Vatican II: Optatam Totius and Presbyterorum Ordinis

Hello! Welcome to the third section of a debriefing on the Second Council of Vatican.

There are documents available on the Vatican website for all of this. That’s where I found the first-hand resources.

I took a week off on what I hoped to be a month long, every Wednesday type series. My apologies for previewing it too soon. Sometimes I just need a break, and apparently the blog is the first thing that gets tossed off the list.

Anyway, last week’s posts were so well read, I love that. I’m so glad people are finding my 5 ways posts so helpful. I specifically went with five instead of 10 for two reasons: they’re easy to write! and they’re easy to read. You’re welcome.. to you and myself. Haha.

learn something

Today’s post includes two decrees from Vatican II: Optatam Totius and Presbyterorum Ordinis

Priestly training and ministry and the life of priests

Optatam Totius, on priestly training, was a quick read. It was also the first document since starting this series that I didn’t really find that relevant to me. There are a lot of great things in it, though.

The principal contributors to this are the families which, animated by the spirit of faith and love and by the sense of duty, become a kind of initial seminary, and the parishes in whose rich life the young people take part.”

Pope Paul VI was talking about fostering vocations at home, in the home. It starts with the parents and family life.

This is key, and it’s important to remember that you might have a priest in one of your sons. (Or a nun in your daughters!)

About the task men are at seminary for:

They are therefore to be prepared for the ministry of the word: that they might understand ever more perfectly the revealed word of God; that, meditating on it they might possess it more firmly, and that they might express it in words and in example… having become the servants of all, they might win over all the more.”

Pope Paul VI also said that all candidates have to be throughly examined so that we have priests that can be priests and take on the full responsibilities.

At the end of the decree, Pope Paul VI writes:

The Fathers of this holy synod have pursued the word begun by the Council of Trent. While they confidently entrust to seminary administrators and teachers the task of forming the future priests of Christ in the spirit of renewal promoted by this sacred synod…”

Presbyterorum Ordinis is a much longer document and took me a lot longer to get through.

It’s not that it’s difficult to understand, it’s just dense. Full of things that take a lot of time to think about.

Here are my key take aways:

In (Christ) all the faithful are made a holy and royal priesthood…” but “… not all members have the same function.”

God gives priests a special grace to be ministers of Christ among the people.”

It’s God who chooses the priests who serve us, not the bishops, not the popes. It’s God. It’s something we should (I should) probably remember when we’re criticizing the priest who serves our parish.

The purpose, therefore, which priests pursue in their ministry and by their life is to procure the glory of God the Father in Christ.”

This is also something easy to forget. Priests have a purpose… glorifying God. They do that through ministering to others.

This decree is so wonderful! It’s something I’d love to talk to my priest about some time.

Their ministry itself, by a special title, forbids that they be conformed to this world; yet at the same time, it requires that they live in this world among men.”

There’s a huge emphasis in this decree on the Eucharist as “the source and apex of the whole work of preaching the Gospel.”

Pope Paul VI and the Council are adamant that priests celebrate Mass frequently and reverently.

The Most blessed Eucharist contains the entire spiritual boon of the Church.”

Priests, likewise, must instruct their people to participate in the celebrations off the sacred liturgy in such a way that they become proficient in genuine prayer… they must train the faithful to sing hymns and spiritual songs in their hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I could just pull about a million quotes from this decree all day long.

Priests therefore, as educators in the faith, must see to it either by themselves or through others that the faithful are led individually in the Holy Spirit to a development of their own vocation according to the Gospel, to a sincere and practical charity, and to that freedom with which Christ has made us free.”

Really, this decree goes into how priests are pulled in all directions, and they should turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary for intercession.

They should respect the bishops and the Church’s hierarchy.

They should continue to study, always.

They should respect the gifts of the laity.

They should remain faithful to their vows.

The daily celebration of Mass is strongly urged, since even if there cannot be present a number of the faithful, it is still an act of Christ and the Church.”

With enthusiasm and courage, let priests propose new projects and strive to satisfy the needs of their flocks.”

And continue to pray, always.

Priests should all the more humbly and steadfastly pray with the Church for that grace of fidelity, which is never denied those who seek it, and use all the supernatural and natural aids available.”

And while I am not a priest, you reading this are probably not a priest, I think it’s important for us laity to read things like this decree. It reminds us the pressures on priests, on their role in the Church, on the importance of their job and on fostering vocations in others.

I was once – always – discerning entering religious life. I had a male friend tell me that I shouldn’t “give up” on “traditional” life, that I’d be a good mom and wife.

Well I would like to agree with him about me being a good mom and wife, I don’t think entering a religious life is “giving up” anything. It’s taking on so much more! A life ABSOLUTELY FULL of prayer, of working for others constantly, of being with Christ in adoration constantly.

Yes, being a mom is full of these things too. Both paths are so important for the world. Neither is giving up anything.

God bless.

Check out these Vatican II posts:

Nostra Aetate

Dei Verbum

Introduction to Church Councils



  1. Pingback: Vatican II: Religious Freeddom | Learning Mass
  2. Pingback: Vatican II: Religious Freddom | Learning Mass

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