Q. 1. What does an "Ontological change" mean?
A. 1. During the International Reunion of Priests in Fatima on June 18, 1996, John Cardinal O'Connor spoke on "The Necessity of Continuing Formation for the Priest." He stated:
"In my judgment, this concept of the ontological nature of the priesthood, is critical. We don't just put on vestments; we don't just receive an assignment. Neither makes us priests. We become priests at ordination. There is an "ontological change" in our spiritual nature. Such is a profound mystery. Is it too bold an analogy to compare the change to Christ the Son of God's retaining His Divinity while becoming a man? Or to observe that after bread becomes the Sacred Body of Christ, it still tastes like bread and feels like bread, but is now the Body of Christ? There has been an ontological change. A cup of wine still smells like wine and tastes like it, but it is now the Blood of Christ. At ordination an ontological change takes place."
Proof of the "Ontological change" that took place at the ordination of a priest is observed during the preaching of his homilies. While one hundred members of the Church may be present, three different messages might have been heard, each message in accordance with the need of the individual. While this is logically impossible, it becomes spiritually possible because of the "ontological change" that took place in the priest during his ordination.
This is not a power that the priest can control. The "Ontological change" permits Christ to manifest Himself through the priest, often without the priest's awareness of the profound mystery that is taking place.
How often do you hear someone say, "I went to Confession to that priest and I could not believe his ability to read my soul." In many of those cases, if you were to ask the priest what the person confessed, he would not remember. Because of the "Ontological change" that took place at ordination, the person was confessing his sins to Christ Who was present.
As Christ is present alongside the priest at Holy Mass at the Consecration of the bread and wine that change into His Body and Blood, He is also present in all of the Sacraments. That is the fulfillment of the profound mystery of the "Ontological change."