Bringing them into contact with God.
In today's general audience the Pope pares away all the rest of it, the running of the parish, the leadership, the catechizing, even, when you think of it, the administering of the sacraments, per se. For they are means to an end, salvation.
From what? from separation from the Father.
In today's general audience, which was celebrated in St. Peter's Square, the Pope focused his remarks on the priest's mission to sanctify humankind.Salvation as anything other than a fait accompli is hardly mentioned, hardly, I sometimes think, believed.
"Sanctifying a person means putting that person in contact with God", said the Pope, noting how "an essential part of a priest's grace is his gift, his task to establish such contact. This comes about through the announcement of the Word of God, ... and particularly intensely in the Sacraments".
"Over recent decades", he went on, "various schools of thought have tried to make the aspect of announcement prevail in the priest's mission and identity, separating it from sanctification. It has often been affirmed that there is a need to go beyond merely sacramental pastoral care".
"Ordained ministers", the Pope explained, "represent Christ, God's envoy, they ... continue His mission through the 'Word' and the 'Sacrament', which are the two main pillars of priestly service". In this context he identified the need "to reflect whether, in certain cases, having undervalued the faithful exercise of 'munus sanctificandi' has not perhaps led to a weakening of faith in the salvific effectiveness of the Sacraments and, in the final analysis, in the real action of Christ and His Spirit, through the Church, in the world".
"It is, therefore, important to promote appropriate catechesis in order to help the faithful understand the value of the Sacraments. But it is equally necessary, following the example of the saintly 'Cure of Ars', to be willing, generous and attentive in giving the faithful the treasures of grace that God has placed in our hands, treasures of which we are not masters but custodians and administrators. Especially in our own time - in which on the one hand, the faith seems to be weakening and, on the other, there is a profound need and widespread search for spirituality - it is necessary for each priest to remember that ... missionary announcement and worship are never separate, and that he must promote a healthy sacramental pastoral care in order to form the People of God and help them to fully experience the liturgy ... and the Sacraments as gratuitous gifts of God, free and effective aspects of His action of salvation".
A weakening of faith in the saving power of the Sacraments is the natural consequence of ignorance of, or even outright denial, of our need to be saved.
Baptism is about joining a community, or worse, about parents' expression of their desire for their child to join that community.
Communion is signaling fellowship.
Anointing of the sick is about all of the rest of the community pullin' for ya in your time of trouble.
Confirmation? that's just a lure to keep middle schoolers coming to Faith Formation class. It's all about Spirit. (No "Holy," please.)
Sanctification, with an eye toward being saved?
Come, come, isn't belief in the supernatural a little superstitious?
And of course, denial of the priest's position as a mediator in these things, well that's just enlightened common sense, isn't it? I protest, it would be undemocratic to think otherwise.