We’ve looked at the Church’s teaching office in the last few morceaux. Usually referred to by the Latin word magisterium, it is one of the three broad areas of the leadership exercised by bishops in the Church. The power of governance (this also called the power of jurisdiction) is what’s used by them, mostly, in so doing.
Now we should move on to the next area in which bishops take the lead over the community of the Church. This is the area of sanctifying. In this bishops (and priests, it turns out!) make use not only of the power of governance which the Lord has entrusted to them, but also the power of the priesthood itself which has been conferred on them by the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
This basic role of Church leadership is set forth most eloquently in paragraph 893 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which quotes the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (no. 26) in saying: “The bishop is ‘the steward of the grace of the supreme priesthood,’ especially in the Eucharist which he offers personally or whose offering he assures through the priests, his co-workers … the bishop and priests sanctify the Church by their prayer and work, by their ministry of the word and of the sacraments. They sanctify her by their example, ‘not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock’ (1 Pet 5:3).”
Naturally, this sanctifying role of bishops and priests is the most visible and familiar function which they undertake. Especially in the celebration of the holy Mass and the other Sacraments, in their specific daily prayer for the Church known as the Liturgy of the Hours, and when they inspire and challenge us all to greater holiness, they carry out this work. There are many, many obligations and responsibilities incumbent upon bishops and priests in this area (just think of all of the liturgical directives contained in the Missal and other liturgical books, and the large section of the Code of Canon Law devoted to this – all of Book IV, canons 834 to 1253 – and that’s just a portion of it!). In the next morceau, I’ll try to unpack some of the more important aspects of this sanctifying ministry.