I've been telling people that I now have a sense of one of reasons why there were so many vocations prior to the Second Vatican Council. I realize that there was more of a Catholic culture then, more children and a higher respect for the priesthood as a profession. But you know, back then priests did not mingle with the laity as much as they do today. They would seldom greet people coming or going from Church. What was exalted was not the personality of the priest, but what the priest did. He offered the Sacrifice of Christ at the Altar in "Persona Christi."
The reason I have a new sense of why there were so many vocations in a time when priests were not as "personality driven" as now is that the Mass really exalted the role of the priest, not the priest himself. With his back to the congregation for most of the Mass, the priest at the altar could have been any priest, it didn't matter. What was important was the renewal of the Sacrifice of Christ that would sustain God's pilgrim people.
After the Second Vatican Council, many people who promoted the "spirit of Vatican II" felt that the role of the priest at Mass and in the other sacraments was too clerical. So his role was diminished into just be a "president" or "presider" over the assembly. His personality became more important and his looks, after all nice looking priests were needed if they were to face the congregation. The sacramental role of the priest needed to be adjusted so that the laity would not feel as though their baptismal priesthood was in any way jeopardized by what the priest was doing at the altar.
How sad that this occurred. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass had it right. It's not the priest himself who is important, it is Jesus Christ alone, his sacrifice, his holiness, his perfect morals; He is the important one. The priest, unworthy as he is, becomes a sacramental sign of the Perfect One. Maybe we need to reexamine the theology and the doctrine of the priest at the altar in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to recover what the priesthood should be and can be again today.
Please give me Jesus Christ and let the priest fade to the background.