Monday, April 27, 2015

THE FEMALE PRIESTHOOD

SR. DOROTHY MAE STANG, S.N.D.
1931-2005
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.”

7 comments:

  1. Dearest Heather, as one who is quickly approaching ordination (two years!!!), I can't tell you how much this post means to me. I want to share it with my brothers in seminary, not as more fuel to support their own views on male-only clergy, but to say: "THIS is it ... THIS is true priesthood. Be the hidden, humble bridge to Christ for others. Be the Love that the world so desperately needs." I am so scared most days, and there are so many times I want to return to teaching, to the safety of the classroom. And yet, something (Someone) continues to propel me forward. Please pray for me in order that I may truly live my vocation as you have described it. Thank you for the inspiration and thank you for showing us the call to true priesthood for all the faithful.

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  2. I would encourage you to edit your post to make clear that you are speaking of the common priesthood of all the baptized. The title is particularly misleading. There is no "female priesthood" just as there is no "male priesthood." There is the common priesthood of Christ's body, his bride the Church (universally called and baptized females and males), and there is also the ministerial priesthood Christ's head, the groom (particularly called and ordained males). Saint John Paul II wrote, "Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." May God bless you.

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    1. Dear Mr Simas -- The clarity that you seek may be found by anyone who is capable of reading Heather's post in its entirety and capable of comprehending it.

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  3. Outstanding, Heather! So well said! So convicting! We are all called to this kind of sacrifice and so few of us in the laity actually achieve it. Thank you.

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  4. Very interesting point, Heather. While I was reading your post (and before I got to the end), I thought of two things - our call to share in the priesthood of Jesus through our Baptism and how St. Therese Lisieux said she wanted it all, including to be a priest. What a refreshing perspective that women can and, in fact, are already priests, only not in an ordained sense.

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  5. I just came across this quote from a letter by Flannery O'Connor to a friend who was complaining about the Church:

    "You don’t serve God by saying: the Church is ineffective, I’ll have none of it. Your pain at its lack of effectiveness is a sign of your nearness to God. We overcome this lack of effectiveness simply by suffering on account of it. To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness. Charity is hard and endures."

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  6. I don't do it very well, but it has always seemed to me that what God wants is us to be authentically ourselves as He has made us. To love and serve Him as he made us. To have eyes wide open every day for how we can do that with the gifts that He gave us.

    The Flannery quote above is very true. I've learned that the hard way!

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