I remember it as though it was yesterday. In the early 1980's at one of our clergy conferences, Bishop Lessard gave his talk, a controversial talk that most of the priests then, much older than me, despised.
He said, we need to recover the "majesty of the priesthood." I think he was referring to the fact that we had become so pedestrian, there were some moral problems developing, many didn't wear clerical dress and the Liturgy and other sacraments were being celebrated in sloppy, undignified ways.
I guess the best word to sum things up is that we had become "undignified." Externals didn't matter anymore and internals were questionable.
I am not saying that the priesthood prior to Vatican II was perfect, but the perception of the laity and the world itself was that it was respectable. We've lost that because of Vatican II's pedestrian approach to priesthood and religious life and that we are no different than the laity. The priesthood became "laicized" and the laity became "clericalized."
Without denying the problems of the pre-Vatican II Church and the authoritarianism that often existed as well as paternalism, and the secrecy of clericalism (still alive and well some 50 years or more after Vatican II's new springtime for the Church) what needs to be recovered in that expression of the priesthood and what needs to be maintained in the post-Vatican II expression of the priesthood?
Just what did Bishop Lessard mean in the early 1980's only 15 years after Vatican II that we need to recover the majesty of the priesthood?
Before honor comes humility.
Fr Fox has an excellent post examining hrist humbling Himself to be with us. But He was clearly not like us and that was abundantly clear to everyone. The priest must smell like his sheep but he must also be easily distinguishable, not only to us, his sheep, but to himself especially. I think that may be why so many mission priests end up going native. I have been meditating on the phrase “lead us not into temptation” quite a bit recently and that seems to fit this situation.
I wonder, too, what Bishop Lessard considered the "majesty of the priesthood" to consist of.
The priests of our diocese that I am aware of and encounter regularly dress in clerical attire appropriately. Yes, some of us wear short pants when on retreat; some even wear sandals (!) when celebrating mass during that time.
There is always a need for encouraging a respectful and beautiful "ars celebrandi." I've suggested a number of times that our Clergy Conference arrangers bring in a speaker for this topic.
There was, I suggest, a time when externals were given too much emphasis. And, in my opinion, there were just too many externals altogether and we had transformed them into pseudo-essentials. Was it ever "essential" to legislate the type of fabric which could be used to line a biretta?
My suggestions for what can assist in an appropriate renewal of presbyteral majesty would be:
1. Better preparation and on-going formation for preaching. As the homily is an integral part of the celebration of the mass, preaching should be as substantial, beautiful, evocative, and meaningful.
2. Encouraging a deeper appreciation for the liturgies we celebrate. I work to be very attentive to the manner in which I celebrate the sacraments. For some, however, just because their minds work differently, they may be less attuned to the necessity of beautiful celebration. (If I see one more visiting priest on the altar at the cathedral whip out his camera during the imposition of hands at an ordination, I might scream. "Disedifying" is the kind term.)
3. Encouraging priestly fraternity. Like other professional groups, we can become a bit cliquish, failing to recognize our need for each other. One of the criticisms of the bishops has been that they have not held each other accountable. Although they do answer to the Holy Father, not to each other, maybe we could be better and encouraging and challenging each other.
4. Encourage the understanding that, as priests, we are Servant-Leaders and Wounded Healers. It can be tough to keep the balance, since some well-intentioned folks want to look upon us as demi-gods...
For most of us it will not be recovered, not in our lifetimes. The only solution is to switch jurisdiction as I did to Moscow. The church is near my house but closer than the OFM parish where Negro ladies shake their behinds in your face as they dance in the aisles. The sacrements under Roman jurisdiction are licit and presumably valid. Under Moscow jurisdiction they are valid but considered illicit as seen from the perspective of licitness in Roman canon law. There are two many questions about what is licit under Roman Catholic canon law as administered by the current pontiff to make a practical decision in view of my mortality to consider the legality of the sacrements of other jurisdications which are in all cases deemed valid, i.e. strong and effective by the Roman canon law. The Roman Catholic Church is no longer interested in eternal life but in issues that confront the human being during the reproductive cycle. What happens after menopause is no longer their concern. Even its catechesis is geared for the sexual changes that beset human beings after puberty. This is clear right now. The liturgy is for indoctrination according to standards produced by the entertainment industry. The priests, even when attired properly have the minds of teenagers. Talk to them! This isn't going to change any time soon. The problem you name is caused by the domination of the presbyteriate in the Franco-Roman church. The current institutional occupying real estate on the Vatican and other hills of the city of Rome has nothing to do with the Church of St. Ambrose in Milan and St. Augustine at Hippo in Carthage. The pattern was set by the Frankish nobility that ceased the center of the stage bringing about all the ills we see down till today. This Frankish church was born in Aachen and killed off every other ancient local church in Europe, that of the Celts and even that of the Anglo-Saxons. The spiritual heritage of ancient Rome as well as New Rome passed to Holy Rus, which after a 70 year persecution has re-emerged. Check it out!
I am SO very pleased that we now know we can blame Negro ladies, post-Menopausal women, the entertainment industry, and Frankish nobility for our ills.
Anonymous @ 3:02
Kievan Rus became Christian in 988 and was Ukrainian, not Muscovite. Your 'history' of the Latin Church is pure fantasy.
But very creative, like his spelling of "sacrement."
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