Could someone please explain


Could someone please explain the meaning of “In the world, but not of the world,” in reference to the priesthood? Thanks.


It means a priest lives in the world but serves God, who is not of this world. He lives for God, he does not live for this world or to acquire the goods and praises and honors of this world.



A Priest is called to be a Supernatural Father, rather than a Natural Father.

He is responsible for the Salvation of Souls, the nourishment of the Christian People through the Sacraments and Preaching the Word of God through the Teachings of the Holy Catholic Church.

The Priest has ordained into him, the “Sacramental Character” of Jesus Christ. This means he acts in the person of Christ in the Mass, in which he makes the same Sacrifice of the Cross in the Mass, because the Mass is the continuation of that Sacrifice which allows souls into heaven. The Priest therefore stands in the place of Jesus Christ, offering himself upon the altar of the cross so that others may be saved. When Jesus completed the First Sacrifice of Mass by his death on the Cross, he broke the bonds of death and allowed souls to pass into Heaven that were otherwise trapped in Purgatory. A Priest celebrates that same sacrifice that allows us to come as close to Heaven as we can, and that is simply we he is “of another world”. Because he makes the Divine happen, because the Person and Man of Jesus Christ is ordained into him, the sacramental power.

On an additional note, we must pray for Priests because they are tempted by Satan to follow other ways of life that are contrary to the life that has been ordained in them. Jesus Christ works in them despite their sins i.e. even Priests that are bad people are still Priests of Jesus Christ, but they will be judged more harshly than a mere layman because they are responsible for saving so many souls. Satan attacks them because they are so powerful in casting out Satan and his evil works.

We must pray for them, and beg Our Blessed Mother to pray for them also. Amen! :gopray2:


It means we’re here but of God, of heaven, not worldly, materialistic, into money and possessions, fame, power, etc.


Means you live in this world but you are not from this world.


For priests & laypersons it means living in a state of sanctifying grace and all that it entails.


Priorities- everything you do is for the glory of God, through Christ. You’re in the world, but you are not materialistic, secularist, and you don’t care about any of that. You are not worldly.


I think Linusthe2nd above had the best short explanation, and I think that the posters above gave some good explanations about the second part of the saying, but not so much the first.

A priest is in the world, but not of the world.

In the world means that that is where a priest does his ministry, in the world. A priest has to be incarnational, that is he has to make Jesus known and (sometimes symbolically and sometimes substantially) present in the now. A priest is in a real, local, particular situation that he has to pay attention to. A priest cannot think that he can act the exact same pastorally at a rich parish in Philadelphia as at a poor parish in Los Angeles. A priest has to recognize that there are particular needs to this local parish that need to be addressed. There is no such thing as a cookie-cutter pastoral plan that you can take to every single parish in the United States, never mind the entire world.

Priests have to make Christ known now, in 2014 in your local hometown. It is no longer the early 1900s, nor the 1500s, nor the 1200s, and certainly not the 300s. A priest has to take Jesus Christ and His message of holiness and salvation through relationship with Him to the people and culture of today. A priest cannot ever ignore the real, particular people of today and their needs.

Not of the world I think was covered fairly well, but I’ll add some bits too. Not of the world means that you are not in it for the recognition of the world. You are not a priest to win a Nobel Peace Prize, nor an award for service from your local council, nor the praise of your congregation (this does not mean, however, that you can totally ignore their particular situation as a pastor). You will do your job and sometimes it will be totally thankless work. You will be frustrated by the immediate lack of fruit that your work bears, but the seeds planted now may grow into something later.

Not of the world also applies to free time. There are sources of entertainment that a priest can partake in (movies, tv, sports, hanging out with the guys), but these cannot become a priority or THE reason for their lives. A priest cannot become more devoted to the local hockey/football/baseball/basketball/College team then to their ministry (or even God).


It means the Priest and you are citizens of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom “established by” God rather than kingdoms established by men. “My kingdom is not of this world, and they, though in the world, are not of the world. My kingdom is of (from, established by) my Father, inaugurated by Him when I was anointed at my baptism as His Son, as prophesied I would be called by King David in the Psalms. And these who follow me were granted this citizenship in my Kingdom when they were baptized.”

Peter understood this when he called us a holy nation, God’s own people, and called us as aliens and exiles in the countries where we live to live blamelessly and honorably among the peoples in the countries where we live so that our King and his Father are glorified in us.

Paul unceasingly sought to bring about the obedience of faith so that all who were baptized would be worthy of their inheritance in the Kingdom.

In his first letter, Clement writes for the assembly of God that “sojourns as aliens and exiles” in Rome, to the assembly of God that “sojourns as aliens and exiles” in Corinth.
Polycarp begins the same way to the Philippians.

And in the letter to Diognetus there is a long section describing Christians as living “in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, (but) at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. They live in their own countries, but only as nonresidents; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign… they live on the earth, but their citizenship is in heaven…”

And, in conclusion, I am in America, but I am a Catholic (thus, a resident alien in America), I am in the world, but I am not of the world.

John Martin

closed #10

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit