Monday, January 5, 2009

The Priestly Tradition

Reading an entry in What Does the Prayer Really Say blog. It's about lay people administering blessings, and whether it is appropriate for them to do so, particularly during the distribution of Holy Communion.

Of course, in my traditional Mass, there is no question of this - only the priests distribute Communion.

The comments following the post were most interesting. While most people were opposed to the idea of lay people imitating priests and giving blessings, Father Z went a step further and reminded us that Communion was probably not the place to be giving blessings, though it has become common for small children to be blessed if they come up with their parents. (In my church, Father will bless little ones who come to the altar rail with mom and dad.)

One wag wrote, "TJM, so when a layman asks a blessing of God, He plugs his ears and yells “LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU”? Just checking."

Of course, it's a good point. Surely God doesn't ignore anyone who asks a blessing on anyone else.

But that's not really the point. The point is the degradation of the office of the priest.

Like it or not, Catholicism is a priestly religion. Priests act as intercessors to God. In the case of Catholicism, they act "in persona Christi," (I think I've spelled that right!). That is, "in the person of Christ" for the rest of the people. They offer the sacrifice of the Mass, in the name of the people assembled. We come out of a tradition that consecrated certain people (priests) to the service of God. We have tabernacles - literal dwelling places for the Lord - in our Churches. We have sacraments, which only priests are qualified to administer except in the most grave and extraordinary circumstances (imminent death, for example). And even then, a lay person cannot absolve sin.

I'm not exactly sure why there is a desire on the part of modern Catholics to get rid of the priesthood.

Maybe "priest" smacks of "ancient and therefore unenlightened." Certainly among many of the "educated," priests are always villains. I had a conversation with a man the other night, and he was castigating the Catholic priesthood for its horrible predatory ways. I tried the best I could to defend not the actions of the sinning priests, but the priesthood in general. But in essence, he was really suggesting that people become priests to gain an unnatural power over the rest of us, and this "abuse of children" is just symptomatic of that.

How could I explain the gratefulness I feel when I watch the priests in our Church hear Confessions for an hour, then celebrate Mass, deliver a 40-minute, well-thought-out sermon (I can tell you as an actor, this requires a tremendous amount of energy!), then teach a Catechism class, then travel and hour to another mission church to go to it all again. And this is just Sunday. They have given up all the comforts of home, wife, children, in order to help save my soul. They have dedicated themselves to the service of God, and to my welfare. They are special. They can do special things that the rest of us cannot do by virtue of this dedication. It is, in my view, small compensation for all they have given up - but then, I'm not a priest. For these men, I am sure, to be able to hold the Blessed Sacrament in their hands, to be able to "make" it so, is more than enough for all that they have to sacrifice. It is their calling in life.

Why have the Catholic faithful become so self-centered, so self-important, that we can't live with this?

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