Why do Catholics Call Priests “Father”?

Last year, I gave you several examples in this column of answers to the question of “Why do Catholics do that?” It was wildly popular, so I’ve decided to give you more! Actually, I don’t think any of you ever commented about it haha. Anyway, I’ve been doing the same Q & A with the fabulous group from RCIA at the start of each of our weekly meetings. We’ve gone over why we make the Sign of the Cross, use a crucifix, pray the rosary, use statues of saints, and receive ashes at the start of Lent. Feel free to ask me about these anytime!

Why do Catholics call priests “Father”?

We heard in the Gospel (Mt 23) at last Tuesday’s Mass Jesus say to the crowds, “Call no one on earth your father”. Protestants like to bring this up to Catholics when asking why we call priests “Father”. They take this saying of the Lord literally and isolate it which is their common practice with certain Scripture verses. That can be dangerous because lines like this taken literally and by themselves contradict Scripture itself. The Bible calls men on earth “father” all over the place. For example, the fourth commandment is “honor your father and mother”.

We have to take Mt 23:9 in the context of the entire passage. The Church asks us to do this with each Scripture passage and with the whole of Scripture. In other words, we are to have a “global view” when reading the Bible. This global view helps us to see what Jesus is saying in Matthew 23. He is railing against the scribes and the Pharisees for loving the salutations of “Rabbi”, “Father”, and “master”. They are into the prestige of being a religious leader, and have gotten carried away with spiritual pride. So, he is basically saying that we should call no one on earth “Father” who only loves the title of father.

Jesus shifts quickly to the real fathers on earth: those who reflect the “one Father in heaven”. And, the greatest example of this is Jesus Christ himself. His whole mission is to reflect the Father in heaven. He is referred to as the Word (Logos in Greek). He is the Word of the Father. He speaks of the Father and communicates the Father to us. He is the knowledge of the Father. His whole mission is to reflect the Father so that we come to know the Father through him. So, any father on earth that lives Christ is reflecting God the Father.

Every Catholic priest is known as alter Christus (another Christ). Everything I just wrote about Christ becomes true about Catholic priests, especially in the sacraments (when priests act in persona Christi – in the person of Christ). So, we call priests “Father” because they reflect the love and mercy and goodness of God the Father in Christ. We know that the early Church referred to the Apostles (the first priests) and their successors as “fathers” by the following passages:

“Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel”.

  • 1 Cor 15:4–“Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel”.
  • Acts 7:2–“And he replied, ‘My brothers and fathers, listen…”
  • Acts 22:1–“My brothers and fathers, listen to what I am about to say to you in my defense”

There’s no doubt that we should not use the term father lightly. The term carries great significance to us when it applies to our biological and spiritual fathers. But, the ultimate point that the Lord is making and that the Church has honored for 2,000 years is that we call fathers all those who show us God the Father.

May you know the freedom of Christ this Lent,

Fr Greg

Lectio Divina Explained

Are you familiar with Lectio Divina? It is an old form of prayer that has become popular again in the Church. The phrase is Latin for ―divine reading, and it means to pray with Scripture. Here is a nice description from

When a person wants to use Lectio Divina as a prayer form today, the method is very simple. When one is a beginner, it is better to choose a passage from one of the Gospels or epistles, usually ten or fifteen verses. Some people who regularly engage in this method of prayer choose the epistle or the Gospel for the Mass of the day as suggested by the Catholic Church.

First, one goes to a quiet place and recalls that one is about to listen to the Word of God. Then one reads the scripture passage aloud to let oneself hear with his or her own ears the words. When one finishes reading, pause and recall if some word or phrase stood out or something touched one’s heart. If so, pause and savor the insight, feeling, or understanding. Then go back and read the passage again because it will have a fuller meaning. Pause again and note what happened. If one wants to dialogue with God or Jesus in response to the word, one should follow the prompting of one’s heart. This kind of reflective listening allows the Holy Spirit to deepen awareness of God’s taking the initiative to speak with us.

Lectio Divina can also be an effective form for group prayer. After a passage is read, there can be some extended silence for each person to savor what he or she has heard, particularly noting whether any word or phrase became a special focus of attention. Sometimes groups invite members, if they so desire, to share out loud the word or phrase that struck them. This is done without discussion. Then a different person from the group would read the passage again with a pause for silence. Different emphases might be suggested after each reading: What gift does this passage lead me to ask from the Lord? What does this passage call me to do? The prayer can be concluded with an Our Father.

Whether one prays individually or in a group, Lectio Divina is a flexible and easy way to pray. One first listens, notes what is given and responds in a way one is directed by the Holy Spirit.

Our Tuesday Bible study group at Assumption uses Lectio Divina and it’s been very helpful to open all of us to the Holy Spirit vis-à-vis the Sunday readings. Here are some examples of Lectio from theologians, saints, and Fathers of the Church in regards to today’s Gospel (Lk 24:11-35):

Jesus asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast (v. 17).

  • St Thomas Aquinas: ―Of all the passions, sadness causes the most injury to the soul.
  • St. Augustine: ―They were so shattered when they saw him hanging on a tree that they forgot his teaching. They did not expect him to rise, nor did they hold on to what he had promised.
  • Pope Francis: ―We need a Church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a Church capable of entering into their conversation. We need a Church able to dialogue with those disciples who, having left Jerusalem behind, are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment, disillusioned by a Christianity now considered barren, fruitless soil, incapable of generating meaning.

Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures (v. 27).

  • St. Gregory the Great: ―The reader of the Bible must raise himself from the story to the mystery.

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him… (Vs. 30-31).

  • A Lapide: ―See here the power and effect of the Eucharist. It opens and illumines the eyes of the mind to know Jesus and to enter into heavenly and divine mysteries.

May you know the peace of the risen Christ,

Fr Greg

Common Objections to the Catholic Faith

Last Sunday, I told you that I am here to provide you with resources in order to help you be prophets: those who speak the truth and proclaim the Good News. I’ve done this before with some common questions that you might hear at Christmas parties. We should respond if we’re prophets, right? Here are some more from “St. Paul’s Street Evangelization” with whom we work regarding evangelization.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Common Objections to the Catholic Faith

“Why are there so many scandals in the church?”

The Catholic Church has always been burdened with scandal, starting with Judas’ betrayal and the other disciples’ abandonment of Jesus Christ during His passion and death. From (relatively few) bad popes to lay members committing evil acts, members of the Church have been engaging in scandalous behavior for her entire 2000-year history. Scripture refers to some of this scandalous behavior. Some of the Thessalonians refused to work, were living idle lives, and were overly concerned with other people’s business. The scandalous behavior of individuals in the Church extends down to today’s priest sex scandal. This is a tragic chapter in the history of the Church, but does this prove that the Church is not the Church founded by and upon Jesus Christ? Of course not!

The Church has been full of sinners and saints from the beginning and Jesus never promised to protect the Church from sinners. In fact, He prepared us for it with the parable of the weeds and the wheat (Mt 13:24–30). This showed us that in the Church (the Kingdom of God), the devil would sow evil seeds that would grow with the wheat until the end of time. Then the weeds will be separated from the wheat and thrown into the fire. It had to be done this way, because the sinners of today are the saints of tomorrow and only God knows who will end up where.

God gave each of us free will because He desires our true love. In order for true love to exist one has to choose it freely. This has to be a choice for rational creatures, with the option to choose either way, and to make wrong choices. God could have made us into obedient biological robots, as brute animals are, but this would not be love.

We need not despair. The Church has great sinners and great saints in it and always will, but Christ will preserve her from error, for she is His bride. She will never fail to bring us Christ, even if we fail to receive Him.

“Why don’t Catholics believe that the Bible alone is the sole authority for Christians?”

In the early Church, the only written Scriptures were the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures. The New Testament had not yet been written, so the early Church relied on apostolic oral tradition: the predominant way that authoritative teaching was passed on in that time, since few people could read or write. After a number of years had passed, some of this deposit was written down, in what became the first books of the New Testament.

By the time John wrote his Gospel (around the year 100), the Church had already spread throughout many parts of the Roman Empire. The final twenty-seven books of the New Testament were not put together into one canon (list of books) until around the year 400.

What does the Bible say about it being the sole authority for Christians? While 2 Timothy 3:16–17 is most often cited, this passage says only that Scripture is profitable, not that it is the sole authority. As Catholics, we believe that all Scripture is inspired by God, but we also hold that the apostolic oral tradition can convey the Word of God as well. As alluded to above, this tradition was handed down from the apostles to their successors. We see this in Scripture: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess 2:15).

What is our authority, then? Scripture teaches us that authority is a three-legged stool of Bible–Church–Tradition. One example is, “… the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark [or, ‘foundation’] of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). It was the Church that made binding, conciliar decrees (Acts 15:6–29; 16:

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