Saturday, November 17, 2007

Vis a vis discussions we've all had on these and other blogs and boards, and through 37 years of experience dealing with personalities that hopefully live in rectories (as opposed to condos or villas that are discreetly distanced from a parish campus), alter Christis that stand at the center of our altars and ambos, baptize, marry and bury us all, and are supposed to represent, and in fact "be" the Christ of both Matt. 25 and the Great Commission, I would simply say the most serious issue facing the Church is the reclamation of the dignity and humility of the priesthood. I've quietly observed more men, both domestic and foreign, who disturbingly have displayed little and often no evidence of discipleship. Whether they decided to create a priestly class above the lay level castes before or after professing their vows (not only of chastity, by the way) I have seen more of our modern priests who relegate their roles to certain desirable affects: the administrator who can raise and manage millions, and does that to avoid accountability in other areas of demand; the dilettante that deigns to impart to the masses the minimal sacramental and ministerial attention than can be personally afforded and then enjoys the mystique and celebrity of the collar in the public eye; the escapists, old and young who hole up in their homes, rectories or offices (like we) glued to a keyboard and monitor, 'cause it looks like work and no one will dare bother "Father" when he's "there." I'm sure we all can come up with such stereotypes.
At this point, I want to stress that these characterizations do not represent all the priests I've worked beside these many years. I have had the honor of knowing many true servants of God who embody the absolute truth of the Mandatum; and they also come in many flavors and colors- old, young, cassock, t-shirt, gay/straight, white/brown/black/yellow/red, nice and not-so nice.But our Church, as I mentioned in another thread, cannot continue to exist if it cannot "man" the seminaries with both novices who, even at the youngest age, are given the complete picture and skinny on just how tough one has to be to live the priesthood; and then provide them with professors and support staff, education and assessment that is complete, rigorous and, above all character-building. And then, when they're given their first assignments over their first years, provide them with more than lip-service communication and support; help them keep their focus and eye on the prize.
Another aspect that does not seem to attract much blog attention is the notion that the Church evidences no discernable interest in discussing- the merits of a "tiered" priesthood that would add to the ranks of celebrants married Catholic men whose vocations were thoroughly deemed authentic and who would maintain economic self-dependence by maintaining their secular occupations. I personally can envision men who've already raised their children to adulthood, such as those who discern a vocation to the permanent diaconate (another issue for another post) who could be assigned primarily liturgical and sacramental duties versus the myriad of responsibilities an active parish priest and pastor is charged with 24/7.
I don't want to outline my own thoughts about the ramifications of the notion of restoring a "tiered" presbyterate in this post. Needless to say, I do think it would be possible to articulate and restructure such an ordained heirarchy. And equally needless is the mention of the irony that this "tiered" system already exists in the Roman Rite via "back-door" ordinations of Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist clergymen who profess vows and are initiated into first, the Church, and then to its priesthood. Or even the canons governing the ordination of married men in other Rites in full communion with the Roman Rite.
"Seasoned" men, with so-called "real life" street cred, who would be willing to serve the Church without reservation or recompense as liturgical presiders might even serve to resurrect among young boys and men the vision and exemplars of those selfless priests they saw on the silver screen when they were boys, those heroic priests who did and do still exist. Perhaps these young boys and men of this generation could see passed the distractions and tempatations of the secular culture because their dads and grandfathers clarified the perspectives by which young vocations could be discerned, fully cognizant of the treasure that celibacy and chastity provides those strong enough to accept such a calling and gift.