The ministerial priesthood is one of the more distinctively Catholic teachings. Although some other Christians, like Lutherans and Anglicans, have ordained priests, the Catholic priesthood is a very important and unique vocation. Without priests, many of the sacraments are not possible. It is a very special vocation to be called to the priesthood. These men serve a very important function in the church, to bring Christ to the people.
In the Bible – ordination and function
St. Paul speaks in several places of the ordination of priests and of their function in the church. “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you. Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” - 1 Timothy 4: 14 – 16. “Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands.” - 2 Timothy 1:6. “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands.” - 1 Timothy 5:22. These passages from St. Paul's letters to Timothy speak of the laying on of hands as the passing on of the ministry of the priesthood. He particularly speaks to Timothy about the priesthood which Timothy undertook, but he also cautions him to be wise in picking new priests.
Early Church Fathers – Importance of Priesthood
The early writers of the Christian church also spoke of this ministerial priesthood and its importance for the life of the Church.
Since therefore I have, in the persons before mentioned, beheld the whole multitude of you in faith and love, I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time, and in the end was revealed. Do ye all then, imitating the same divine conduct, pay respect to one another, and let no one look upon his neighbour after the flesh, but do ye continually love each other in Jesus Christ. Let nothing exist among you that may divide you ; but be ye united with your bishop, and those that preside over you, as a type and evidence of your immortality. - Ignatius of Antioch Epistle to the Magnesians 6
Christ, who says to the apostles, and thereby to all chief rulers, who by vicarious ordination succeed to the apostles: "He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that heareth me, heareth Him that sent me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me, and Him that sent me." (Luke 10:16) – Cyprian of Carthage Epistle 68 paragraph 4
For which reason you must diligently observe and keep the practice delivered from divine tradition and apostolic observance, which is also maintained among us, and almost throughout all the provinces; that for the proper celebration of ordinations all the neighboring bishops of the same province should assemble with that people for which a prelate is ordained. - Cyprian of Carthage Epistle 67 paragraph 5
The Blessed Apostle Paul in laying down the form for appointing a bishop and creating by his instructions an entirely new type of member of the Church, has taught us in the following words the sum total of all the virtues perfected in him:--Holding fast the word according to the doctrine of faith that he may be able to exhort to sound doctrine and to convict gainsavers. For there are many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers. For in this way he points out that the essentials of orderliness and morals are only profitable for good service in the priesthood if at the same time the qualities needful for knowing how to teach and preserve the faith are not lacking, for a man is not straightway made a good and useful priest by a merely innocent life or by a mere knowledge of preaching. - Hilary of Poitiers On the Trinity Book 8 paragraph 1
For transparent madness it is to despise so great a dignity, without which it is not possible to obtain either our own salvation, or the good things which have been promised to us. For if no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious? - John Chrysostom On Priesthood Book 3 paragraph 5
These writers clearly testify to the existence and work of priests. Priests are necessary for the continuing life and function of the Church, and theirs is a special ministry set aside with ordination. It is a ministry which is passed on from the apostles through the bishops so that there are always men to bring Christ to the laity of the Church.