In today’s blog I explore the question, “What does it mean to be “priest?” Raised in an Institution that doesn’t honor women’s call to ordination/the priesthood, how does one authentically live out that call?
Ok, not really, but it makes a good headline, doesn’t it! And in a way, I do have to blame Jeff (as in Fr. Jeff now Pastor Jeff…the one I talked about yesterday) for apparently planting the seed of this discontent that has somehow found its way into my heart. After posting yesterday’s blog about how Jeff was the one to point out my Introvert, he emailed me and told me of the “coincidence” of yesterday’s post as he was, on that very day, celebrating the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Then one of the readers of this blog in her comments observed that I was living out my call to be priest. THEN….I had a dream of meeting two Franciscan priests who believed in women’s ordination and who readily ordained women, and who handed me the paperwork necessary to begin that process. So……what is God trying to tell me through all of these “God-cidences?” Am I being called to find a church that will recognize my call to priesthood and honor it through formal ordination. UM……I tried that one on for size a few years back and I can absolutely tell you it did NOT fit!
How I’m NOT Called to Be Priest
A few years back, I did find a church that would have readily acknowledged my call to priesthood and would have happily honored it through ordination. I know that I am a total brat, and that this would not be the case for many, but in the end, it was about the clothes. (not really, but it was sure part of it). I could not think of donning an outfit that somehow set me apart from the people to whom I would be ministering….even if the outfit were only used for ritual, I could not do it. Plus, none of the “outfit” companies have yet designed anything that even remotely looks good on a woman…it all looks like the male version, except with a skirt. BLECH! What I could consider was donning the humble, brown hooded habit of the Franciscans, but the black shirt and white collar topped off with the ceremonial white vestments, then chasuble, then stole? Nope, not for me. To me, all those acutrements spoke only of separation. “See, I am different than you, I am more important because I get to wear these clothes, and if I’m really important I get to wear a funny hat.” There was something in all this clothing stuff that seemed contrary to Jesus’ message of Oneness. Jesus didn’t wear a special dress, he wore what the people around him wore… a humble rough-hewn mantel and a pair of dusty sandals. No collar, no dress, no special hat. So, if I am to be priest, why would I be any different than the greatest priest of all? Why wouldn’t I wear what everyone else is wearing? Yea, maybe I would dress up a bit while presiding over mass (if I were even called to do this), but nothing that would set me apart from the rest. I don’t mean to dishonor those who have chosen the formal ordination path and who humbly don the required attire of the priesthood, and I know many would argue with me that the garments represent humility, I just have to say that the people sitting in the pew view it differently. To them, you’re wearing the collar and the robes and therefore you are different and somehow better. I’m just sayin.
What is a Priest Called to Do?
To me, being priest is about SERVICE. In my mind, the priest is called to preach and teach, but more importantly TO HEAL. In the Catholic Church in which I was raised, this part of the call happens primarily through the sacraments. As a representative of Christ, the priest presides over the sacraments of baptism, eucharist, confirmation, matrimony, anointing and reconciliation and through the reception of these sacraments, the participants receive healing. Outside of the sacraments, the priest acts as a vessel of God’s healing through active listening and attentive presence. This can be facilitated through an effective homily (sermon) and in the role of Pastoral Minister and/or Counselor. The priest has many opportunities to be a vessel through which others may experience God’s healing grace and I have known many priests in my lifetime who have done a really good job of being a model of God’s compassion and healing in the world (Jeff among them.)
So, if it is not about the dress and it is not about being separate from the rest, how am I called to be priest? Ultimately, it is about the healing. When I look to Jesus as the model of what priesthood could be, I see healing, healing, healing. When Jesus taught, people found healing. When Jesus preached, people were cured. When Jesus offered attentive listening and focused presence to another, their hearts were uplifted. When Jesus laid his hand on people, they were healed. This is the kind of priest I would feel called to be. And guess what? I’m already doing it! No special dress. No special ritual. No dude in a funny hat placed his hands on me thereby giving me permission to be “priest”. I’m already doing it. And guess what……SO ARE YOU!!!!! Whenever you allow yourself to be a vessel through which others find peace, contentment, joy and love, healing, compassion, YOU TOO ARE BEING PRIEST. When you show kindness to another, when you feed someone who is hungry, when you stand up for justice, when you offer someone forgiveness, when you show mercy…YOU ARE BEING PRIEST. Boy, we sure have a whole lot of priests walking around! 🙂
How are you called to be a vessel of God’s love in the world?
How are you called to be a vessel of healing, mercy, forgiveness, justice?
How are you living out your own Priesthood?
Authentic Freedom Ministries