The wrong thought is being pondered, and the real issues are being avoided.
I came across an article from the Catholic Register this past week regarding the current climate of the Catholic Church in Quebec. The article speaks to the decline of the participation on part of the laity in receiving the Sacraments, and the life of the Church at large.
While I do observe the gravity of this issue, and Bishop Pelchat’s desire, (I infer), to treat this sensitively, I see quite differently into the matter. I am assured the issues addressed within the article and from the recent closed hearing that took place does not only belong to the Church in Quebec, but in other areas as well.
The right question to ask primarily, in the face of the complexities surrounding the Church today is for each ordained priest and every lay person to look in the mirror before God and ask, in light of how the disciplines stand in the present day Church, “Am I living the fullness of my vocation out of love and obedience to Christ and His Church? Am I striving daily to uphold what has been revealed to me and received in the capacity that Christ has blessed me with?” This is a good beginning place for pondering. Although not a seemingly “practical solution”, this does give rise to see clearly the remedy, and the answer, Jesus Christ.
I have written before on the need for the laity to lean into the Lord more fervently. To strive for a personal holiness that will thus help to entrench our surroundings with a palpable faith and love of God.
I was very pleased a while ago to see our very own Archbishop, Cardinal Collins reaffirm the personal call to holiness. This is at the root of all good that can come in the present day Church. Today, mindful of my ignorance to a fullness of knowledge on Church affairs, I appeal in loving support of Her, as She is.
My issue begins at the point in which I view the heart of pondering this question, of permitting married men to the priesthood, as often accompanying other ponderings that lead to dissension. This inclines me to speculate that this “pondering” is not for the good of the Church, but born from an underlying disobedience to Christ, thought to be obedient to love of Him and His people. But lacking the true fidelity in what He has said of His Church and what He wills for it, revealed through the norms of the Church and the good that they are.
It is worthy to look at whether the raising of these questions is born from the illness of relativism that needs remedying and not nourishment. The fruits of present circumstances give rise to recognizing the seeds from where they’ve grown.
The call to question and have compassion for the sensitivities we face is undoubtedly an important characteristic of every good shepherd, but at the core is the need to remember what has been given to us by grace of the Holy Spirit, the light our Holy Church needs to endure all that may come, resting upon a foundation that Christ promised no evil to prevail against. The foundation of Christ Himself. And what a proclamation of Christ Himself in a world gone mad with selfishness, than the undivided love and service of Christ made visible to us through the celibacy of the priest.
To preserve what has been given us, means often that we have fidelity to accept what is organically taken from us. Even at the expense of a church suffering with lack of attendance, and even more disheartening the reality of closed churches. Bishop Pelchat stated that “consolidating parishes was not a solution to the lack of priests”, I do agree with him here, but neither is married men being ordained one either. For this is a solution that presents other practical concerns and incompatibilities with the state and demands of a husband in their vocation and obligations to the service of their family.
The illness of a suffering and lukewarm faithful is a mistreating, or ignorance of what has been given us by Christ. I say this as one who has come from being all things unfaithful and previously cold as ice to Christ. To accommodate the “lack of priests” available by ordaining married men is to offer a band-aid over a wound bleeding so deeply that will continue to bubble over every band-aid placed there, and never be remedied.
The Church is bleeding out, let it happen, and witness the increase of the rise of the faithful to the Divine Medicine found in Christ alone.
To let the wound heal and be remedied it needs to be exposed to air. It is the sight of it in all it’s gore and sin and mess, and vulnerability that moves one to compassion and from thus to ask practically the right questions. “How did this come to this?” “From where did/does this wound develop?” “What is the medicine?”
We can band-aid a wound that bleeds deeply, and though I am no doctor, I have bled before, and I have had an infection, although minor, it was from not letting a wound air out, it was from covering it up. From such infection develops. To be more dramatic infections can pollute not just one area of where the wound started, but the entire blood of the body, even more drastically rendering some limbs and parts useless to the body that they must be cut to save the life of the body. Long ignored illnesses become unrecognizable.
Where do we stop with our band-aids?
The solution is always fidelity to Christ, the answer is asking Him how to bring to fullness what is currently entrusted to us? We will quickly discover that Jesus Christ equipped us with everything necessary, and will equip us with the grace to endure, this is what fidelity to His Word inspires in me. The great trust that even in moments of seeming desolation and empty pews there is a call to preserve the foundation of The Church’s mission by remaining in Her foundation and not seeking to manipulate discipline to avoid entering the wound.
Perhaps the main goal should be preserving the norms of the Church and through doing such explore and exhaust the options that could help remedy the issue. The wound is there not because of the discipline’s existence, because in and of itself it is the means to the building up of the Kingdom of Christ on earth. Men loyal to their role as priest’s undivided, and also married men devoted entirely to the conditions that their vocation demands of them, of no less importance and necessity in aiding the building up of Christ’s church.
I found Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, helpful to understanding the role of celibacy and the good it is toward supporting the undivided nature of the priesthood and the importance that it is for serving of the flock of Christ
“The priest dedicates himself to the service of the Lord Jesus and of His Mystical Body with complete liberty, which is made easier by his total offering, and thus he depicts more fully the unity and harmony of the priestly life. His ability for listening to the word of God and for prayer increases. Indeed, the word of God, as preserved by the Church, stirs up vibrant and profound echoes in the priest who daily meditates on it, lives it and preaches it to the faithful. Our Lord and Master has said that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” In the world of man, so deeply involved in earthly concerns and too often enslaved by the desires of the flesh, the precious and almost divine gift of perfect continence for the kingdom of heaven stands out precisely as “a special token of the rewards of heaven”; it proclaims the presence on earth of the final stages of salvation with the arrival of a new world, and in a way it anticipates the fulfillment of the kingdom as it sets forth its supreme values which will one day shine forth in all the children of God. This continence, therefore, stands as a testimony to the ever-continuing progress of the People of God toward the final goal of their earthly pilgrimage, and as a stimulus for all to raise their eyes to the things above, “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” and where “our life is hid with Christ in God” until it appears “with him in glory.”
This is what priests have showed to me by bending down to the wounded faithful.
While we know celibacy is not demanded for the nature of the priesthood, and we’ve seemingly arrived at place, albeit, not the first time in the Church’s history to evaluate and consider this discipline, celibacy still remains of important value and harmonious with the priesthood. Celibacy encourages and allows an undivided commitment to the life of the Church and the tender care of the flock entrusted to him.
Part of why I love my priest is because of his celibacy. Part of why I can endure in the teachings of the Church in married life , with all of the challenges ,is because of the shared sacrifice in witnessing the goodness of the men I know who have freely accepted a life of celibacy, who have chosen the cross as I have chosen mine.
I first learned how to seek Christ’s goodness and learn of Him by their sound instruction and witness of faithfulness.
To me, it seems that my primary suggestion would be to first aid the priest’s ability to be as undivided as possible to his pastoral concerns and focuses. As they are often naturally heavily inundated with many administrative ones, perhaps there is greater room for the laity’s involvement, in these areas to alleviate some of this burden to support the ongoing nourishment of the priest’s pastoral role, and their ability to be more present and involved in the spiritual needs of his flock,
The laity’s involvement, by being faithful to their own state of life serves to build up the church community and encourages the flourishing of seeds of faith and participation in the life of the Church. It is here vocations are born and thrive and through fellowship the encouragement to live a life of holiness is fostered. I have seen this successfully operative in many parishes and it results in a vibrant and loving community dedicated to serving Christ in their present capacity. St.Benedict’s Church in Halifax is one I have particularly witnessed through friends to have excellently managed this and is thus filled with a strong presence of the faithful and building up of the church.
Bishop Pelchat continued, “We need to change this way of doing things. We believe that we can rebuild the church, even if it is more humble, to announce the mission of Christ,” “We” is affirming of things long gone astray from Christ. I too believe that the Church in Quebec, and anywhere She suffers can indeed be rebuilt. But there is no more of a humble place than right from the ground.
To be able to peer into the issues, and the ailments. To address the practical matters of instructing the faithful, of fostering a love for the Church, of Catechesis, and of those priests and Bishops who are lovingly committed to their vocations, to shine forth the love and the joy of our Lord Jesus. Celibacy is the herald of joy in a world saturated with sin. the celibate priest announces, and embodies radically the mission of Christ.
Only Christ Himself is the remedy to an empty Church, and a starving laity.
There is no denying that God’s grace rises to meet the role ordained for us. The Roman Catholic Church has a discipline worthy of contemplating and living by obediently. It proclaims to us the good of celibacy, the sustenance of God’s grace, and the consuming way that love must be poured out and bled into the life of the Church by a priest. The way that through him we continue to see and know Christ present before us.
We need be attentive to movements that seem to suggest “change” because of changing circumstances, and not from a lens of love for the Church as She presently is, but from a spirit of accommodation.
For Christ is ever fixed, and truth stands firm. For those things that can be opened and appealed I am sure, such as this, there are grounds for prudent discernment, but I pray that it can earnestly be done in reflection of what is good for the life of the Church, and sometimes the good of life, as we know comes with death on a Cross. Even the cross of a closed Church door.
We believe that the Risen Lord will too find a way to rebuild His Church and never forsake us. We can believe that He will call and prepare good men to serve and lay down their lives. Even if sometimes it appears there are only a few of them, because what God can do with our apparent lack is beyond our understanding. Today on the feast of the Annunciation that we celebrate, it is fitting to recall the potential of a simple “Yes” to God’s ordaining will.
Let us pray that the bold witness of our priests and the faith of the laity may encourage and grow within the church.
I pray, and ask you to pray for the Church in Quebec, and most especially for Bishop Pelchat and those who work alongside him discerning and pondering their present situation. And may they sit with Christ.
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