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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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The Gift of Christ in Holy Communion

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The sacrament of the Eucharist is neglected because many fail to fathom its mysterious depths and meaning.  Even parents allow their children to be spiritually malnourished.  Too many stay away.  Too many no longer believe.

Fortunately, there are some parents mindful of their duty.  They believe and extend what they believe to their children.  The greatest gift they will ever give will be their saving faith in the Eucharist.  Theirs is not a transitory love but a love that embraces the Cross and eternity.

What happens in Holy Communion?    We receive the one who is the Holy of Holies.  God comes to us that we might be made more authentically human.  Indeed, that which is human is divinized and made more than it was before.  Christ grants an apportionment in his living presence that we might have a share in his resurrected life and become flesh-and-blood tabernacles to the divine presence and the grace that perdures.  The Eucharist both directs our attention to worshipping almighty God and invites the sacrament to transgress into the dark and thick boundaries of our inner life.

While we accept the sacrament in time, it touches eternity.  What we have done, we have done.  Harsh words can never be taken back.  Uncharitable acts can never be rescinded.  Much in the way of our history is irreparable.  We cling in conscience to the mercy that God promises and extends.  We can be saved, but not because we are good (left to ourselves) but because God is good.  Memory that sorely needs to be healed and often torments, transports us to those first recollections of kneeling at the altar rail.  We see in the mind’s eye the child we once were, receiving with faith and incalculable innocence, the Blessed Sacrament.  Where did time go? How could we be so foolish? Why did we listen to bad companions?  When did concupiscence get the upper hand and make us slaves to the flesh, inner contradictions to our very selves? Eyes have seen what they should not have seen.  Can these eyes still look with adoration upon the upraised host?  Hands have corrupted us by signs and deeds; how can we still extend them to Christ or to a neighbor in the sign of peace? Lips have exchanged veracity for deception; can they yet proclaim the truth that Jesus is Lord?  Our bodies have embraced lust and deadly sins; can they once again manifest tenderness and real love?

We need medicine from heaven.  We require the real food or rations from the Promised Shore.  Any particular Holy Communion is every Holy Communion— Sunday after Sunday, on weekdays, on holy days, at funerals, at weddings, etc.  There is an eternal dimension to Holy Communion—the hundreds, the thousands, the tens of thousands of receptions.  While the fallen away and spiritually starving can count on their fingers how many times they have taken Holy Communion; those who go to Mass daily might receive over 25,000 times in a lifetime.  Their response to the minister’s words, “The body of Christ,” becomes an eternal AMEN.  It is their yes to the self-donation and surrender of God’s Son.  It is their acceptance of divine mercy.  It is the password for entry into the eternal banquet of heaven.  Akin to vows, we become engaged actors in the marriage of the Lamb.  Always it is the one Christ who suffers and dies once and for all.  It is the risen Christ, body and soul, humanity and divinity.

The eternal now of God simultaneously targets the elderly man from his wheelchair cradling the sacrament in his hand and finds him still as a young child receiving the Eucharistic Christ on the tongue at the altar rail.  Everything that Jesus is encounters everything that we are and all that we will become. The mind’s eye recalls good parents kneeling beside us as we prayed and took Holy Communion.  They made possible that day and all the days since.  They showed us the way by word and example.  We know in faith that they have exchanged their pew for a chair at the banquet table of heaven. We remember them, we pray for them and desire to go where they have gone. They directly see the divine mystery that we know behind sacred signs.

Unity in the Divine Child

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There was a popular movement in psychology advanced a few years ago for people to come into contact or to know their “inner child.” All sorts of self-help books were published that promoted this Jungian archetype.  But I would like to suggest a spiritual dynamic to the hidden child in all of us.  When we recalled our earliest experiences, there was a profound innocence and trust.  Most parents protected their children from the dark side of life and from evil.  That time of innocence resonated with the holiness and perfection of God.  It was easy to believe.  We trusted our parents and felt safe.

While we may not fully maintain our innocence, we should never forget that God is our heavenly Father and that we will always be his children.  What the world strips away, God can restore.  I suspect our yearning and pursuit for holiness is also a remembrance of what we were.  When an infant is baptized, the minister of the sacrament will speak of the child as a young saint in our homes.  Our life and discipleship seeks a recovery of this spiritual trust and perfection.  As Christians, we remember the Christ Child in the manger.  God enters the human family as weak and vulnerable and yet there is something powerful about the child. What will this child become?  What shall he do? How will he change the world?  Everything that God assumes in Jesus Christ takes on an eternal dimension.  God is the everlasting child.  Our restoration into the likeness of grace signals a profound unity with the divine child.  Jesus speaks about this mystery as being “born again.”

Our Lord tells us that to follow him we must become like little children.  All the sacraments, not just baptism, make this possible.  When the old man in sin enters the confessional box, a child with his conscience made clean exits to offer his penance.  The body grows old but the soul is made ever-new.  The burden of the world is cast aside.  Of course, God’s mercy does not leave a vacuum but rather fills with grace what was once possessed by iniquity.

The little-known but courageous figure of Shimei cursed and threw stones at King David, shouting, “Get out! Get out! You man of blood, you scoundrel! … And now look at you: you suffer ruin because you are a man of blood.” Faulted for the blood of Saul, David’s rule was now challenged by his son.  David stayed the hand of his henchman, ready to kill the courageous and vocal critic.  He acknowledged the possible judgment of God upon him. (see 2 Samuel 16:5-14)

Like David, we are all men and women of blood.  Our innocence is spoiled by our sins.  We look upon the crucifix and must acknowledge that we have blood on our hands.  We are the murderers of Christ.  We are all guilty.  Our maturity in years does not necessarily mean that we have grown in the Lord.

I recall a frustrating teacher in school who told his pupils that they all began as “A” students with 100%.  However, with every test and assignment, the points began to be subtracted.  It was only with extra-credit assignments that lost ground might be regained.  When it comes to our heavenly report card, it is only by divine mercy and grace that we might be restored to an earlier purity and perfection.

Darkness & Light

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We find it much easier to appreciate Lent than Easter.  We might get glimpses of Easter but for many it requires an exercise of the imagination where we negate the things of darkness so as to envision the light.  Critics might contend that this is a rather backward way of dealing with things.  Usually it is harder to see in the dark than in the light.  Lent is the season that commemorates the struggle that all mortal creatures must endure.  We know all too well the jagged edge of existence: suffering, betrayal, loss, sadness, sickness, pain, grieving and death.  Many might suppose that these elements epitomize that which is most real.  The cynic or pessimist thus might categorize contentment, belonging, comfort, happiness, fidelity, peace and life as either fleeting or as aberrational to human existence.  Those who deny the Easter mystery might abandon themselves either to despair or to a libertine search for pleasure, making no distinction between the joys that comes with the acquisition of a real or an apparent good.  Of course, they would also be quick to mention the price that one pays to be happy or to anesthetize from pain.  Alcohol brings the hangover and drugs a case of withdrawal.  Sex results in pregnancy and sometimes in venereal diseases.  Gambling brings a thrill but often empties bank accounts.  Sloth weakens muscles and often incurs in homelessness. Gluttony brings to the fore the full ramifications of gravity.  What we do not know and what many disbelieve is the prospect of eternal life, joy, reunion, and contentment.  Those who reject the resurrection necessarily repudiate heaven.  They might reject hell but if life be hard they might accept the existence of more of the same.  Easter requires us to look beyond what we know.  Heavenly happiness is usually reckoned as an extrapolation from transitory pleasure to something lasting and complete.

There is a peculiar commonality between children and the elderly.  The child may be gullible but often easily trusts that there is a world unseen from which God calls us and out of which he sends his angels to watch over us.  We must be cautious that children will be able to distinguish the matters that are real and those which are fanciful like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.  The elderly may be discouraged but there is still a profound turning toward the divine mystery.  They are aware that there are more days behind them than before them.  Time in this world is running out and urgency strips away the distractions that many pursue.  They prepare for the world to come and desire to experience the unseen realities that were first presented to them as children.  Is there an ageless guardian angel still by their side?  Will God give back all that the world and evil men have taken away?  Trusting that God is a loving Father, many begin to yearn for the beatific vision and the reunion on the other side of the grave.

 

The Sacred Encounter

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I am troubled that our young people have an intensely truncated sense of history and reality.  They cannot imagine a world without digital phones, tablets, home computers, widescreen HD televisions, video game consoles, and the internet.  Despite tremendous access to information, their focus has narrowed and there is an almost pejorative view of the past and the historical elements of our culture and values.  Current sports figures, musical performers and media actors are idolized while true heroes are neglected or forgotten.  Figures that tout atheism will point to science as the enlightenment of the future while lamenting religion as the superstition of the past.

Given this as the problem we face with secular history and a deficient assessment of Western culture, the situation is no better when it comes to salvation history and our encounter with Christ in Scripture.  A history book or biography tells us about someone.  The Bible actually introduces us to someone.  There is an important difference but the difficulty is the same— few are opening the books.  I use the image of a book, but the issue remains even if we are talking about a lecture or the proclamation of the Word from a pulpit.  Many of our brothers and sisters are becoming comfortable with a truncated view of history and the meaning of life within our society.  They are getting their religious views from authorities fascinated by scandal but not with any dimension of sacred truth.  Those who excuse themselves from the pews and who gather dust on their bibles, have little to nothing by way of a living relationship with the Lord.

What do such people say about Jesus?  Some even question whether he existed or not.  Others suspect that he was a nice man who was wrongly put to death.  They view the sepulcher as the end of the story.  The dead stay dead.  The rest is the stuff of fairytales.  Certain secular humanists will laud Jesus as one who wanted to make a difference for the oppressed and the poor.  They define him as a well-meaning social worker or community activist.  However, if they were to look closely at Jesus, their verdict would have to change.  He told people to love their enemies and to forgive those who hurt them..  He claimed the power to forgive sins.  His assertions would even including making himself out as God.  If these non-believing critics were honest, then their assessment would be that Jesus was either a stark raving madman or and outright liar.  They have left themselves no middle ground.  The believer holds out another possibility— that Jesus is as he claims— the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

Men are born, live and die.  Every biography seeks to fill in the bits in-between.  But this pattern is broken with Jesus.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The story of Jesus begins before he is conceived in the womb and the Word became flesh.  He would be born and soon thereafter heralded by shepherds, magi and angels.  He would live as other men had lived.  However, one day he would put the quiet life behind him and engage in three years of provocative and supernatural ministry.  He would be embraced by some and rejected by others.  He would reach out to the weak, vulnerable and denigrated.  He would forgive sins and heal bodies.  He would be betrayed, tortured and murdered.  He would die but he would refuse to stay dead.  He promises his friends a share in his victory and life.  He promises to send the Holy Spirit and that he will never abandon us.

Jesus keeps his promises.  We are not orphaned.  He comes to us in his proclaimed Word and in the administration of the sacraments.  Indeed, he is present as the mystical body of the Church.  Other historical figures come and go.  But Jesus still makes possible a real and saving encounter.  His disciples do not know Jesus as a figure locked in past history.  Rather, Jesus is really present and maintains a spiritual relationship or friendship with his own.  There are no aging bones or blackened ashes of Christ.  There are no relics as we have from the saints.  Jesus has awakened from his sleep and calls out to us.  His message is still that of love.  Indeed, if his resurrection were not real then love would be a lie and life a mere taunting respite from endless death.  We look upon crosses in our churches and appreciate that this mystery of redemption has changed all human history, sacred and secular.  Jesus dies once-and-for-all and never again, and yet this mystery holds us in suspension at Calvary where we also offer ourselves.  We come to the cross or its great sacramental exemplar the altar and we bend the knee.  While the spiritually blind are oblivious to its meaning, we know the truth.  This is the watershed event for all time.  Nothing will ever be the same again.  Flowering horizons come not merely with computers, telescopes and mathematics, but with ancient parables, heartfelt prayer and a man who was so much more on a dead tree.

The Mystery of Love & Life

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We all want to love and to be loved.  We are drawn to Christ because he exhibits a perfect love to which we yearn and yet are unable to find in our ordinary personal experience.  Our own efforts fall short and too often what we call love is a mere posturing with hidden pragmatic and selfish motivations.  The Christian definition of love seems oddly connected to two apparent contradictions:  joy and sacrifice.  We seek happiness and yet all that appetite and passion has to offer is a fleeting exhilaration.  This is even true in the lives of human lovers.  The body can only hint at the happiness the spirit might know.  Ordinarily we regard sacrifice as loss and not as gain. We strive to escape its grasp.  It is most often associated with pain and injury.  Jesus demonstrates one who embraces the darkness, not in despair but as a witness to hope and a light we would not otherwise see.  While he agonized in the human flesh, his divinity transformed the Cross from a sign of defeat into one of victory.  It is in our participation or personal offering in that oblation that we might begin to find the consolation and joy that has for so long eluded us.  It is the path or doorway to an eternal elation of the soul— where we can know the prospect of no more sorrow, no more pain, no more sickness and no more death.  The union begins as a seed with Calvary and blossoms as a flower on Easter morning.  We die with Christ so as to live with him.  Our hearts bleed for a love that is perfect, lasting and real.  It is only when our hearts are joined to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary that this love can be realized.  Hearts must be pierced so as to allow divine grace to enter inside.  At Christmas true Love is born into our world.  That same Love on Good Friday ruptures the membrane or wall separating this world from the next.  It forces its way to where none have gone before.  The dead are given entry into heaven and Easter joy invites all to a share in the life of the kingdom.  We shall abide within the Trinity, where the angels and saints see God face-to-face.  Everything changes with the mystery of Christ.  Nostalgic and pious memory is replaced with the appreciation that God knows our names. We are listed in the roll book of heaven.  We do not have to fear the oblivion of the grave.  The grave no longer means eternal silence but rather our participation in the chorus of heaven.  The love for which we yearn is real and attainable.  It is measured by the infinite sacrifice of the Cross and yet its joy eternally resounds with a share in the divine love and life.  The love that we crave is only consummated or genuine in union with Christ and in the accompanying communion of the saints.

 

VOCATIONAL ASIDES: Do You Have A Story?

A number of years ago (January of 2008), when I posted a few reflections about the priesthood and celibate love, I was almost immediately bombarded by the stories and comments of others, particularly those with negative experiences.  I was taken aback by both the pain and the dissent.  There was also anger against me— as if I had no right to be happy or satisfied with my priesthood and celibacy.  There were three stories in particular that I shared with my blog readers and to which there was additional interaction.  The initial stories came from Jim, Becky and Thomas.

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Artwork by the cartoonist Ian Baker.

Jim’s Story

I studied to be a priest. But there was a special girl that haunted my day dreams and my night fantasies. The rector said to give it time and I did. But, after a few years I found it unbearable. I missed Sharon too much. I saw her during the summers and even that was forbidden. We tried not to call it dates even though we knew they were. She was my best friend. We prayed the rosary and even the breviary together. She missed me and yet tried her best to support me in a vocation I thought I had. Nevertheless, I never dreamed about saying Mass or hearing Confessions. All I thought about was holding Sharon’s hand and looking into her eyes.

One day I said I had endured enough. It was not for me. I raced over to Sharon’s house crying. I told her that if I had any vocation, it was with her and that I was leaving the seminary. She fell into my arms and we shared the first passionate kiss either of us had ever known.

Becky’s Story

I loved Joe. I gave more to Joe than a single girl should ever do. He said he loved me but later I found him with another girl. Instead of saying he was sorry, he laughed at me. I was so hurt and angry. And yet, I was surprised when my world did not fall apart. I had thought about being a religious sister, but my relationship with Joe held me back. I went on a discernment retreat and while at prayer became convinced that there was another lover calling me, Jesus.

I cannot say that I have totally forgotten Joe, but I cry no more and know a joy beyond words.

Thomas’ Story

The rector told us that when we heard our names called by the bishop at ordination, we could take for granted that we had a vocation. He said to brush aside all doubts. In any case, it was the 1960’s and rumors were flying that celibacy would very soon be made optional. We got ordained and then nothing changed. I tried to be patient but then classmates started leaving the priesthood and I felt increasingly alone. Then I met Shirley.

Sexual intimacy and marriage was something I often thought about and heard from others, but had never known. Now I could put a face on my desires as a man. Shirley and I did not mean to fall in love, it just happened. I did not want to abandon ministry and yet it looked more and more like the discipline about celibacy would never change. Shirley pressed me that if we waited too long, we could never have a family. But if I left the priesthood, it would break my mother’s heart. I just could not get myself to do it. Shirley never really forgave me and when she married someone else a few years later she sent me a picture of them. On the back she wrote, “This could have been you!” Another man holds her now. Another man shares kisses with her. I have to live with that and the price of my priesthood.

My Assessment of the Three Testimonials

Jim, there is no blame for a guy who went to seminary and eventually discerned that he did not have a religious vocation. The problem is when guys get ordained and then have second thoughts.

Becky, I am glad that you hear a calling to a religious vocation as a bride of Christ. Of course, one should make sure that the calling is genuine and not just something on the rebound. A religious vocation is not our running away from someone or something but a drawing a closer to someone, our Lord.

Thomas, I am not sure what to say? You should not feel sorry for yourself and neither should you feel remorse about your priesthood. Further, the good of your vocation is not something to be preserved merely because of appearances or even because of the potential scandal and hurt to others, including parents. You made a promise to God and even if priests in the future should be able to get married; there is no reason to expect that anything about a change in discipline would be retroactive. Our celibacy is a great gift and it is permanent. Thank God for it. Be a happy priest!

Does anyone else out there have a brief story to tell?  The invitation was taken up by Chuck and the so-called Reverend Tina.

Chuck’s Story

If you really wanted people to share their vocation stories then you would stop being so judgmental and criticizing everyone who shares their stories and views! You and your friends have no right to judge and condemn priests and nuns who left ministry for marriage.

I met Aggie when she was a senior at an all-girls’ high school. I was a young priest and taught math. I fell for her at first sight. We tried to cool matters but we were not robots like you— but passionate flesh-and-blood people. I told the pastor. The bishop tried to talk me out of leaving. But I could not live without her and no one was going to convince me otherwise. When she turned 18, we moved in together and the rest is history. We have three children, two girls and a boy. Would you tell them that they had no right to be conceived or born? How can a man pledge perpetual celibacy when he has yet to meet the girl of his dreams? It is crazy and unnatural. It is no wonder that the homosexuals have taken over the priesthood!

As for being married to the Church, that is utter nonsense! You can’t go to bed with the Church! You can’t hold her naked warm body against your own! You can’t share your dreams with her or even share an orgasm with her. A man, a real man, wants a woman to love. He needs to feel her body and to become one flesh with her!

You know nothing! You are a poor fool left out in the cold! There is nothing like loving a woman and all your analogies fall short. It is about entwined bodies, legs, breasts, lips, arms and hands. It is awkward and yet beautiful. It is sacred and messy.

Despite the twisted minds and morals of so many in the Church, there is nothing sinful or wicked about sexuality. I could still be a priest and have my Aggie, if only sanity and common-sense ruled. Unfortunately, it does not. The men who leave such a corrupted woman-hating priesthood are not to be pitied but praised and imitated.

Tina’s Story

I am going to tell you a story that I have kept absolutely secret until now.

I am 42 years old and have been a Roman Catholic priest since I was 26 years of age. I went to a liberal seminary in the Northeast US. My grades were exceptional and I got along well with everyone. Currently I am the pastor of a small parish and also do regular hospital ministry. The parish is thriving and the people feel that they are being well cared for. So far, there is nothing unusual, but here is the punch: I am a woman and for the last ten years have been married, albeit only in a ceremony conducted by a Unitarian minister.

How could this be? My twin brother took the necessary physicals prior to acceptance into the seminary. My own female features are slight and I wear a slight restraint around my breasts. I am thin and small. My hair is cut short, like that of a man. I was careful of the showers and in the bathroom during the seminary formation. No one caught on. We had private rooms, so I did not have to worry about a roommate finding out and blabbing.

I received acolyte, lector, my candidacy and eventually ordination to the diaconate and priesthood. I hanged out with the guys who were a bit effeminate, maybe gay, and no one was the wiser. After ordination, I even worked in the chancery for a time.

I became a bit lonely as the years passed and began to live a double life. I would go out for a couple of days, put on a wig and dress and started dating. That is how I met Phil. He knows and keeps my secret. We always said that if I became pregnant I would end the charade, but I guess between my age and regular birth control use, babies were not meant to be.

There you have it, both a woman and a married priest, all in one! None of it makes any difference. My work is as good as or even better than that of any celibate man.

My Assessment of These Two Additional Testimonials

Chuck, your anger against me and venom against the Church tells me that you still have a lot of unresolved issues and resentments.  I will try not to take it personally, but I would urge you to reconcile with the faith (even if on the pew side of the Church) and to find genuine peace.

As for Tina, sorry, I do not believe you. Yes, you heard me right; I am calling you a liar to your face. I bet you are not a priest, maybe you are not even a woman? There is no way that such a thing could ever happen. Given the years of formation and the close proximity of the men, you would quickly be found out. I admit it makes for a sensational story, but a story is all it is. No doubt the fake legend of Pope Joan is very much fueling your imagination. What are you really, a wannabee woman priest? Are you a female minister who wishes she was more? Are you an atheist fellow seeking to further ridicule the Church and the priesthood? Come on— come clean— stop telling us tall tales.

Debbie’s Comments

I only have a quick comment. I was unaware that they were talking about ending the celibacy requirement in the 1960’s. Nevertheless, I priest I know recently said that if my son were discerning, there was still the possibility that he could get married someday. Does the rumor ever end? I wonder how many still think that change is coming soon.

Karl’s Comments

A celibate, faithful priesthood most reflects its inspiration, Jesus.

As a consequence of my divorce I have lived a celibate life and have concluded that a married priest has too divided a set of obligations. Not that this is wrong or impossible but my opinion has been reinforced.

A priest who leaves his vocation is no different than my wife who is an adulterer. It is scandalous. They should repent and return to an appropriate ministry, if that is allowed. It is the honorable thing to do.

Every day in my line of work I engage many women, single and married who are attractive on many levels, including beauty; but a vow is a vow and it can be lived grudgingly or it can be accepted and be an opportunity, not always but sometimes. It will never be such if it is kept in hatred.

The priest who has invited these comments is not one that I would classify as judgmental.  I would describe him as faithful to his Church and its tenets.

Debra’s Comments

When I was a child in the 1960’s, you could never tell your parents about a “funny” priest, brother or nun” without getting slapped.

I used to think as a child that they were given a grace that made them “almost perfect” and so I was repeatedly surprised when I saw Father So-and-So drunk or rude or swearing or acting racist. I was caught off-guard. Of course, this fueled my later “Catholic in name only” teen years. When I became more mature, I realized we were all human and returned to Church practice.  Some priests are more imperfect than others.  I decided to support the Church in whole and to pick the parish where I wanted to attend. My faith is in Jesus, not a particular priest or pastor. Priests and nuns should be respected, supported and loved.  But we should not tolerate bad acts from them.  They need lots and lots of prayers.

Mary’s Comments

Whoever questions celibacy or the martyrdom required of priesthood has not met Jesus. When one meets Jesus, one is called to true heroism. Priesthood is not natural – it is supernatural. Priests can change the world.

Dawn’s Comments

The priesthood is “supernatural”…that sounds very beautiful… almost too good to be true. It is sad that most priests fall far short of it. I am not just talking about them giving into sexual temptations, but also about the “not so nice” side of their personalities.

Priests are flesh and blood men. When ordained do their natural inclinations and desires miraculously fall by the wayside? No, such is not the case.  Yes, God is supposed to give them this supernatural grace to resist their own humanness; and yet, they are still human. The devil will never cease to try and undo a priest. They get tired, cranky, bored, and at times almost apathetic. Many of us have experienced this in the priests we have known.  It is so obvious that many have become complacent and simply go through the motions.

I had a priest tell me in the confessional that I was “unlovable” and that I deserved to be treated badly by my husband. Yes, he said this after I poured out my heart out upon learning that a divorce was pending. I have been “dismissed” by more than one priest when seeking regular counseling. I was told to get professional help when I was really seeking spiritual guidance. My nephew who worked in different parishes as a music director was shocked to hear the awful language coming from the pastor’s mouth. Yes I mean the “F” word. Another pastor pushed him out of his job by being downright mean and nasty to him, picking apart his every effort at directing the choir and selecting sacred music.

Many priests of Jesus Christ fall way short of modeling him as they are called to do. True, perhaps a few bad apples do not spoil the whole bunch; but we must try to stop putting them on some sort of pedestal from which as mere humans they are eventually destined to fall.

I for one will never abandon the one true Church of Jesus Christ because of the poor witness of priests I have unfortunately encountered. We must pray for holy priests— that they will remain strong, pure and steadfast in their promises made before God. One thing we should never do is crucify them for falling. We are all broken creatures and given to a wounded nature. Let us continue to pray for and love our priests. Let us forgive those who have disappointed or hurt us in any way. But also let us not put them on the same supernatural level as our Lord.  If we do then we are setting them up to fall from such heights.

Thomas’ Comments

Marriages fail and the Church offers annulments to help people who want to love and live again. If such is the case for them, then how can we be judgmental against priests who want to get married?

Priests are human, too. They are not cold and heartless machines. They are flesh-and-blood men with all the strengths and weaknesses of all men. They are not supermen!

We have a Church where gays and pencil-pushing eunuchs seek to manipulate heterosexual men with normal drives and needs with analogies of a spiritual marriage with the Church and with fear of punishment and censure. They talk about the grace of celibacy as if it is a drug to nullify sexual longing and the need for intimacy. Men are humanized by women. Relationships with women allow men to become adults.

But, we do not want adults, do we? Adults talk back and we want boys who will behave! The Church forces its priests to remain as children, and yet they live in the bodies of adult men. Pedophiles and pederasts are able to sneak into the priesthood because formation programs leave men generally at the maturation of twelve year olds. They relate to children because psychologically the hierarchy wants them to remain in the Peter Pan mode of stilted development.

When a priest messes with a woman, more so than not, she is the one who seduced him. Don’t get me wrong, she need not play the seductress. All it takes is a normal loving woman to knock down the priest’s shaky house of cards. Priests are taught to see women as a threat to their celibacy. They are told to stay away from them and not to have close female friends. If he is caught having dinner alone with a woman or, God forbid, gives a woman a kiss, the fishbowl gossips spread the alarm and eventually the bishop punishes the man. How dare you act like a normal man! You are Church property! You belong to us, body, soul and genitals! You are to have no views but those ideas promoted by the Church! Do not talk politics because the Church will be sued and forfeit its tax exemption! Do not even suggest that the Church could be wrong, or else! You will be silenced! You will be transferred! Okay, you caught Father So-N-So with another clergyman in a compromising situation— tell no one or you will be sorry! Okay, we had to move Father Juvenile again because he got too close to the kiddies— tell no one or you will be sorry! Okay, you were hauled into court— keep your mouth shut and we will reward you with a monsignor title when you are released! Remember, canon law allows the priest to be punished for causing scandal, so don’t do it! Stay away from Susie and keep your mouth shut! Homosexuals we can handle, but not abandoned women and crying fatherless babies! Are you sure you are heterosexual? Things would be so much easier only if, well, only if.

If celibacy were optional, so much of this scenario would change. There would be a new springtime in terms of the dynamics of ministry in the Church.

Billy’s Comments

Given your history of rigidity on such issues, I am surprised that you allowed Chuck’s words to stand without some sort of rebuttal.  Did you take his challenge about censorship seriously? Let me shake the boat some more.

Keeping promises is one thing, but the negative stereotyping of a whole people is something else. I am sick and tired of homophobes saying that there are too many gay priests or that gay men should be kept out of the priesthood. How dare anyone hold such prejudices and still claim to be a Christian!

Is there anything wrong with a gay caste for the priesthood? After all, the Church does not want gay men to be active anyway. It would seem that those willing to be celibate or at least discrete among each other would be the best way to go. There is no longing for old girlfriends or any seeking to satisfy with other appetites the loss of heterosexual sexual intimacy and pleasure.

Fat priests overeat to make up for their sexual repression. Other clergy drink heavily. Are they being true to their celibacy? No! But they are quickly excused. They are also quick to condemn others, even as they are blind to their own transgressions!

Most homosexuals are not pedophiles or pederasts. Indeed, I suspect there are far more heterosexual abusers in the ranks of the clergy. But, they may be better at hiding their scandalous acts. I heard the one case where a priest married a young girl as soon as legality permitted. We can readily presume that the so-called romance had started well into the past. He covered up his crime by making her his wife. Seminaries should give a preference to gay men. They are the most likely to flourish in an all-male environment and will probably remain in the priesthood with greater numbers than men pining away about breasts and vaginas.

It is also true, at least culturally, that gay men have better musical and aesthetic tastes than straights. Most of my friends among the Latin traditionalists are gay. When it comes to dress up, smells and bells, tassels and cloaks, it takes a gay man to do things right. Ritual and chant is like dance and song. The liturgy is the greatest drama. From Broadway to the Vatican, there are thousands of gay men doing what they do best.

So, come on guys, let’s get with it. The priesthood is our playground and the Church is our stage!

Patricia’s Comments

If we were only living for this world then Billy and Chuck scored big points in this discussion!  If there be all there is, then go for it!  Have gay sex! Use contraception! Try to do it all and split your time and dedication between marriage and a church vocation! Have 1.5 children, keep your career, and maintain your personal time and space— sacrifice as little as you possible can! If that is all you “think” and “feel” will make you happy then surrender yourself to your strongest urges.

On the other hand, if Jesus really rose from the dead, left an authoritative teaching authority, gave us commandments and reminded us that this life is an eye-blink compared to eternity; well, then, we will one day have to pay the piper.  I would like to thank good priests for witnessing not only with their preaching but with their celibacy.  They are signs in their persons of another world with a different set of values— forsaking earthly pleasures for the joys of eternity.

Thank God, for the genuine Christian witness of priests and faithful lay Catholics. Embracing our crosses can bring inestimable joy. Sacrifices given out of love will be rewarded and usher forth lasting joy. As a mother I know that my sacrifices bring contentment and happiness when I look at my children. The priests have peace and joy in sacrificing for the flocks— the family of God.

The priesthood is a vocation, not a career. By all means, do not enter it if you cannot respect the beauty of Church teachings and discipline. Everyone is welcome to hang around, to learn and to try to understand; but it is not a do-it-yourself religion. That’s pop culture, folks.

My Quick Closing Comments

The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuals suffer from a severe sexual disorientation and as such, should neither be ordained nor function as priests. However, everyone should be treated with compassion and justice.

A man can be married to the Church. His love for Jesus and the flock should be all-consuming!

There is my two cents!

Lift Up Your Hearts & Hands & Voices

Israel’s war against Amalek might have been a foreshadowing of the Church’s struggle against the world and the devil. The raised hands of Moses are often connected to the raised hands of the priest at the altar. The power that wins the battle is not Moses but that of God. However, Moses is seen as a conduit for divine power, showering his soldiers with heavenly strength and inspiring them with his presence on top of the hill. When Moses grew tired, Aaron and Hur supported his arms.

I am reminded about the story of an elderly priest who had to offer Mass from his wheelchair. A makeshift table was placed on the lower level before the altar. The priest had a debilitating muscular disease and his arms and hands were weak and useless. Two men from the community would hold up his arms for the orations and blessings. When he needed to hold the sacred elements, they would clasp their hands upon his so that he could raise up the bread and wine for consecration. Visitors one weekend were critical, noting that it was a shame that there was no healthy priest to say Mass properly. A large number of parishioners quickly objected to the criticism. One of them retorted, “What do you mean? We have our priest and he is empowered by Christ to give us the Eucharist and God’s blessing… what more could we want?”

The faith of the Jews and later of Christians is a mediated faith. We lift our hands and voices to the Lord. God uses weak human vessels to show his power and to transmit his gifts. God sends his deliverers, prophets, apostles, bishops, priests and deacons. God is our ultimate guardian but he gives us human sentinels who keep watch over his flock.

Does Prayer Move God or Us?

The worldwide Catholic Church fulfills the command from the Gospel to pray unceasingly.  The Mass is offered, the Liturgy of the Hours is prayed and the Rosaries are said.  Unlike the dishonest judge, God cannot be manipulated or forced to comply with our wishes.  However, God wants us to pray and to petition him as a loving Father.  Persistent faith and prayer is an antidote to human fickleness.  We need to have the heart and mind of God— to want what he wants.

Constant prayer and a lived faith will transform us.  We become God’s children in truth.  Yes, God knows what we need even before we petition him; however, this posture of dependence is demanded by God for our own good.  A person may give drink to the thirsty but the receiver must hold up his glass to receive the life-giving water. It might seem that God is moved but we are the ones being moved.  God pours himself out; but we must be receptive to the divine presence and grace.

I remember my departed mother.  She was never happier than when her family needed her.  Even when we were selfish, she immediately responded with love and caring.  All good mothers are the same.  Our supplications may be endless, but so is God’s charity and patience.  We belong to him.  Everything is God’s gift to us.  He delights in hearing the voices of his children.

The Reach of the Prayers of the Faithful

God is the source of justice for those wronged by the world.  While our faith must be lived outside the church doors, do we really make our own the bidding prayers of the Mass?  What are the intentions that we bring to the Eucharist?  Do we really believe that God hears and answers prayers?  Some critics think that we are just talking to ourselves and making a wish-list that will never be realized.  Of course, the Lord is not a genie from a lamp.  His response to prayer, not wishes, is not to serve selfishness but charity, compassion, peace and truth.

If we belong to the Lord then we should witness in faith to his justice.  The world resists and does not want to change.  Jesus laments, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

If we want our petitions answered, do we respond to the cries of the poor?

Do we pray for courage so as to live out a heroic witness as signs of contradiction?

Do we ask for the grace to love and forgive as Jesus does, even those who hate and hurt us?

Do we pray for enemies, as well as for friends and loved ones?

Do we pray for the living and the dead?

Are our petitions devoid of selfishness?

Do we pray for the salvation of souls, vocations and the sanctity of life? 

Are we emissaries praying for the wounded world?

The Measure of Justice & Charity

Social justice is not an element of the Catholic faith that can be conveniently discarded. The outreach of our Lord insures that the proclamation of the Good News will always include caring about the needs and rights of others.  While the Church would not condemn hard work and profit, the person is always measured as having primary value or worth in all human transactions.  The more one has, the greater is the responsibility to those who have little or nothing.  Poverty is not reflective of the curse and divine justice.  Rather, in the Judeo-Christian mindset, those in poverty are an opportunity for those with some degree of wealth to witness a charity that pleases God.  Divine judgment targets those who close their eyes to the hurting and the poor.

Today, Asian sweatshops and local jobs that pay a non-livable wage are instances of exploitation.  It translates the message that some people matter more than others and that certain people have no importance at all.  We see this mentality in poor-paying jobs, angry rhetoric toward immigrants and migrant workers, and consciences numb to the dignity of life in euthanasia and abortion, especially in light of dollars and cents.  Once a price-tag is attached to human life… we begin to live a lie and forget that in the eyes of God all life has an incommensurate value.

Too often a greater attachment or importance is given to profits over the message of mercy from the prophets.  History is riddled with injustice.  The scales that weigh coins are fixed.  The poor are forced to make do with junk and the refuse of the wheat for their bread.  The world has not changed much.  Just look at the street people who search dumpsters for food.  Even those who claim to care about the poor are often motivated by a politics and giving that enslaves future generations in poverty and dependence.  The poor are easily manipulated and that is precisely where people with power want them.

The message from Scripture is frequently that of a reversal.  The wealthy will be brought down and the poor will be raised up.  “He raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor to seat them with princes…”  I have spoken before about how this admonition from the Psalms is realized in Christ where we are all anointed into the royal household of God.  The reversal begins with a young handmaid called Mary who cries, “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.”