Archive for the ‘Holy Orders’ Category

Young Grafton

(Reprinted for the most part from the Focus blog)

It may be self-serving of me to say so, but I think that parish priests are some of the hardest working members of the Church. The typical parish priest works every weekend and holiday, often lives in the same building as their office, and only gets one day off a week, not to mention they’re being asked to care for more souls and take on more responsibilities and roles than ever before.  Within the “Continuing Church”, parish priests most often work at below a subsistence level, having to take on outside work or to rely on their wife’s income to sustain their ministry.

Focus.com asked a few parish priests how we could best let them know we’re thankful for them and all the work they do for us. In no particular order:

1. Pray for Your Priest(s)
“The most important thing a parishioner can do for his/her priest is pray for them. We are always praying for someone, even required to offer a Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation on behalf of our parishioners. It’s just good to know that they pray for us everyday.”
“A rosary, a holy hour, a small offering or a daily suffering offered for the priest.”
“Send cards to priests with assurances of prayer for their intentions.”
“The offering of prayers for the priest and his ministry. (It’s a great joy to know of prayers since I know that my life and ministry are only as fruitful as the people praying for me.)”

2. Cook Them a Meal, Especially on Their Busy Days
“It would be nice if someone made sure that the single priest(s) of the parish had a nice home-cooked meal on Sundays and major holidays. Unmarried clergy often have no cooks and after a long morning, it would be nice to come home to something we didn’t have to make.”
“Find out his favorite meal and make it for him.”

3. Celebrate Their Special Days
“Celebrating the priest’s birthday and ordination day are good thoughts, too.”
“It’s nice to be remembered on the day of my priestly ordination.”

4. Pray More, Complain Less
“The vast majority of interactions seem to revolve around a complaint about the priest, the parish, a parishioner, the music, the temperature in the church, a burned out lightbulb, a decision, etc. and rarely about the supernatural realities.”

5. Offer to Help
“Don’t wait to be asked! Priests are ordained to give, and it’s hard for us to ask for things.”
“Volunteer your time to the parish as a sign of support and service.”
“Consider increasing your tithe to show your support for the parish and priest.”

6. Go to Mass and/or Confession
“Nothing will make a priest happier.”
“Pick a day, go to a Mass that he’s celebrating, and get a bunch of people to sit in the front rows. When Father asks you after Mass why, tell him you were offering your participation at Mass in thanksgiving for His priesthood.”

7. Write Them a Note Expressing Your Gratitude
“A note, especially to a priest with whom you’ve lost touch, letting him know how his priesthood impacted your life – and that you’re still with the program – means a lot.”
“My favorite thing to receive from people is a letter. Not a card with a few words. Those are nice too, but I love receiving a letter or a card with a substantial message in it. It is very powerful to hear somebody describe exactly HOW the thing I said or did was so fruitful for them. It is a reminder that Jesus is a lot bigger than me and he can do great things with the little I have to offer.”
“I really appreciate when people say to me personally or send notes of gratitude: “Thanks for your priesthood”, “Thanks for being our pastor.” ‘Thanks for answering the call.’”
“Tell them that they have made a difference in your life.”
“Write them a thank you with a tone of appreciation.”
“Simple notes mean a great deal to priests these days. Things like notes of appreciation after funerals and weddings a simple compliment after a well prepared homily.”
“Being specific helps!”

8. Say Thank You
“Thank the priest for every Mass. Even if you don’t necessarily like the priest, as the Mass is always about the presence of Jesus.”
“Even something as simple as saying to the priest”Thank you for your ministry and I will pray for you” can mean a great deal.”
“Make a video asking random parishioners one thing they would like to thank Fr. ____ for.”

9. Give Them a Compliment
“Look for opportunities to compliment priests. Even ones you don’t particularly like.”
“I always cheer up when someone tells me after Mass, ‘That was a beautiful Mass, Father.’”

10. Look Out for Their Wellbeing
“Encourage priest to take time off.”

11. Save the Drama for Yo Mama
“Avoid and discourage gossip about priests and parishes.”
“Don’t gossip or criticize, instead offer to help and to build up. I wonder how many vocations were ruined when young people hear adults tear down the priest, usually because of some petty parish dispute.”

12. Let Him Know You Have His Back
“When you witness a situation when someone is being rude to a priest, let him know that you noticed and express compassion.”

13. Establish a Relationship
“Don’t tell him what you don’t like if that’s the first time you’ve bothered to talk to him.”
“Say hello before telling him what’s wrong.”

14. Have Realistic Expectations and Be Helpful
“He’s probably not a plumber, so don’t expect him to fix the leaky pipe. But definitely do ask him if he knows it’s leaking.”
“Always assume good will. Offering feedback is helpful, but criticism and complaint given without humility and sincere love is draining after a while.“

15. Don’t Be a “Priest Collector”
“Don’t think that you have to have the priest over every Sunday. Don’t expect to be the priest’s friend – he is your pastor/assistant and he needs to keep things professional. Don’t brag to fellow parishioners how “Close you guys are” as then that creates animosity or jealously – and THAT stresses the priest out.”

16. Be Supportive
“Whenever there is something that is stressful, such as a difficult time during the parish, I know “reinforcement” is appreciated. I recall some tremendously difficult funerals where people sent a nice note.

17. Give Him Space
“Sometimes it’s good to be just left alone, too. Stay away from what is called “unkind kindness” which is assuming Father is (Lonely, depressed, stressed, anxious, etc) when sometimes he needs to just blow off some steam.”

18. Invite Him Over
“It’s nice when people think to invite me to family gatherings: special birthdays or anniversary celebrations, holiday dinners (even though I usually decline because I’m with my own family — it’s nice to be invited).”

19. Strive for Holiness
“Ultimately, being the saint God desires them to be! There’s nothing more exciting for a priest than witnessing holiness in the lives of the people to whom he ministers; not only is that an experience of grace that his labor is bearing fruit but it’s also tremendously edifying in his own pursuit of holiness.”

I hope this list has inspired you to do something for your priest. Remember, each priest has his own preferences and ways that make him feel appreciated. Some may really like being invited over for dinner, while other priests may recharge with a quiet dinner alone in the rectory. No matter what you do, let’s make sure we let our priests know just how much we care for them.

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We all know them.  These are the blokes who have a miter, ring, pectoral cross and crozier carefully stashed in the closet on the first day of seminary.  They yearn for the episcopal state, and can be very inventive with reasons they believe that they are entitled to the office.  Some claim with dewy eyes that the Holy Spirit has revealed their elevation to them.  Others view it as a deserved “promotion”-a sort of key to the ecclesiastical executive washroom, if you will.  Indeed, one of these “bishops-in-waiting” solemnly shared to all in the zip code that day that God viewed his military service and subsequent executive positions as qualifying for the office.

Today’s bit of unsolicited advice is, “Fear the man that wants to be a bishop.  Look for the one who tries to flee at the thought of it.”  That latter bit, and, of course, an holy life are the “gold standard” of qualifications.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the life of St. Lawrence Justinian whose festival w mark today.

St. Lawrence was born 1380, of very pious parents. When still quite young, he lost his father, Bernard, and his mother took up care and education of the family. One day, she expressed he concern to the boy that he harbored ambition or pride. Lawrence answered: “fear not, mother; I have only one ambition, and that is to become a great servant of the Lord, and to be more pious than my brothers.” Although he lived at a period when the morals of Venice were very corrupt, his life was regarded by everyone with surprise and admiration.

To escape the danger which threatened him, he prayed most fervently to God to give him the grace to know the vocation to which he was called. One day, kneeling before a crucifix and an image of the Blessed Virgin, he prayed this intention and then felt deep an intense desire to leave the world, and to serve God in the religious state. He obeyed, renounced the world and all its pomp, and went to the Regular Canons of St. George on Alga, an island near Venice. There, the young man requested to enter the order, and he began his novitiate cheerfully. Soon, he showed that he was no beginner in the science of holiness, but a proficient. His superiors had much more difficulty in moderating his zeal than in animating it.

Among other austerities which he practiced to mortify himself, he never warmed himself by the fire even on the coldest days. In summer, he took nothing to allay his thirst except with his meals at noon and evening. At night, he slept on a pallet of bare boards.
After Lawrence had been ordained priest, he daily said Mass with great devotion and seldom without tears. During the Mass on Christmas-night, he received the grace to behold his Saviour in the form of a lovely child.

He constantly fought to remain free from all offices of honor, especially the episcopate. Nevertheless, he was chosen general of his order, and sometime later was named bishop of Venice, by Pope Eugenius IV. However, this humble servant of Christ tried in every possible manner to escape this dignity. At last obliged by obedience, he accepted it. As bishop, however, he altered nothing of the austerities he had practiced in the monastery. He visited his whole diocese, and with apostolic zeal, animated his flock to observe the Commandments of God and the Church.

He used the income from his family for the benefit of the Church and the relief of the poor. Besides several collegiate Churches, he founded fifteen religious houses, and daily fed a great number of poor.

Pope Nicholas declared St. Lawrence the first Patriarch of Venice, an office that eventually caused his strength gradually to give way. On the feast of the Nativity, he felt, during Holy Mass, an intense desire to be admitted into the presence of his God. A fever, which seized him soon after the Mass, ended with his death in a very few days. He lay on the bare floor, and, not even in his last days, could he be persuaded to make use of a softer bed.

“Jesus Christ,” said Lawrence, “died upon the hard wood of the Cross, and you desire that a sinner, like me, should lie soft and comfortable!” After receiving the holy Sacraments, he gave his last instructions to those around him. “Keep the Commandments of the Lord,” said he; “nothing is more noble or excellent than to serve God.” He then raised his eyes to Heaven and said: “I am coming, O my Jesus!” and his soul went to God. Thus, he began his life in heaven in the seventy-third year of his age. the intercession of the Saint, miracles took place at his tomb, in favor of the infirm and the possessed.

Humble, pious, charitable to a fault, austere in life, prayerful and not desiring any higher office than that of a priest.  Now, that’s a bishop.

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Priest2Chapter 4 of What Is the Priesthood?

Among the many vocations needed in Christ’s Body, the Church, there is one of peculiar significance: that to the sacred priesthood. There must be men who will give their whole time to a representation, in an intense degree, of that priesthood which inheres in the whole Body. Here is a vocation of the priestly Body, and for the priestly Body: of the priestly Body because those called to the sacred priesthood are from baptism members of the Body; and for the priestly Body because such men are commissioned by Christ to exercise priestly functions within and on behalf of the priestly fellowship. The authority for the office is derived from God through the Holy Spirit who gives grace to the ordinand to act as God’s representative. The authority of the sacred office derives not from beneath but from above.

The first question which the Bishop is directed to ask of the ordinand, in the service for the Ordering of Priests, runs as follows: “Do you think in your heart, that you are truly called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, and according to the Canons of this Church, to the Order and Ministry of Priesthood?” Book of Common Prayer at 541. To the question the ordinand is to reply, “I think it.”

A keen sense of vocation is an essential element in the life of the priest. There must be a very real sense of God’s prior action calling forth the response that the ordinand makes. As the Epistle to the Hebrews phrases it, “No man taketh this honor to himself but he who is called of God.”

The young man facing this vocation must be able to affirm that he is conscious of an inward call. There must be a true realization that God “has searched him out and laid His hand upon him.” In brief, there must be a sense of the priority of God’s choice and a belief that this is what God wills.

Once again, though, a question raised in the previous chapter requires answer. What is meant by such an inward call? Must there be some dramatic, perhaps immense spiritual experience? Certainly not. A vocation normally is a growing conviction, and it may have very tentative beginnings. God does not always, or even often, work in violently catastrophic ways. He works, so to say, naturally and with the “still, small voice”. An old teacher once remarked, out of his deep experience of the spiritual life, “It is most natural for the Supernatural to work naturally.” There is a profound truth in that. Those who believe that the heart of the Christian faith lies in God’s incarnate action in redeeming the world will hardly find it difficult to believe. that He loves “the lowly spot,” and often chooses the quiet way.

This is true in His calling of men to the priesthood. God calls in quite natural and undramatic ways most of the time. To be sure, we do not always hear His accents clearly. Yet He calls all the same and gradually our ears become attuned to His voice.
He may call through our childhood interest in the Church and its ways, through the experiences we have as choristers or as acolytes, through the prayers of our parents and friends, through affection and admiration for some priest we have known. We may be called through the confusion and heartbreak in the world about us, through personal sorrow met with, through delight in the Church’s worship and orderly life, through sermons and books. In and through any and all of these and through countless other interests and concerns, God calls to the priesthood.

At first ordained ministry may seem to be but one possibility among many. It should be considered seriously and thoughtfully for it just may be that God is calling. Particularly for students, they should be relaxed about the matter, test their growing vocation, and try to live by a rule of life that may lead to its healthy development. Do not talk about it with all and sundry, but a man would be well advised to discuss his concern with those who know him best and with some experienced priest trained to recognize valid signs of developing vocation. To the faithful Christian man any indication at all that God may be calling him to the priesthood should be treated with the greatest care and conscientiousness. If this should be the divine will for a member of the Body of Christ, it is not a will to be treated lightly or dismissed selfishly.

The question to be faced at the outset and thereafter is not, “Is the priesthood suited for me?” As well, it is not merely: “Am I suited for the priesthood?” Both of these questions are irrelevant at the end of the day. The question to be faced is “What does God mean me to be-a priest, or something else?” If God means a man to be a priest, He will give him the aptitude necessary. He will fit a man and give him grace sufficient for his calling.
Ultimately, a man will not think much of the honor and dignity of this particular vocation. He will not be too greatly swayed by its perils and losses. He will not be drawn to the priesthood simply because he may deem it to be easy and safe (how very wrong he would be to suppose it either of these things!). He will not be “put off” from the priesthood because it is a poorly paid profession with few prizes paid in the currency of the market place. He will not elect to follow this vocation because it presents a chance to escape from the world into some sort of ivory tower.

A man will heed the divine voice because of his faith in the Redeemer of us all and because he believes that here, in the priesthood of the priestly Body of Christ, there is opportunity to make an offering of his heart and mind and will that Jesus Christ Himself wants made. He will have a growing conviction that his Lord’s words apply to him, “Ye have not chosen me; but I have chosen you.”

In many Protestant denominations the “call” of God seems to be the only determinative matter in the ministry. The more extreme of these sects seem to have few other criteria by which to judge whether a man is to become a minister. If an individual feels himself unmistakably “called,” that very fact is his sole warrant. This is something akin to the prophetic vocation in the Old Testament. It is just at this point that a difference emerges in the concept of the ministry between many Protestant denominations and Anglicanism of a truly catholic sort.

Clearly, Protestant denominations have no intention of conveying a ministry of “holy order.” For them, the ministerial vocation is wholly constituted by a call directly from God. There is no conception of “order” on the horizontal level from man to man, in the Holy Spirit, for Christ and His Priestly Body. Anglicanism insists upon a realization of God’s prior calling, but this is not the sole qualification for ordination. The candidate for holy orders must be made a priest by the action of Christ’s Body through the laying on of hands by the Bishop. The ministry of the individual must be thus authenticated by proper commissioning. Otherwise, a man is not a priest of the priestly Body no matter how strong may be his sense of vocation. The authority of the office of priest requires this act of certification and ordination.

In all honesty, it should be noted that men in the priesthood frequently wonder even after ordination whether they possess a rightful vocation to this office. In the life of the Spirit there are ups and downs, times of discouragement and doubt. There may be periods, perhaps extended periods, of “spiritual dryness.” The greatest saints have known these dread experiences.

A man’s office as priest does not grant him any immunity from such spiritual sickness. At such times the ordained man is indeed thankful that there are these two criteria of vocation- internal and external. The internal criterion is, of course, a man’s own strong sense of call, that he is doing what God wills. The external criterion is the belief of those with whom one works, to whom one ministers, on whom one relies for counsel and guidance, that one is indeed a person who ought to study for, or remain in, the ministry. Very often those most closely associated with us understand our motives, intentions, and possibilities much more accurately than we ourselves. It is hard for us to see ourselves objectively.

The most common objection to the priesthood heard by those who counsel youth in our colleges is the simple, blunt, “I’m not worthy.” Surely no one is worthy of this holy estate. The fact is that God chooses very unworthy and sinful men to be His witnesses. Essential to the priestly life is humility, and this perhaps above all. A man who felt himself fitted for the priesthood would have a very faulty knowledge both of himself and of the profession. Frequently those who at the outset are least sure of their calling, least ready to claim worthiness of this high calling, are those who turn out later to be the most consecrated and effective priests of the Church. Archbishop Temple has written: “It is a man’s business to surrender as much of himself as he knows, to as much of God as he knows.” Vocations are never full-blown in their initial stages. There is of necessity much groping about and doubt, much questioning and many uncertainties. The man who is humble about himself may very well have a call for that precise reason.

The psychology of the postulant for holy orders and of the priest himself is no different from that of anyone else. The grace of orders does not convey any new psychological equipment. Study in a theological seminary does not dramatically alter a man’s personality at least as far as psychological processes are concerned. The priesthood is a vocation that comes to men in very different, and usually quite simple ways. It will have varying intensity from man to man and in any one person from time to time, but it is not just another profession. It is the special functioning for Christ in His Body the Church, the means whereby all the members of the Body are enabled to make their full contribution to the witness of the whole Body.

The priesthood involves a character of a special sort, for it is authorized to exercise priestly functions within and on behalf of the priestly fellowship. It ought always to be held in the highest respect and esteem, but so far as this attaches to the man, such respect must be merited. It should be merited by fidelity to the demands of the office, through consecration of character and growing holiness of life, through love of the brethren, through a sincere devotion to God and His will.

This, then, is something of the vocation to the priesthood. In its inception it may have almost imperceptible signs. There may be no blinding light from heaven, no voices heard, no rending of the veil. The disciple may not be given a pillar of cloud by day nor a pillar of fire by night. However, God will be speaking and the soul must make its answer however slowly or tentatively. Then if in the divine economy the disciple makes affirmative response and the fellowship of the priestly Body ratifies the call with appropriate commissioning, the die is cast. There will be times in the future, as in the past, of uncertainty and doubt. Yet, there will be the conviction beneath it all that He who has called will not desert his messengers and stewards. For still His word is given, “Lo, I am with you alway.”

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Chapter 3-What Is the Priesthood? (Revised Edition)

© Fr. Charles H Nalls

Frequently, the parts that men and women play in life’s drama are decided for them, or even imposed upon them. Life itself may supply the cues for the human actors. The lines we read are frequently not of our own authorship. Often we make our entrances and exits without rehearsal. We are committed without choice and with little preparation in our varied roles. Many considerations lie behind this. The fact that one’s father or mother followed a certain trade. There are accidents of birth and environment, and similar conditions may be determinative.

This certainly is less frequently the case today, however, than in earlier and more static times. The recent technological revolution has made it possible for youth to exercise a variety of choicse in the matter of one’s vocation. Education through the college level, at least, is now a possibility for almost all. As a result, there is opportunity now to understand our human society somewhat more completely and to consider the individual’s place within the whole.

For the Christian, where does a sense of “vocation enter”? An individual must choose. He decides “on his own” with the best judgment at his command to follow this or that profession or way of life. He personally chooses the course for which he feels he is best equipped. He chooses is a “vocation”, a calling, when and if he senses that his choice is in answer to a word from God. This is Christian vocation. The decision may seem to be entirely the work of the individual, but the individual knows that his decision was really a response to a prior demand made upon him.

Young men are inclined to be confused about God’s prior calling, particularly in these times. One assumes that he must have some very definite, perhaps shattering, religious experience such as that known to Isaiah, or Saul of Tarsus are but two classic examples. The average Christian, however, will not find the walls of the Temple parting for him as they did for Isaiah, nor is there any blinding light of the noonday sun. He may not hear voices speaking infallibly to his listening ear.

Is the modern man, particularly young man, entirely without guidance? Does God have nothing to say to him? Is God uninterested since there is no dramatic and unmistakable intervention? Can only the very few who hear voices and see visions be assured that their places are certain in His purpose? We need to face this honestly.
From a Christian perspective and with Christian presuppositions, we see that we must start with ends. There is, we believe, purpose in human life and in our human striving. It is a divine purpose. It is the establishment of a realm of God, the bringing of many sons into the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” It is the purpose of God to win mankind to His mind and will. This human scene is intended for the discipline of souls, for making men responsive to the divine will so that we may be ready for closer union with Him. The end of all human striving is that blessed union. Here on earth we are prepared by experiences of choice for that end.

The Jewish people sensed this and believed it. A primary article of faith for them was that God had a plan for individuals and for the nation. So the psalmist wrote: “O God, thou bast searched me out and known me; Thou hast laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.” The Hebrew prophets proclaimed God’s will for the nation and for individuals and contrasted this with the godless schemes and designs governing men who relied on self rather than on the divine leading.

The central teachings of the Old testament were never peripheral to Christ’s gospel. Rather, He gave new point and emphasis to the older beliefs. It was His understanding that God had a plan or calling for every created soul. Examples of this spring quickly to mind, but nowhere as emphatically as in Christ’s own ministry with its opening words, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” Again, almost its closing scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Thine, be done.” Jesus knew that God had a plan for the destinies of individual souls. So it was that St. Augustine, centuries later, provided piercing insight into this truth with his oft-quoted words: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

Christians believe that God’s purpose is to win for Himself sons able to share His life. He does not draft nor conscript. Rather He wants our voluntary enlistment in His service. That means conscious choices, made over and over again in the course of our lives.
God does not coerce His children; we still may decide whether or not we will do His Will, follow His guidance. We are free to “miss our calling,” though we are sure to be restless until we have found our rest in Him who is our peace. We may be sure that though God does not coerce, He does bring to bear upon us His prompting love.

God still calls and we are to listen, and then respond with obedience. He calls in a thousand ways. Usually, they are in quite natural and undramatic ways. We are to answer and give Him the loyalty of our hearts and minds and wills. It is not for us to say that He must speak in unusual and dramatic fashion. He may speak to us through life experiences, through the reading of good books, through our relatives and friends, through chance encounters with strangers, through discussion or sermons. Through any of these media and many another the voice of God calls.

There are many lines of communication and God uses an infinite number to bid for our allegiance in the glorious liberty of sonship to Him. In all of them there is His very voice and the call of His holy Will. Life between birth and death is one constant adventure of offering one’s self to God, of making the response of glad obedience to the divine will.

It has been frequently said that if two archangels were sent to this earth by Almighty God to do a piece of work for Him, one to be a metropolitan bishop and another to be a metropolitan traffic officer, neither would care which of the two tasks was allotted to him. Each would be glad to do the will of the Father. Brother Lawrence scoured the pots and pans of a monastery kitchen with as much joy in the confidence of vocation as his abbot perhaps knew.

So it is that we must contemplate the importance of ends. If the purpose of God is to bring the life of his children into union with his Eternal Life, then servants and sons are needed to carry out His will in every aspect of our human life. God must have vocations in commerce and art and letters as well as in the ministry. At the turn of the last century, a young man went to Oxford intent upon reading for holy orders. Instead, he became an artist. He later explained this change in his life work by saying that had he become a priest he would have been an atheist, that is one who does this when God says “do that.”

Every human life is to be an answer, and countless answers must be given to make complete the response of our world to our loving God. This means a willingness to listen to God’s calling, and to expect it in myriad forms and under manifold guises. The sensitive student, concerned about the state of our world and of human society may discern the voice of God in the very affliction, want, and misery all about him. He may not know it at the time but he is being called to help in the healing of the sorrowful, the dispossessed, and the fearful. In the parable, the men on the right of the king exclaimed, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, thirsty, a stranger, or naked, sick, or in prison . . .”

It is clear that a sense of vocation, to whatever station in life, is dependent upon one condition. The individual must cultivate a listening ear and be ready to obey when he hears the call. The individual must be prepared to make his appropriate response, and not try to limit the nature of his obedience nor restrict it in any way.

If the way of discipleship insists that human life is at God’s disposal, then the individual must be prepared to accept and follow the divine calling. We are not to be selfish about the disposition of our lives, for God’s will cannot be realized when we rebel or are petulant. When He calls, we are to do his bidding. We are not to set the terms of our acceptance. We must give Him instant compliance, knowing that only thus can we achieve our destiny as those who are to enjoy union with Him forever. We are not to be concerned about the vocations of others. We must be very much aware of the intimacy of God’s dealings with each of us in our own right. “Lord, and what shall this man do?” “What is that to thee? Follow thou me.”

A man’s vocation may be in art. It may be in jurisprudence. It may be in medicine or law. It will for some be in the home or in the Trades. It may be in commerce or in the classroom. It may be in industry.

It takes multitudes of obedient sons glad to follow God’s prompting, eager to hear His voice and act upon it, to redeem the times. The divine purpose includes all created souls and all of us should pray that our pride and self-love may not cause us to miss our calling. We should pray for increased sensitivity to His voice, for obedience to the heavenly vision, however that voice may be heard and that vision seen.

Be sure of this simple truth. Life will possess meaning and purpose only as the individual learns to align himself with God’s will. Men and women in every age and in every estate of life testify to this truth. There must be just such an insight into reality, such a harkening to God’s call, such a response of obedience.

The fruits of spiritual awareness witness to their source. So the Christian saints and heroes lived lives that have testified to the gracious leading of a loving God. It was their insight, their intuition, their perception of purposeful divine leading that gave them spiritual victory and freedom in vocation. They knew themselves to be in touch with that “something whose possession is the final good.”

Be assured. God still calls. The Christian who listens for his voice and answers with glad obedience wins thus a spiritual victory and so enters into the joy of his Lord.

One other important matter bears mentioning What is the relevance to the life of the Church of all that has been written in this chapter on vocation? We saw in the preceding chapters that the Church is a priestly Body. The baptized Christian, through membership in the mystical Body of Christ, shares in the priesthood which is the Church’s since it is Christ’s Himself. All the members of the Body share in the priest-hood of the Head of the Body. We will develop this truth and its consequences later, but it should be pointed out here that every vocation of every member of the Church should be a priestly vocation carried out in priestly fashion.

Our manifold and diverse vocations are not merely to be ways of “making a living,” but means whereby we live out our priesthood within the Body of Christ. The Christian religion when true to itself makes profound and searching demands upon its entire membership. “Every member of the same in his vocation and ministry” is to serve God freely and fully.

All must be in readiness to render any needful service. There are no gradations of obligation. All of us are claimed for God in our varied vocations. All of us are to glorify Him in those callings. Our vocations differ, but there is no higher and lower, no important and unimportant. All is His and all that we are or hope to be is to be given gladly to Him through whom we have access to the Father.

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The Ember DaysOn this Ember Friday, we are called to pray for an increase in the priesthood and for those in Holy Orders.  These prayers are not something trivial or to be brushed off, but are vital to the life of the Church and to the lives of the men who serve her.  Indeed, for those of us in Holy Orders, we can feel the presence of these prayers that power us forward, and, conversely, we can sense their absence.

So, today pray for your deacons, priests and bishops and that the Holy Spirit lights many men and leads them into vocation.  As well, today’s readings from morning prayer are quite powerful for all of us, both clergy and lay.  Finally, the serialization of What is the Priesthood? will resume by Monday.

The Collect.
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast committed to the hands of men the ministry of reconciliation; We humbly beseech thee, by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, to put it into the hearts of many to offer themselves for this ministry; that thereby mankind may be drawn to thy blessed kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

First Lesson
Isaiah 61:1-9
1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
4 And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
5 And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6 But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.
7 For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.
8 For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed.

Second Lesson
2 Corinthians 3
1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:
5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.
11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.
12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ.
15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.
16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.
17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

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“Nothing is his; all is His.”

When the bishop lays his hands on the head of a man who is to become a “presbyter” in the Church, he is directed to use these words: “Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Or if he uses the alternative form, the bishop must say: “Take thou Authority to execute the Office of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed to thee by the Imposition of our hands.” (BCP 546) In each instance, the concluding words of the formula of ordination are: “And be thou a faith¬ful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments,” while the first of the forms adds: “Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained.”

Here we learn in so many words that it is the intention of in traditional Anglican churches-for these formulae, abandoned elsewhere, are found everywhere where the American 1928 Book of Common Prayer is used-to ordain men to a priesthood in God’s Church. This is a priesthood which, as the Preface to the Ordinal makes clear, is continuous with the priesthood of the ancient Church and of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church throughout the ages: “to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in this Church.’”

So then we pose our first questions. What is a priest? What is his relation to the Christian Church as a whole? What are the characteristics of his office?

It is obvious that a discussion of these topics necessarily must be somewhat “theological” in character. It is not enough to talk about the priesthood from the purely empirical point of view, to discuss the several duties of the man who has been ordained to this high office and, especially, the necessity for high moral character and spiritual discernment in his ministerial life. We turn to these issues later, but it is essential that we understand what a priest is, who he is in the final sense, before we go on to these other highly important matters. In far too many ordination sermons, the preacher talks about the ordinand’s work but never talks about the priesthood to which he is to be ordained. Yet the being of anything, its ultimate significance and meaning, must come before any doing. In the ministry, as well as everywhere else in human life, the right order of things is, “I am this; hence I do this.’”

The first question when we discuss the meaning of priesthood is simply: “What is the Church?” The answer is equally simple. The Church, as the Ordinal in the Prayer Book declares, is Christ’s “Spouse, and his Body.” It is not an association of men and women who have come together in order to promote religious and moral interests. It is not even a fellowship of people gathered into one by their common beliefs or ways of worship. Above all, it is not a kind of ethical society or service-league which works for a higher standard of conduct in the community.

To be sure, the Church must promote religious and moral interests. Its members must have common beliefs and ways of worship which will certainly improve the “tone” of the community. Primarily, however, the Church is something else. It is the Body of Christ. It is the means whereby He continues to make His presence known and to carry on His redemptive work in the world of men. The Church is an organic whole, its members having been so incorporated into it that they are like branches of a vine, and the Vine is Christ Himself. The Church is the bearer of the divine life of Christ, still mediated through a human agency, as in Palestine the very life of God was mediated through the human nature of Jesus.

When a man is ordained to the priesthood of the Church, he is ordained to a “ministerial priesthood.” The reason that the ordained priest is a ministerial priest is that it is his office and function to act for the essential priesthood of the Church. Christ’s priesthood is the only essential priesthood of which a Christian may properly speak, but the priesthood of the Church is none other than the priesthood of Christ Himself.
It is His priesthood expressed in and operating through His Mystical Body the Church.

This truth follows as an inevitable consequence of the nature of the Church described in the last paragraph. If the Church is in very fact the Body of Christ, His Bride and Spouse, then the Church’s inner life is the life of Christ. That which is His is also His Church’s, and this despite the sin and error, the weakness and fallibility, which undeniably attach to the Church in its human aspect.

So, the man who is “ordered priest” is given a ministerial function within the Body of Christ. He has no rights nor privileges, no status and no position, apart from the Body of Christ. When we attempt to understand the meaning of the priesthood, we must recognize the primitive and soundly Catholic teaching that the laity have a priesthood which is not in opposition to, but is in close relation with, the ordained priesthood of the Church. This priesthood of the laity, however, is not for a moment to be understood as suggesting that ‘‘every man is his own priest”-a view which some of the Reformation denominations have taken as their own.

The truth is that no man is his own priest. Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world, is the only priest who can serve as mediator between God and man, since He Himself is both God and man. But once again, because the Church is the Body of Christ and because all Christians are “very members incorporate in the mystical Body of Christ,” each and every baptized Christian is a sharer, through participation in Christ’s Body, in the priesthood which is the Church’s since it is the priesthood of Christ Himself. The doctrine of the priesthood of the laity, far from being an assertion of individual rights and privileges, is an assertion of the social nature of our Christian membership; the priesthood of the laity is a doctrine of community.

The ordained priest is the representative and functional agent of the Church’s essential priesthood, which is Christ’s. As such, he is also the representative and functional agent for the extended priesthood of the laity. There is no contradiction here. Through rightly appointed and commissioned men, the two facts that Christ is priest in His Church and that all His members share in the priesthood of their Head, are visibly and sacramentally expressed.

Some may think that such teaching implies a low view of the nature of the ministry. This is not true. To the contrary, this is the condition for maintaining the highest view of the ministry, for it relates the ministry directly to our Lord’s priesthood, making it not an artificially instituted ministry in which Jesus only appointed those who would act as his substitutes, but rather making it a ministry in which our Lord Himself is at work. It is His own ministry functioning through those whom He has called and whom, in His Church, He has set apart for this particular work.

This doctrine of the priestly order and office is stated with great clarity in the famous reply of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the papal repudiation of Anglican orders. It is, in effect, the teaching of the Eastern Orthodox communion. It is found, in part, in some of the classical authorities to whom Rome appeals, as for example in St. Thomas Aquinas. The view that the ordained priesthood has essential status of its own, without regard to the Church of Christ for whom and in whom it functions is historically unsound. It is theologically a parody of the meaning of the Church and its place in the whole redemptive work of God. In fact, one might say, it is plainly heretical in the proper sense of the word, taking, as it does, one aspect of the truth and exaggerating it to such a degree that all balancing considerations are forgotten.

If the priesthood of the ordained man is as we have described it, what are the peculiar duties attaching to his office? Here we may turn to the Offices of Instruction in the American Prayer Book, for a clear and definite statement. In response to the question, “What is the office of a Priest?” the Prayer Book says: “The office of a Priest is, to minister to the people committed to his care; to preach the word of God; to baptize; to celebrate the Holy Communion; and to pronounce Absolution and Blessing in God’s Name.” (BCP 294) And, as we have seen earlier in this chapter, the Ordinal itself makes evident the same conception: the priest is to be a “faithful dispenser” of God’s Word and God’s sacraments, and he is authorized to forgive sins in God’s name.

We will discuss the several duties of the priest, but, at this point, it is necessary to make one thing clear. This is the way in which the priesthood of the Church, as traditional Anglicans conceive it. It is a priesthood commissioned to offer what the Anglican archbishops, in their reply to the Pope, called “the Eucharistic Sacrifice.” This must be positively affirmed, since many appear to think that because the Anglican Ordinal is explicit on the whole matter of God’s Word, and the preaching of it, it does not teach also that the priesthood is a “sacrificing priesthood.” However, it does so teach, in that it states, explicitly, that the celebration of the sacraments as well as the proclamation of God’s Word, is the work of the ordained man, while in the Eucharistic Office itself, the whole content and context indicate that this service is a sacrificial rite.

It is of course true that Anglican teaching on the Eucharistic Sacrifice does not imply any repetition of Calvary nor any¬thing added to that “one oblation of himself” which Christ there made to the Father. The Catechism states is that the Eucharist is “the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ.” It is “the memorial” which Christ commanded us to make, “the perpetual memory of that his precious death and sacrifice,” the “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” with which Christ’s members are united as they offer this their “bounden duty and service.” So being “made one body with him,” He dwells in them and they in Him. It is an action, therefore, which both commemorates and makes effectively present the “benefits” of Calvary, where Christ made, “that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world.” Put more succinctly, “the Eucharist as the sacrifice which unites us to the all-sufficient Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and the Sacrament in which He feeds us with His Body and Blood.” (Affirmation of St. Louis, Art. I).

The ordained priest stands at the altar celebrating the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, on behalf of the Church which is Christ’s Body. In so doing, he is making on the Church’s behalf the “continual remembrance’”; he is pleading Calvary before the Father, as the Church which is Christ’s very Body through Him the ordained priest “shows forth the Lord’s death.” All of this is soundly scriptural, soundly primitive.

It may be helpful to say a few words concerning the concept of a “valid ministry”, for much has been said of this in recent years. It would perhaps be just as well if the word “valid” could be forgotten in all discussions of the ministry. Never has a word been so misunderstood, with consequences that have been altogether unfortunate. No one would wish to claim that those ministries which are not in the traditional succession have been without the blessing of God, nor to assert that they have not been marked by a wonderful fruitage in spiritual and moral life. The statements of the Lambeth Conferences and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, time after time, have made this plain. Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “…many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements. Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation…” (Paragraph 819)

All that is implied from the Anglican perspective when it is said that such ministries are not technically “valid,” is that they do not possess that kind of historical authentication and that explicit sacramental relationship to the Church’s apostolic source, which would give them entire certification. The laying-on of the hands of a duly consecrated bishop does not work in some magical fashion. What it does is to make “evident,” as the Anglican Ordinal says, that those who receive it are “approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority” so that the “Doctrine and Sacraments, and the Discipline of Christ” may be rightly ministered. This is what constitutes “validity”. It is the assurance of continuity in the apostolic life of the Church, given through a sacramental means and thereby visibly shown before men.

This teaching concerning the ministry presented here has one consequence of enormous importance in the life of the priest of the Church. This is that the ordained man is not simply an “Episcopal minister,” as the general public is likely to call him. He is the rightly ordered “priest of God’s Holy Church’”. His ordination has placed him in a relationship to the whole Body of Christ, not merely to some fragment of that Body. Nowhere in the Ordinal do we read of ordination to the “Episcopal ministry”. It is always in and to the “Church of God.”

The priest represents the entire company of the faithful throughout the ages. He also represents, in an effectual fashion, the priesthood of Christ in His Mystical Body. On the other hand, he is serving in this priesthood within the Anglican communion, which means that he is a “man under authority.” The Ordinal makes plain that he is one who must “reverently obey” his bishop and other chief ministers, while the “promise of conformity,” taken before ordination, demands that the priest must be loyal to the “doctrine, discipline and worship” of the Holy Catholic Church “as this Church hath received the same.” We will discuss later this apparent paradoxical truth in a more detailed fashion. It will suffice here if we emphasize it before we go on to the final consideration which must always be in the mind and heart of the ordained man.

It also is vitally important to understand that the priest is not possessed, in his own right, of any privileges or of any status. These are given him in and through and for the Church; they are given him by the Church’s Lord. The priest is always, unfailingly, the minister who represents and functions for the Church and the Church’s Head, on behalf of the Church’s members. As such, he possesses what the theology of holy order calls character. He has a distinctive function which can never be taken from him, since it is indelibly his by virtue of his having been lawfully “set apart” for priestly function. “Once a priest, always a priest.” Of course his right to perform his duties may be taken away from him, if he offends in some grievous fashion the Church and its well-being. But he remains, forever, one who has been ordained to this order and office.

On the other hand, there must be no pride of place. The priest is quite literally the minister, servus servorum Dei. We are not speaking here of the work of deacons or bishops, who also fall into the same category of ministers, servi, although with different duties and functions and in a different order and office in the Body of Christ. But on all of the clergy, whether they be deacon, priest, or bishop, is laid the same obligation of humility in their place in the Church’s life. The bishop is chief pastor, steward of the faith and sacraments of the historic Church; yet he is not to lord it over his flock but to be, in St. Paul’s phrase, “helper of their joy.” The deacon, by his very name, is one who ministers, assisting the bishop and the priest in their responsibilities. The priest, too, is a servant of Christ’s people.

Few phrases are so unfortunate as those now and again used by an ordained priest: “I must celebrate my Eucharist,” “I am offering my Mass,” and the like. In each and every instance, the priest is the representative, functioning for Christ in His Body at a particular time and place, in celebrating the Eucharist, pleading the Passion of Christ, proclaiming the redemption wrought by Christ, shepherding Christ’s flock in Christ’s name. “Nothing is his; all is His,” as a wise man once said of the priesthood.

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CHAPTER 1 of What is the Priesthood?

The college student today probably needs to be reminded that our age is notable for its confusion and doubt. He lives at college in a pagan and militantly secular if not militantly atheistic environment. There is departmental parochialism. The faculty is no longer a true collegium. A Christian view of life is not conspicuously maintained in the classroom. Philosophical and scientific naturalism are in control.

If there is even a chapel on the campus, it is no longer the center of academic life. The Christianity preached there, if there is Christianity preached, is likely to be a revisionist Christianity with no notable emphasis on the great central affirmations of the historic Faith.

It is not the university alone that stumbles in confusion. The student learns very quickly from college studies that modern man and our common life alike arc in a tortured predicament. Modern man and much of our common life belong nowhere, are not sure of their destinations, have no adequate standards of reference, are disenchanted.
This is not to say that ours is an entirely irreligious age or that our colleges and universities are completely godless. There are other very powerful religions (of race, of diversity, of gender, of class) are abroad in our world and all have their dedicated adherents. Materialism and hedonism have countless disciples. In academic life secularism and positivism command allegiances. This cacophony of voices and creeds is as confusing to the student as it is fatal to the health of our culture. Our world is very close to spiritual bankruptcy while serving all manner of false gods. With this goes a deep, brooding pessimism not unlike that which marked the breakdown of Roman and Hellenic cultures many centuries ago.

No wonder the student is confused! No wonder he is not satisfactorily oriented. He sees the little men and women of the world pushed about like pawns. He sees a culture torn asunder by terrorism and war, by greed, by the struggle for sheer power. He sees how inventions for the increase of human happiness have been turned to the increase of human degradation. No longer can he talk blithely of enlightenment and inevitable progress.

Common assumptions about the nature of God, man, and the world no longer exist. He is studying within an educational system that has lost its unity and central purpose and his teachers know it. The education the student receives makes for an atomization of life and learning, a fragmentation of knowledge, increasingly removed from the world’s growing tragedy. He knows that nothing in his world is certain, nothing sure, unless a vital religious faith inform the whole and restore unity to our divided culture.

Our erstwhile proud modern world in the name of enlightenment has made vast promises of prosperity, security, and peace. Every hope appears to have been broken at various points. The resultant sense of frustration in our common life is due to the collapse of religion in our culture. The Christian outlook is foreshortened. Christian habits no longer dominate our common life. The sense of community and fellowship, essential as a background for Christian faith and practice, is tragically weakened. Christian conviction has been watered down to become a diffused and vague Christian sentiment. There are many who regard themselves as Christians, but whose faith is but a weak distillation of the strong brew known to earlier saints and leaders.

Albert C. Outler, writing in a study in the late 1940s, Colleges, Faculties and Religion, revealed that even then consultants are surprised more often than they should have been at their (i.e. the faculty members’) naiveté in religious matters. Both those who declared themselves “hostile” or “neutral” to religion revealed the most archaic and regressive notions about the contemporary religious situation and the intellectual temper of modern liberal Christianity and Judaism. Most of them seem to rely on garbled childhood memories to tell them what religion is, and their familiarity with the literature and living spokesmen of liberal religion was strangely scant for cultivated and intelligent people.

Occasionally faculty members denounced religion as “superstition, prescientific benighted-ness,” an “emotional crutch”, “both useless and dangerous.” A larger group were convinced that a humanistic or naturalistic creed was wholly adequate for a modern man. It goes without saying that the religious climate in institutions of higher learning deteriorated precipitously in the ensuing sixty years!

How could it be otherwise? When a culture is sick, the disease enters into every part of it. Decay infests the whole body.

Yet, man’s extremity has ever been God’s opportunity. It was so in the days of the prophets. They lived in a world very similar to ours. Their culture and people were in the hands of alien usurpers, but they were far from despair. They witnessed to the sovereignty of the one God, to His holiness, His righteousness, His goodness. They proclaimed Him with confident faith. His laws and righteous judgments they set forth despite every force against them.

It was when Rome was dying, when the learned were preoccupied with the sophistry of futility and the unlettered were calling upon every manner of god, that God sent forth His Son. It was into a world of despair and confusion that Christ was born with His gospel and with His redeeming grace. Those who knew Him best recognized in Him the very accent of God. Looking at Him, they said that the Eternal Word had been made flesh. He became a source of strength and freedom and joy to those who acknowledged His lordship. They knew that He had triumphed. They found in Him, alive for evermore, a constant source of grace and truth. They found Him to be a valid object of worship and they found that as they prayed they were freed. So they went forth into a dying world to proclaim the good news. They did not go to speak glibly about a theory, but to confront the world with a Person. The faith they possessed and shared, in the magnificent phrase of Clement of Alexandria, turned sunset into sunrise.

This was the Person and this the faith that sent forth from obscure Palestine a group of men and women endued with power from on high. That Person and that faith have revived our brittle civilizations many times over.

It is still the Church’s task to proclaim this Person and this faith to the sons and daughters of men and to mediate His life to mankind. She has no other mission. Her task is unchanged, but no greater mission could be imagined than the saving of the world and all who live therein. The Christian outlook alone offers men power to live lives of dignity and trust, free from irrelevancy and fear. The Christian outlook alone can supply divine insight into the true nature of man and his destiny, can grant discrimination as to what is transitory and what is eternal. It alone gives hope for the future and for the unity of man-kind in a world broken to bits.

We must fix our attention on Him who came to free us from despair and give us life and joy in His service. We must pay greater heed to what the Incarnate Lord said and did, so that the fire of a modern Pentecost may purge our culture and consume its dross. Man as a part of the natural order has a life that is brief, brittle, and brutish. That is true.
But he is also called out from the world to new life, and to walk in newness of life. Our religion is a school of life and its rules come from Him who once lived among us as Son of God and Son of Man and who still gives life to those who are incorporated into His Body, the Church. His is the life we are meant to reproduce. His is the life we are privileged to share.

As we learn to live in Him, we are strengthened by His life and enabled to go about our vocations with dignity and honor. The student must turn to the revelation of God in history and to His mighty acts: to the Incarnation and to Him who was made man, to Him who entered our tortured world and in that very scene saved man from the confusion and terror of life by His cross and its consequent victory, to the gift of His Spirit, and to all that God has done for man and our world in judgment and mercy throughout the ages. What one sees, then, is the entrance into the world of a new power from on high, not merely to carry the world forward to any new level of development, but rather to redeem and transform it. For He came as a new birth, in the fullness of time.

Now this is a book about the priesthood of the Church and it may perhaps be asked at this point what the priesthood has to do with the mission and responsibility of the Christian Gospel. We hope that question will be answered in the course of this book.
This much, however, should be stated right now. The Church is the Body of Christ and cannot be divorced from the Incarnate One. The Church, indeed, is as much a part of the Gospel as is our Lord Himself. The Church is the extension in time of Christ’s nature, work, and ministry. The Church is filled with His life, indwelt by Him. The Church is set in the world to convey to all men everywhere the grace and life of its Head so that in being joined to the Church we become partakers of His nature.

The ordained priest of the Church is to act for the Church, express its own priesthood which is of Christ, Himself. So, when we speak of the priesthood as an office, we are speaking of those ordained to function within a Church whose mission is to convey the divine life of Christ to the world for its healing, for its saving, for its joy. Nothing less than this!

Let us be sure, as will be further developed in our next chapter, that the Church itself is a priestly Body. It is described in the First Epistle of St. Peter as an holy priesthood. The writer there addresses his readers as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people. The Apostle clearly is thinking of the Christian Church as the inheritor of the ancient Jewish Church to which such notes were once ascribed. As then the family of Aaron acted in a representative function for a priestly body, so it would be now in the Beloved Community.

A young man, before he is ordered priest today, belongs to a priestly Body. His baptism incorporated him into just such a fellowship. Once he is set apart for the work of the ministry by the priestly Body he is to act as its representative, though the authority of his ministry is derived from God himself. God’s means for the saving of mankind is through Christ’s body, a priestly body. The ordained priest is pledged to this mission, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

This vocation is, then, both sublime and terrifying. It is sublime since it is a vocation derived immediately from Christ our great High Priest and is meant to convey His eternal priesthood to a sinful world and to sinful men and women. It is terrifying to anyone who dares to accept it, since a man would be a fool not to be aware of his own inadequacy, weakness, and sin in the face of such a commission. Who could possibly be worthy of such office and responsibility? Obviously none, except those whom God calls to this office. God does not call those who are fit, but He fits those whom He calls.
The frenzied state of the modern world is sufficient to cause the most gallant-spirited in the ministry to falter. To win wayward man back to his true allegiance, to restore unity to a schizophrenic society, to redeem the times and resolve man’s warring loyalties, the Incarnate Lord gladly faced and endured humiliation, sorrow, and death. His ministers today in the sacred priesthood are committed to the same enterprise. This has ever been the heavy responsibility laid upon the ministry of Christ’s Body.

To those who have sensitive ears and hearts the responsibility seems of tremendous urgency in our day. Has any age more clearly stood in need of God’s saving act in Christ, of His grace and truth?

We who are committed to the way of Christianity, who are sharers in the life of His Mystical Body, have a task to accomplish and one that will require faith, hope, and love. We are sent to our brethren, within the Church and without, to bear witness to the sovereignty of God. More than that, we are to mediate to men the power of His grace.
We must proclaim with conviction the Good News about God: He was born of the Virgin, He suffered under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, He died and was buried, He rose again on the third day, He ascended on high, He sitteth on the right hand of God, He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

The world desperately needs that news. The Church must be the witnessing fellowship that proclaims it. The priesthood must provide the leadership for this work, which is Christ’s work. His life must be given to men and to our world.

Here is a vocation dealing with basic realities, a vocation demanding and dangerous, a vocation utterly necessary for the healing of the world and for the peace that can overrule man’s restless heart. Every young man who would love God and his brothers and sisters. should consider it honestly and prayerfully.

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Today, in a lengthy selection from Book II, Chapter 4 of St. Gregory the Great’s treatise entitled Pastoral Care. This section exhorts the “ruler” to be discreet in keeping silence, profitable in speech. Perhaps it is best summed up in the aphorism attributed to the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, that it is, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Likewise, there is a warning to the bishop or priest who fails to speak the truth, particularly to curry favor with others.
Finally, St. Gregory cautions against the clergyman who preaches without knowledge. All of these things tear down the community of the faithful. It seems that, in the life of the Church, the more things change the more they stay the same.

I have taken the liberty of placing emphasis on the portions of the tract that seem particularly germane in light of pronouncements made in various corners of Christendom great and small.

The ruler (bishop or priest) should be discreet in keeping silence, profitable in speech, unless he either say what ought to be suppressed or suppress what he ought to be saying.

As incautious speaking leads into error, so indiscreet silence leaves in error those who might have been instructed. Too often improvident rulers, fearing to lose human favour, shrink timidly from speaking freely the things that are right. According to the voice of the Truth, they serve the flock by no means with the zeal of shepherds, but in the way of hirelings. (John 10:12) since they fly when the wolf comes if they hide themselves under silence.

So it is that the Lord through the prophet upbraids them, saying, “Dumb dogs, that cannot bark.” (Isaiah 56:10. Again He complains, saying, “You have not gone up against the enemy, neither opposed a wall for the house of Israel, to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 13:5) Now to go up against the enemy is to go with free voice against the powers of this world for defense of the flock; and to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord is out of love of justice to resist bad men when they contend against us.

For a shepherd to have feared to say what is right, what else is it but to have turned his back in keeping silence? But surely, if he puts himself in front for the flock, he opposes a wall against the enemy for the house of Israel. Hence again to the sinful people it is said, “Your prophets have seen false and foolish things for you: neither did they discover your iniquity, to provoke you to repentance.” (Lamentations 2:14)

In sacred language teachers are sometimes called prophets, in that, by pointing out how fleeting are present things, they make manifest the things that are to come. Such the divine discourse convinces of seeing false things, because, while fearing to reprove faults, they vainly flatter evil doers by promising security. Similarly, they do not at all discover the iniquity of sinners, since they refrain their voice from chiding.

The language of reproof is the key of discovery, because by chiding it discloses the fault of which even he who has committed it is often himself unaware. Thus, St. Paul says, “That he may be able by sound doctrine even to convince the gainsayers.” (Titus 1:9)
Likewise, through Malachi it is said, “The priest’s lips keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth. (Malachi 2:7) Again, through the prophet Isaiah the Lord admonishes, saying, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet.” (Isaiah 58:1)

It is true that whosoever enters on the priesthood undertakes the office of a herald, so as to walk, himself crying aloud, before the coming of the judge who follows terribly. Wherefore, if the priest knows not how to preach, what voice of a loud cry shall the mute herald utter? So it is that the Holy Spirit sat upon the first pastors under the appearance of tongues (Acts 2:3); because whomsoever He has filled, He himself at once makes eloquent.

So it is that it was enjoined on Moses that when the priest goes into the tabernacle he shall be encompassed with bells. (Exodus 28:33); that is, that he shall have about him the sounds of preaching, lest he provoke by his silence the judgment of Him Who beholds him from above. For it is written, “That his sound may be heard when he goes in unto the holy place before the Lord and when he comes out, that he die not.” (Exodus 28:35)For the priest, when he goes in or comes out, dies if a sound is not heard from him, because he provokes the wrath of the hidden judge, if he goes without the sound of preaching.

Aptly also are the bells described as inserted in his vestments. For what else ought we to take the vestments of the priest to be but righteous works; as the prophet attests when he says, Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness Psalm 131:9? The bells, therefore, are inherent in his vestments to signify that the very works of the priest should also proclaim the way of life together with the sound of his tongue.

When the ruler prepares himself for speaking, let him bear in mind with what studious caution he ought to speak, lest, if he be hurried inordinately into speaking, the hearts of hearers be smitten with the wound of error and, while he perchance desires to seem wise he unwisely sever the bond of unity. For on this account the Truth says, “Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” (Mark 9:49)

By salt is denoted the word of wisdom. Let him, therefore, who strives to speak wisely fear greatly, lest by his eloquence the unity of his hearers be disturbed.
So it is that St. Paul says, “Not to be more wise than behooves to be wise, but to be wise unto sobriety.” Romans 12:3. Thus, in the priest’s vestment, according to Divine precept, to bells are added pomegranates. (Exodus 28:34) For what is signified by pomegranates but the unity of the faith? For, as within a pomegranate many seeds are protected by one outer rind, so the unity of the faith comprehends the innumerable peoples of holy Church, whom a diversity of merits retains within her.

So, then, a ruler should be unadvisedly hurried into speaking, the Truth in person proclaims to His disciples this which we have already cited, “r3Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another. (Mark 9:49) It is as though He should say in a figure through the dress of the priest: Join pomegranates to bells, that in all you say you may with cautious watchfulness keep the unity of the faith.

Rulers ought also to guard with anxious thought not only against saying in any way what is wrong, but against uttering even what is right overmuch and inordinately; since the good effect of things spoken is often lost, when enfeebled to the hearts of hearers by the incautious importunity of loquacity; and this same loquacity, which knows not how to serve for the profit of the hearers, also defiles the speaker. So, it is well said through Moses, “The man that has a flux of seed shall be unclean Leviticus (15:2) For the quality of the speech that is heard is the seed of the thought which follows, since, while speech is conceived through the ear, thought is engendered in the mind. Consequently, also by the wise of this world the excellent preacher was called a sower of words (seminiverbius). (Acts 17:18)

So it is that he that suffers from a flux of seed is pronounced unclean, because, being addicted to much speaking, he defiles himself by that which, had it been orderly issued, might have produced the offspring of right thought in the hearts of hearers. While he incautiously spends himself in loquacity, he sheds his seed not so as to serve for generation, but unto uncleanness. Thus, St. Paul also, in admonishing his disciple to be instant in preaching, says, “I charge you before God and Christ Jesus, Who shall judge the quick and the dead by His appearing and His kingdom, preach the word, be instant opportunely, importunely.’” (II Timothy 4:1) In truth importunity mars itself to the mind of the hearer by its own very cheapness, if it knows not how to observe opportunity.

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Today, we resume Book II (Ch. 3) of St. Gregory the Great’s treatise entitled Pastoral Care. The subheading of this book spells out its contents, “Of the Life of the Pastor.” Here, the saint explores the idea that the ruler as bishop should be always “chief in action”. While some of the language is a bit stilted, the St. Gregory’s meaning is clear and reinforced by the image of the vestments to be “put on” by the ruler: the bishop should be an example in his way of life to clergy and lay people alike.  Absent a godly life and personal example, clothes do not make the man.

The ruler should always be chief in action that by his living he may point out the way of life to those that are put under him. His life should stand as an example so that the flock, which follows the voice and manners of the shepherd, may learn how to walk better through example than through words. He who is required by the necessity of his position to speak the highest things is compelled by the same necessity to exhibit the highest things. The voice that more readily penetrates the hearer’s heart is that which the speaker’s life commends, because what he commands by speaking he helps the doing of by showing.

It is said through the prophet, “Get you up into the high mountain, you that bringest good tidings to Sion.” (Isaiah 40:9) This means that he who is engaged in heavenly preaching should already have forsaken the low level of earthly works, and appear as standing on the summit of things. In this way he will so much the more easily should draw those who are under him to better things as by the merit of his life he cries aloud from heights above. So it is that under the divine law the priest receives the shoulder for sacrifice, and this the right one and separate to signify that his action should be not only profitable, but even singular. (Exodus 29:22) He should not merely do what is right among bad men, but transcend even the well-doers among those that are under him in the virtue of his conduct.

The breast also together with the shoulder is assigned to him for eating, that he may learn to immolate to the Giver of all that of himself which he is enjoined to take of the Sacrifice. He is empowered not only in his breast to entertain right thoughts, but with the shoulder of work invite those who behold him to things on high. He may covet no prosperity of the present life, and fear no adversity; that, having regard to the fear within him, he may despise the charm of the world, but considering the charm of inward sweetness, may despise its terrors.

Wherefore by command of the supernal voice (Exodus 29:5) the bishop or priest is braced on each shoulder with the robe of the ephod that he may be always guarded against prosperity and adversity by the ornament of virtues. Walking, as St. Paul says II Corinthians 6:7, in the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, he strives only after those things which are before. He may decline on neither side to low delight.

Neither should prosperity elate nor adversity perturb him. Neither let smooth things coax him to the surrender of his will, nor rough things press him down to despair; so that, while he humbles the bent of his mind to no passions, he may show with how great beauty of the ephod he is covered on each shoulder. This ephod is also rightly ordered to be made of gold, blue, purple, twice dyed scarlet, and flue twined linen. (Exodus 28:8) As a result, it may be shown by how great diversity of virtues the priest ought to be distinguished. In the priest’s robe before all things gold glitters, to show that he should shine forth principally in the understanding of wisdom.

With gold there is blue, which is resplendent with aerial color, is conjoined, to show that through all that he penetrates with his understanding he should rise above earthly favors to the love of celestial things. This is a reminder lest, while caught unawares by his own praises, he be emptied of his very understanding of the truth. With gold and blue, purple also is mingled, which means, that the priest’s heart, while hoping for the high things which he preaches, should repress in itself even the suggestions of vice. It is if by virtue of a royal power, he may rebut them, in that he has regard ever to the nobility of inward regeneration. Accordingly, his manners guard his right to the robe of the heavenly kingdom. For it is of this nobility of the spirit that it is said through St. Peter, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.” (I Peter 2:9) With respect also to this power, whereby we subdue vices, we are fortified by the voice of St. John, who says, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God. (St.John 1:12)

This dignity of fortitude the Psalmist has in view when he says, “But with me greatly honored have been Your friends, O God; greatly strengthened has been their principality.” (Psalm 138:17) For truly the mind of saints is exalted to princely eminence while outwardly they are seen to suffer abasement.

With gold, blue, and purple, twice died scarlet is conjoined, to show that all excellences of virtue should be adorned with charity in the eyes of the judge within; and that whatever glitters before men may be lighted up in sight of the hidden arbiter with the flame of inward love. Further, this charity, since it consists in love at once of God and of our neighbor, has the luster of a double dye.

He then who so pants after the beauty of his Maker as to neglect the care of his neighbors, or so attends to the care of his neighbors as to grow languid in divine love, whichever of these two things it may be that he neglects, knows not what it is to have twice dyed scarlet in the adornment of his ephod. But, while the mind is intent on the precepts of charity, it undoubtedly remains that the flesh be macerated through abstinence.

So, with twice dyed scarlet fine twined linen is conjoined. For fine linen (byssus) springs from the earth with glittering show: and what is designated by fine linen but bodily chastity shining white in the comeliness of purity? It is also twisted for being interwoven into the beauty of the ephod, since the habit of chastity then attains to the perfect whiteness of purity when the flesh is worn by abstinence. Since the merit of affliction of the flesh profits among the other virtues, fine twined linen shows white, as it were, in the diverse beauty of the ephod.

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Here is one of the thornier parts of Book II of St. Gregory the Great’s treatise entitled Pastoral Care, in which the saint explores the appropriate conduct and life for the man who has the attributes of a bishop and has been consecrated.  Given recent sad experiences in the Church, West, East and Via Media, these are important admonitions for bishop and priest alike.  The armor imagery is particularly apt, particularly when considered in light of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians.  In sum, if you are going to talk the talk, you had best walk the walk, and that with the appropriate spiritual


That the ruler should be pure in thought.

The ruler should always be pure in thought. No impurity ought to pollute him who has undertaken the office of wiping away the stains of pollution in the hearts of others also. The hand that would cleanse from dirt must needs be clean, lest, being itself sordid with clinging mire, it soil whatever it touches all the more.

On this account it is said through the prophet, “Be clean that bear the vessels of the Lord Isaiah.” (52:11) They bear the vessels of the Lord who undertake, on the surety of their own conversation, to conduct the souls of their neighbors to the eternal sanctuary. Let them therefore perceive within themselves how purified they ought to be who carry in the bosom of their own personal responsibility living vessels to the temple of eternity.

Thus, by the divine voice it is enjoined that on the breast of Aaron the breastplate of judgment should be closely pressed by binding fillets. (Exodus 28:15) “Lax cogitations” should by no means possess the priestly heart, but reason alone constrain it. The ruler should not cogitate anything indiscreet or unprofitable. He is who constituted to be example to others, ought to show in the gravity of his life what store of reason he carries in his breast. On his breastplate, the names of the twelve patriarchs should be engraved.

To carry always the fathers registered on the breast is to think without intermission on the lives of the ancients.

The bishop or priest walks blamelessly when he pores continually on the examples of the fathers that went before him, when he considers without cease the footsteps of the Saints, and keeps down unlawful thoughts, lest he advance the foot of his conduct beyond the limit of order.

It is also well called the breastplate of judgment, because the ruler ought ever with subtle scrutiny to discern between good and evil. He should studiously consider what things are suitable for what, and when and how. He should not seek anything for himself, but esteem his neighbors’ good as his own advantage. So it is in the same place it is written, “But you shall put in the breastplate of Aaron doctrine and truth , which shall be upon Aaron’s breast, when he goes in before the Lord, and he shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his breast in the sight of the Lord continually.” (Exodus 18:30) For the priest’s bearing the judgment of the children of Israel on his breast before the face of the Lord means his examining the causes of his subjects with regard only to the mind of the judge within, so that no admixture of humanity cleave to him in what he dispenses as standing in God’s stead, lest private vexation should exasperate the keenness of his censure.

While the ruler shows himself zealous against the vices of others, let him get rid of his own lest either latent grudge vitiate the calmness of his judgment, or headlong anger disturb it. When the terror of Him who presides over all things is considered (that is to say of the judge within), not without great fear may subjects be governed. Such fear indeed purges, while it humiliates, the mind of the ruler, guarding it against being either lifted up by presumption of spirit, or defiled by delight of the flesh, or obscured by importunity of dusty thought through lust for earthly things. These things cannot but knock at the ruler’s mind. It is necessary, however, to make haste to overcome them by resistance, lest the vice which tempts by suggestion should subdue by the softness of delight, and, this being tardily expelled from the mind, should slay with the sword of consent.

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