proof of burning love for God does the priest give if he is content with just avoiding mortal sin [and] takes no trouble to abstain from displeasing God by light faults?
It is a sign of a very lukewarm love to restrict the proofs of love only to the omission of very grave faults against God and to be troubled very little about offending Him with little faults.
The saint also noted that a priest's lukewarmness is particularly offensive to God, saying:
Every priest enters into the court, not among the servants, but among the familiars of God — who have continually to treat confidentially with Him on matters of the utmost importance to His glory. Hence, a tepid priest dishonors God more than he honors Him for, by his negligent and imperfect life, he shows that he regards God as unworthy of being served and loved with greater fervor.
The demonic is eager to seek the perdition of priests and desires the fall of one priest more ardently than that of a hundred laymen. Victory over a priest is a far greater triumph than a victory over a layman because a priest that falls to Hell brings many other souls with him.
Let priests and bishops, then, guard against falling into this miserable state.
If we persevere in prayer, the Lord shall grant both the desire and the grace to rise out of lukewarmness. Ask and you shall receive. God has promised, and His promise cannot fail.
To have recourse to the Most Holy Virgin is also a great means of rediscovering passion for God and the Faith.
Remember, the seventh promise of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is that lukewarm souls shall become fervent. In His unfathomable mercy, Jesus offers all of us — laymen, priests, bishops and religious — the means to leave our halfheartedness and become fervent in His love. But we must become serious devotees of the Sacred Heart. A tepid devotion will not do.