Monday, November 8, 2010

Thoughts on the Priesthood

Last week, my Sacraments class focused on Holy Orders. We had some really heated and lively discussions. This morning, I woke with these thoughts in my head. I shared them with my class, but felt like they might have some use outside the class discussion, too. Peace.


Our Church is very hierarchical. This is not meant as a judgment, just a simple observation. Pope is brother to the bishops, but head of the Church. Bishops are brothers to priests, but leaders of their dioceses. And so on. The hierarchy is even noticeable at Sunday mass. Priests and Deacons, robed in colorful vestments, remain nearly exclusively separate from the laity, elevated in the sanctuary.

One of the priests in our parish has a regular habit of praying in the sanctuary prior to celebrating mass on Sunday mornings. He arrives early in the sacristy, puts on his vestments, and then sits in one of the altar server's chairs in the side of the sanctuary and prays for a few minutes before mass begins. I always like when he's up there as we enter the church, or if he comes out into the sanctuary while we are kneeling in silent prayer before mass. The church seems quieter those mornings, as if Father's prayerful presence reminds those interested in pre-mass chatter where their focus should be.

Yesterday morning, we arrived at our "regular" pew early, and I knelt in prayer. Several minutes later, I sat back in the pew, my four year old climbed into my lap, and I looked up at the sanctuary. Father was there, but not in his usual chair. He was kneeling, head bowed, in deep, private prayer. I was moved by the humility in his position, the honesty with which he carried out his private prayer in a public forum.

That Father is a prayerful man, I already knew. He and I have prayed together often, and in many different circumstances. However, rarely have I seen him kneel in prayer. It brought to mind the picture in the Cathedral Basilica of Pope John Paul II praying on his knees during his visit here in 1999. I am always moved when I see our Church leaders, whether Deacons and Priests or Bishops and Popes, or even those well-known lay leaders (parish council members, lectors, etc), kneeling before our Lord. It reminds me that every one of us is but a beloved child of God, a fallen sinner in need of our Savior.

Our Church has been under attack from the beginning, though the cultural and media attacks in the past decade seem stronger than ever. We've had some lively discussions on the current Church makeup in this class. I am heartened and encouraged, though, because through it all, God keeps calling us all back to Him, and keeps providing what we need to move forward as His Church. Despite the scandals and challenges of the previous few decades, despite the growing secularization of our culture, we find many humble and honest examples of Holy Orders in our daily lives. I would bet that every person in this class knows at least one priest or deacon who is living this life of service in an honorable, humble, and Christian way. I am blessed by the presence of several loving, honest and committed seminarians, deacons, and priests in my life, men who continue to encourage me along this same path they are traveling... so that one day we all might hear, "welcome, my good and faithful servant."


  1. You are blessed to know such men. That has not been my experience. I have found the priests in my life to be selfish and self serving. They only have a relationship with you in order to use you for time, talent or money.They are not capable of having a true giving relationship with individuals. That is why they are priests.
    The deacon in my church is a short power hungry individual who feels that women have no place serving in the church. He places himself above everyone else. It is sad that such men are in positions of power.
    On the other hand, the nuns that I have met do seem to be more humble and kind. Too bad women can't play a larger role in the Catholic church, it would be much better off.

  2. Anon,

    I am sorry that you have had such negative experiences with priests. I really am. I have certainly met some difficult and selfish men who are priests, too, though my experiences overall have been positive. And, these days, I am blessed to find myself surrounded by decent, holy men in all walks of life, religious and not.

    I pray that the Holy Spirit will send some inspiring men of God into your life. And, I pray in thanksgiving for the holy women you know.

    Thank you for stepping up and commenting. May God continue to bless you and your family.