Do We Have a Church If We Don’t Have Priests?

Deacon Greg pointed me to this video which has excellent production values on a group of newly ordained priests.

Beautifully done and a nice keepsake for these men of their ordination day.

One small quibble: While our priests are of paramount importance, I’m not sure it’s accurate to say “If we don’t have priests we don’t have a church” as the rector, I believe intoned in the video. If we don’t have priests that would be tragic, but there are plenty of communities that do not have priests at this point. Are they no less a part of the Body of Christ? I get the point that we need someone to consecrate the Eucharist and even priest-less parishes share in the sacrifice of another community where the sacrifice of the mass was offered–and therefore they are indebted and tied to a priest in some way. But if there were no priests, what would that mean for the church? What would become of ritual and sacrifice? Would others be called to a new role and who would decide how to move forward on this?

It’s a good question to ask and an even better prayer to pray that we always have priests and deacons.

But it also behooves an additional question: What are we doing to bring the body of Christ into the world? How do we proclaim Christ in ritual where we gather each week? How are we present to one another in the Eucharist and how do we become active participants and not merely consumeristic receivers?

A choir director I know, even challenges her choir in a similar way. “We are ministers of music. The CONGREGATION is the choir! We’re called to be ministers of the word in song, to awaken and enliven the hearts of the faithful so that they sing out with just as much joy as we might express.”

We might want to take that lesson into our hearts this week and be moved by the fact that we have priests and deacons, lay ministers and catechists, ministers of song and hospitality. Without any of them, we might not have a church, much less priests alone. We need each member of the faithful to continue to preach the goodness of our church, to inspire each one to their proper role in life and in the life of the church.

Priests didn’t come from the clear blue sky. They were called from the community to be priests by God for the communities that they, in turn will now serve.

That’s a blessing. We rejoice and be glad. And our response in love is not just to be served, but to serve. And that goes for all of us.

In that way, our common priesthood lives forever.

My dear friend, Fr. Jack Collins often reminds me that “what is common to all is sacramentalized by some.” Perhaps with those who choose to have their priesthood sacramentalized, we indeed have a problem.

But if we really have faith, we believe that God is present in all of us. Is that any less of a Eucharistic moment? Some might think so. I choose to think that God always finds a way out of no way.

And so, I am comforted by that gracious thought. The truth that we are not God. And therefore, while we choose to have men be “in persona Christi” God still exists whether or not men continue to make that choice.

God will never abandon us. And while that’s comforting, it’s still easier to see and feel when we have priests amongst us.

Today, let us pray that young men will continue to respond to the call of Christ to the priesthood. And let us also pray that we too, respond accordingly to our vocational call as well.

Now go and find your favorite priest and tell him how important he is to your community and offer to help him out with something.

Join the Conversation

2 Comments

  1. I watched the video too, and wondered about that line. I would say something along the lines of: If we don’t have priests, we have a different experience of Church. There are a number of persecuted Catholic communities in history that have survived for decades without priests. I would hesitate to say that they were not “the Church” as a result.

    On the other hand, it was said in a context which hoped to emphasize the importance of priests to the Church. So, I think we can cut the rector a little bit of slack for exaggerating a bit.

    I have to say also that, personally, I prefer ordination videos with less “production values,” as you put it. The ordination liturgy speaks for itself. It is one of the most beautiful liturgies we have in the Church. I thought this video was overproduced and overdramatic. It didn’t move me in the same way that it obviously did Deacon Greg, or in the way a more straightforward presentation of the ordination liturgy would.

    Like

  2. I agree about cutting the rector some slack. I do think we should choose our words more carefully though.

    An interesting point about the ordination video though. I didn’t find this to be overdramatic, but then again, I’ve never been ordained, so maybe that experience has given you an experience that I don’t have. While I agree that the liturgy itself is beautiful, I’m not sure how many people have even been to an ordination–so I look at the video as a nice “tease” to attend one for the faithful. Maybe then they find that in person experience to indeed be a more beautiful one than this video.

    I still think it’s a nice keepsake for the ordinands regardless though.

    Like

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: