How does a woman, raised Catholic, respond to the call to be priest? The soul’s calling will not be silenced, and through meditation and prayer, the soul will find its way.
The First Signs of Call
From the moment that Fr. Jeff gave his now infamous brick-to-the-head homily, (“If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done it yet….get off your butt and do it now!”) I knew that I was called to ministry. I knew from the moment that I began my ministry formation that I was called to something more than just lay ministry, (like the day our class was asked how many were called to ordination and I raised my hand, only to be met with a scowl) but as a woman, this path was not open to me. So, I repressed the call secretly seething in resentment and jealousy over my male classmates who, if they felt called, could be ordained to the diaconate. It didn’t seem fair, but I accepted it as the way things were and continued on my merry way.
The Day the Wheels Fell off
Surprisingly, it was not due to the obstacles to ordination that I eventually left active ministry with the Catholic Church. Instead, it was because of my call to Reiki. Reiki, a technique for hands-on-healing with Eastern origins, was condemned by the United States Catholic Bishops. I had to make a choice, be obedient to the Church, or God. I chose God.
The Persistent Call
While I relocated my ministry to a secular audience (interestingly….95% of whom were raised Catholic), the call to the priesthood never really went away. Every two years, it seemed, the call got really loud and insistent and I would go off looking for how and where to exercise this call. One exploration was within the folds of an off-shoot Catholic Church, but I soon learned that while this denomination was more egalitarian than some, they were still firmly entrenched in hierarchy and separation….something that did not resonate with me. In a more recent appearance of this call, I was invited by one of my mentors to “Get over your Catholicism…..go find another denomination and pursue their path to ordination.” SIGH. While that is a path that may work for some….I knew it wouldn’t work for me. I did not want to trade one set of rules and doctrine for another and while many denominations do allow for women’s ordination, women are still often treated as second-class citizens and are passed over for the prime positions of leadership and the larger congregational calls. Not to mention….as much as the Catholic Church has its problems, I remain Catholic in my heart and cannot see myself trading in my personal beliefs about the Eucharist, the Communion of Saints, the rich tradition of monasticism and contemplation for something else. Again, I found myself coming up empty on the answer to this call.
The Soul Knows
But in the end, the Soul knows her truth and she knows her way. Within the Catholic Church, following my call to be priest wasn’t an option. Considering the pursuit of this call within other denominations only left me feeling frustrated and angry. Where and how does one accept the call to be priest when anything resembling hierarchy, patriarchy or power makes one physically ill? How does one pursue the call of the Soul when anything that serves to separate servant from those being served (special clothes, special chairs, chairs in special places, steps, railings, special titles, etc.) makes one want to tear ones hair out???? The answer, it seems, is in what I have always been doing and with and for whom I’ve been doing it. I have already been living my call to be priest … I just haven’t called it such. I am priest when in my writing I share the good news of God’s love. I am priest when I teach people how to find themselves through meditation, movement and prayer practices. I am priest when I listen to someone pour out their grief or discern God’s call for themselves. I am priest when through Reiki or Spiritual Direction I am able to help another find healing. I am priest when I grab a latte at the local coffee shop and give a hug to the disabled woman who goes there or share laughter with the baristas. I am priest when I smile at the people in line at the grocery store and when I can respond in patience to a delay at the DMV. I am priest when I give my son a backrub after a hard basketball game or snuggle my daughter on the couch while watching her favorite TV show.
A Priesthood of my own Making
And this is the perfect kind of priesthood for me. A priesthood beyond belief, beyond doctrine, beyond denomination. Where the people I minister to can be Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist and everything in between. A priesthood where I can engage in any spiritual practice that works for me and support others in doing the same. A priesthood where I can stand in my personal beliefs and honor others beliefs as equally sacred, holy and true. A priesthood where I can acknowledge Jesus as my guru, while honoring the sacred teachings of other holy men and women. This is my kind of priesthood and my kind of church – a church where every single person is honored as equally blessed and sacred and where salvation isn’t even a question because we are all already saved.
What is your soul’s calling?