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St Augustine on the Priesthood

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A timely reminder to the Catholic Church of all stripes.

O venerable brothers, ye priests of God above,
I pray ye hear the message I speak to you in love;
Ye heralds of the Highest, ye shining lights of day.
Who beam with hope enduring, and charity's pure ray.
 
Ye do to God your service in His own holy shrine;
And Christ hath called you branches, Who is Himself the Vine;
O see ye be not barren, nor bitter fruit ye give,
If with the Root that bears you ye would for ever live.
 
The Catholic religion yours is it to uphold.
The world’s true light and ransom, the shepherds of the fold;
The walls of Jacob’s dwelling, the art of Life who teach;
Who judge the Church in meekness, who to the nations preach.
 
The Catholic religion is lost if ye betray;
The salt that lacks its savour serves but to cast away;
The path of life is doubtful unless the light shine clear;
Except the Shepherd watcheth, the robber draweth near.
 
The care of God's own Vineyard is given unto you.
That with the streams of doctrine its soil ye should bedew;
The thorns and choking thistles should root from out the ground.
That so the faith of Jesus may flourish and abound.
 
Ye are the patient oxen who tread the threshing-floor,
The wheat and chaff with caution to part for evermore:
The laymen frail and simple, and all inconstant still,
Have you for an ensample to shew them good or ill.
 
Whatever they shall notice is grievous unto you,
That doubtless they will argue they must with care eschew;
Whatever they shall see you by holy deeds proclaim,
That they will reckon lawful, and free from sin or shame.
 
Since ye have been appointed the shepherds of the sheep,
Oh, see ye be not slothful, nor silent watch ye keep;
Be loud and plain the warnings ye raise when harm is nigh—
The wolf sees folds in safety with jealous rav’ning eye.
 
A threefold food the faithful have need of day by day—
The Body of the Saviour, to keep their life for aye;
The Word of due instruction, the which discreetly give;
The earthly meats that perish, whereby their bodies live.
 
The honour of your office unclouded let it be, 
And give to those that seek them the gifts of grace all free; 
For should you ever venture the rights of faith to sell, 
Ye seek Gehazi's sentence, with lepers doomed to dwell.
 
Baptize the people freely, and freely them confess; 
The Eucharist give freely, to save them and to bless; 
As Christ's Apostles taught ye, ye are all things to try. 
The good alone that proveth that are ye to hold by.
 
Be all your conversation in holiness maintained; 
Your conscience clear and quiet, your lives in virtue trained; 
Your manners framed to order, your hearts devoid of guile, 
Let no corrupt indulgence your saintliness defile.
 
Let no disdainful temper your noble souls depress; 
Be dignified in manner, and meetly grave in dress; 
No thoughts of filthy lucre permit your hearts to seize. 
Ye to whose care are given the heavenly Kingdom's keys.
 
Be brief in speech, lest haply to evil ye be led. 
By over-freely talking man’s vanity is fed; 
The words which ye shall utter must be concise and few, 
For ever on much speaking sin waiteth to ensue.
 
Be patient, full of kindness, and sober, pious, wise; 
Be upright, single-minded, let pureness light your eyes; 
Be hospitable, humble, see that the simple learn; 
Oh, comfort all in sorrow, from sin the sinner turn.
 
I pray ye so be able the Shepherd’s charge to keep, 
And living in the Spirit, to feed the Saviour’s sheep, 
That when your fleshly garment at length ye lay aside, 
The Lord a robe eternal of glory may provide.

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