|SR. DOROTHY MAE STANG, S.N.D.|
WORKED WITH RURAL POOR IN BRAZIL
MURDERED BY STATE-BACKED AUTHORITIES
Every so often I hear from a woman who says How can you belong to a Church that doesn’t allow women to be priests?
My answer is Man, if you want to be priest, go for it! No-one’s stopping you. To be a priest is to be constantly scourged, constantly to stagger under a heavy cross, constantly to comfort others with no-one but the Good Shepherd to comfort you, to undergo a constant and ongoing death.
It is to know your time is not your own, your body is not your own, your life is not your own. In fact, this is precisely the invitation Christ extends to all of us.
Being a priest—a bridge, a conduit—for Christ has nothing to do with getting even, being vindicated, having as much worldly power as some other person. In authentic priesthood, there cannot be an iota of anger; of wanting to “set people straight,” of crowing, lording it over, taking first place, winning, triumphing; of sharing or grabbing power.
Being a priest is about utter and complete surrender.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux realized early that, as she diplomatically put it, priests need a lot of help. She vowed to pray for them. She longed to be a priest herself and in her way, achieved her goal. Check out her life, and her death. Check out the lives of Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa and Caryll Houselander and Dorothy Stang and the many other women who, in their way, have been priests for all of us. .
You want to be a priest? Don’t wait for approval or validation or permission. Christ has already given the command to go out and spread the Gospel to the whole world. Go for it. The world is teeming with those in need of pastoral care. You probably live with some of them.
Consent to a self-emptying you would never have chosen on your own and that you could not endure for five minutes on your own. Consent to be available to all, to be misunderstood by many, to live a life that is entirely hidden from the world.
Read The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos. Contemplate you willingness to live with results so meager you wonder whether they are results at all. That’s of course while being in dire pain of various kinds yourself.
In your poverty, be willing to let your witness be an afternoon’s entertainment for rich people. Be open to people’s anger, especially their anger at the Church, their religious hysteria, guilt, shame, despair; their sexual, emotional, vocational, and relational wounds. Let them cast their burden upon you. Carry it in silence, with humility and love. Cast your own burden upon Christ alone.
The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, as Christ observed.
And as St. Thérèse learned all too well in her short 24 years: “There are no raptures, no ecstasies—only service.”