Priesthood: Who serves? - Rita Byrne - 3rd Nov 01 : LUSENET : Experience into Words : One Thread

Heb.6:19-20. This is the anchor our souls have., as sure as it is firm, reaching right through inside the curtain where Jesus has entered as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever, of the order of Melchizedek. Heb..7:1-4. Melchizedek,king of Salem, a priest of God most highcame to meet Abraham when he returned from defeating the kings, and blessedhim, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. By the interpretation of his name, he is first'king of saving justice', and also king of Salem, that is king of peace, he has no father, mother,or ancestry and his life has no beginning or ending; he is like the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.

What the above passages mean to me is: there is therefore only one priest who is a priest forever, Jesus Christ. His priesthood is different from the priesthood of the O.T.. It is not individual priests who offer Jesus at Mass, it is Jesus who offers himself through the humanity of the person at the altar. My reason for writing about this comes from an experience I had at Mass on the feast of Corpus Christi last June. It was evening Mass, there was nothing unusual about it; AS the priest read the gospel passage, which contained those words' thou art a priest forever of the order of Melchizedek', it was as if there was nobody there but me, and these words were directed solely to me.Suddenly Iwas wide awake, my reaction was "I'm not a priest"|| I shrugged off the experience, deciding it was a temptation or some such thing and put it out of my mind; but it kept coming back over the next few weeks with the question who was Melchizedek? Eventually I decided to look up my bible to see who was Melchizedek?. The above passages is what I found with other references as well. Iwas still puzzled by my experience, and the conviction was growing that it was a true experience. Having dwelth on it ,my belief now is that it is the people whom Jesus calls to follow him , and who say yes to him are the people who represent him on earth in a special way, and that includes being the person through whom he offers himself on the altar. I am one of these people. Whether the church accepts or rejects this does not alter the truth of it, as truth can not be altered. Rita.

-- Anonymous, November 03, 2001


Rita, with respect to those who continue the battle for women's ordination to the ministerial Priesthood, I'm tired of the topic. I have read several of the left wing writers on the subject, both male and female and I have no doubt that they have a valid point. However, short of a miracle, I don't believe this change will come about in my lifetime. It will come, that I'm convinced of, but not yet.

I agree with you that the Ministerial Priesthood is a special call. This special call must, in some way, be lived out in a community of believers. It is a call to the individual and in my view should not hinder or exclude the natural process of human life. By this I mean, Ministerial Priesthood should not exclude marriage for those who have no call to celibacy. It is with the support of my marriage that I have been able to pursue my call. Maybe there is no comparison, but we won't know until it is tried.

I have not been called to Ministerial Priesthood and that does not disappoint me. I am called to the priesthood of the faithful by virtue of my Baptism. My suffering at the hands of the institutional Church has been long and deep. I carry deep pain and great anger but this is mild compared to the open wounds carried by women I have met who have a call to priesthood which is denied them. I joined BASIC (a movement called 'Brothers and Sisters in Christ', working for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church) until I realised that the battle wasn't mine.

My call is to preach - another ministry restricted for women and lay men. I came to it by a circuitous route. To preach is to Break Bread with others. To share the Good News through talking, writing, nursing, teaching, parenting, companioning and so on. I have a deep contentment in what I do. I'm happy.

Before I could answer my call I had, starting thirty years ago, to confront and overcome my fear of the 'hell fire and damnation' that would overtake me if I stepped out of line and infringed the rules imposed by Mother Church (as in the institution). This went hand in hand with slowly getting to know God in a different light - as Creator, Lover, Friend, Protector, Comforter and so on. This was a slow process fostered, in the early days, by my Jesuit friend. At this time I also began to learn the language to give voice to this wonderful new knowledge of and relationship with God.

The Jesuits gave me my first opportunity to preach (although I wouldn't have called it that then). I was part of the retreat team at Tabor House for a year. For ten years I had virtually no contact with the Parish system. Then I had fifteen years of trying, with my family, to create a space for myself in active ministry in the Parish. It was such a struggle for us and the exclusion so painful that we both eventually gave up. For the last six or seven years I have not worshipped in Parish. I have been asked to 'preach' in a particular Parish a number of times and I'm occasionally invited to give a talk in other Parishes. I never refuse.

Slowly it dawned on me that the institutional Church has no hold on me. In fact it was more of a hindrance to my spiritual growth than a help. I decided, in prayer and reflection, to take full authority from my Baptism and minister to those who cross my path, depending on the Holy Spirit to guide and prompt me. This is where I am today.

There was a tremendous urge in me to tell people about this wonderful God whom I know. To share His love and friendship. I began to take groups of women away for spiritual days and weekends.. We walked and observed the beauty of Nature. We made sacred spaces inside to sit around for guided meditation. We did some craft work to have something to take home. We had discussion, prayer, a reconciliation service and when we were blessed with the presence of a priest we had absolution, otherwise we forgave each other before God. These events were mind bogglingly wonderful and I thank God for them and the women who participated. There are some beautiful stories to be told from those weekends.

These events came to an end because they were run on a shoestring with people who were poor. I was advised to have insurance which I couldn't afford. I still do the occasional weekend when invited by some groups who have their own insurance.

One cannot live a Christian life to the full in isolation. I have my family - my primary community - but I felt the need for something more than being loosely linked in here and there for spiritual nourishment. I also felt the need for more knowledge of the faith so I came to the Diploma Course in Theology at Tallaght. Here I met the Order of Preachers for the first time. I was bowled over by the welcome I received, by the gentle jeering I got for apostasizing from the Jesuits. The atmosphere in the Priory was so full of God's presence. I knew I had been guided home by the Holy Spirit. Here, the Dominicans created for me a space to grow and develop, to receive and to give.

Finally I looked at the way of life of the Lay Dominicans and saw in it a resting place for me and the package I bring with me. When I first looked with a human eye I only saw the human and wasn't impressed. When I looked with a spiritual eye I saw something beautiful and I wanted to belong. I became a Lay Dominican.

When we listen and touch and reach out to each other healing takes place. Presently the Priory is the place where I am healed and nurtured by the Dominicans and others who frequent this sacred space.

-- Anonymous, November 04, 2001

Very few of us can put our hand on our heart and say we have no problems with the Church, but as it was one of the biggest deceptions I endured from evil, I say to people , look again at your own attitude. A wise Jesuit gave me the following definition of our Church: ' Think of it as a community of diciples gathered around the risen Lord; getting life from him, being open to him and to the service of one another and the world; having the Spirit to guide and give love and unity etc. We offer him our weakness and emptyness as Mary did.' This definition of our church broke the bind I was in and altered my perception. OR Changed my belief as Sean says. OR.It was the unveiling of the truth of the Church as Von Balthasar would say. Rita. '

-- Anonymous, November 05, 2001

I think the most I can say in response right now is that I totally believe in the common priesthood that we're born into in baptism, and that I, in my daily life, participate in that in various ways, big and small. When I was involved in retreat work as a young thing (!), one of the elements of that retreat was strong focus on self- sacrifice, and offering up little sacrifices for the good of the community. (Touching again on the Paschal Mystery) This practice is an important way of expressing my baptismal priesthood, for me.

As for the difference between ordained ministerial priesthood and the "lay priesthood" if we give it that name, I think there is a difference. I don't think it should be a dividing thing, and I think this gives rise to the question of how the laity and the ordained ministers can complement and encourage - and even need - each other, if this is possible after Anne-Marie's experience of the opposite being the case.

I don't have a vocation to the priesthood, and so I don't really identify with women who do, but they have my prayers and sympathy for a cause which doesn't seem to be heard by too many in authority within the hierarchy.

I think that's all for now. Thanks, Roisin

-- Anonymous, November 09, 2001

Rita, your text and expression caught me unawares and has been sitting with me for the past week or so. I am fascinated by the idea that priesthood can be newly perceived as a profound experience of being called to represent Jesus in a special way, to be a person through whom the sacrifice is offered. I am sometimes at pains to point out the joy for the community of faith that a child, newly baptized, is now sharing in that call to priesthood but never, never, has any of my hearers ever responded. So to hear you describe your experience of being called is certainly new delight for me. I have many questions so I will only put one: If you, or I, or Mary or Joe, are called to be "the person through whom Jesus offers himself on the altar" (as I, too, think we are) what transformative effects does it have on us personally?

-- Anonymous, November 10, 2001

I am also surprised Ray at your surprise. Is it because I'm a woman/?. As I have never been ''the person through whom Jesus offers himself on the Altar'. I cannot answer the question you pose; it is an interesting question,Perhaps you yourself could answer it for us. Rita.

-- Anonymous, November 10, 2001

'No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins ; otherwise the wine will burst the skins and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! new wine into fresh skins!.' Mk.2: 21-22.

Q. Where are we pouring the wine today?

Q. What has happened to the old wineskins? Are we still using them, after 2,000 years. Trying to harvest the wine in porous skins that cannot hold it?

Q. Does anybody care? Have we lost sight of the bigger picture?.

We have and do at this time of year, pay lip service to church unity. W

-- Anonymous, January 27, 2002

'No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins ; otherwise the wine will burst the skins and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! new wine into fresh skins!.' Mk.2: 21-22.

Q. Where are we pouring the wine today?

Q. What has happened to the old wineskins? Are we still using them, after 2,000 years. Trying to harvest the wine in porous skins that cannot hold it?

Q. Does anybody care? Have we lost sight of the bigger picture?.

We have and do at this time of year, pay lip service to church unity. We all pray with our lips and wish it would happen; but are we really interested in exploring why it dos'nt happen?. From my limited knowledge of philosophy I know that unless there is harmony and an attitude and a willingness to work together in the different parts of any whole there is no creativity, therefore no progress, and no hope of ever getting together with other whole groups...

The big question is: Is there harmony within the R.C.C. If the answer is no,and I believe it is, are we capable of ,or do we care enough to explore where the disharmony is; To bring these parts together to see if the attitudes that cause disharmony can change and become attitudes of working together, of helping each other to become the creative whole we are meant to be?.

Sometimes in a family, it is difficult to see that we have hurt one of the members. It is much easier ,perhaps to apologise to outsiders than to those close to us. We need in the church the humility of it's founder; a body without it's head is of very little use. If we can ever get our house in order we would then be free to apologise to Martin Luther and his followers; for surely when Jesus went into hell and broke the hold of sin on humanity, no one can ever again be condemned by any of his followers , that is if they want to remain his followers.

There is indeed a mammoth task of reconciliation needed within the church. There is little point in asking individual members to repent, to go to confession if the church itself is incapable of this. The task for the new millinnium must surely be this...

Perhaps then we can again become the creative whole capable of leading humanity rather than following on behind.

-- Anonymous, January 27, 2002

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