Zeal for the Salvation of Souls
by Saint John Eudes
The first and most important obligation of the priest is to labor for the salvation of souls. For that purpose Christ established the priesthood in the Church. For that end should a young man embrace Holy Orders. When he enters the priesthood, his soul should be so filled with grace that he is able to sanctify and save the souls of others.
Thus, priests are called “saviors” in Sacred Scripture (Abdias 1:21). Christ came into this world to effect the salvation of souls, and for thirty-three years He devoted every thought, word, action, suffering, and even His very life for that purpose. Then, He returned to His Heavenly Father, but before departing He appointed successors to take His place. Who are these successors? They are His priests, who must seek always to imitate the ineffable love and ardent zeal of His Sacred Heart.
“He who is content with saving himself and neglects the salvation of others,” says St. John Chrysostom, “cannot secure his own salvation.” Qui sua contentus salute, negligit alienam, nec suam consequi potest (Matt: 18). If that is true of the ordinary Christian, how much more can it be said of priests and especially of confessors! Since the work of the confessional is difficult, they need special zeal for the honor of their Master and for the salvation of their brethren.
Thus to inflame your hearts with this holy zeal, it is well to ponder how pleasing it is to God to work with Him for the spiritual welfare of your neighbor. These considerations will apply to all priests as well as to confessors.
What, then, does it mean to save souls created to the image and likeness of God and redeemed by the Precious Blood of His Divine Son? It is the great work of God, the task of the God-Man and His Holy Mother. It is the mission of the Church, the desire of the angels and saints and of all chosen souls on earth. In a word, it is the supreme work of all works.