The meaning of ministry

One of the WDTPRS articles I posted today has a paragraph on the issue of ministry.  This paragraph aroused a comment from an attentive reader.  It is worth our time to tease out that exchange and give it some focus:

During my seminary days the more radical of the faculty forbade us from using the “‘p’-word” (“priest”).  They insisted we were being formed to be “ordained ministers”.   This had the purpose of deemphasizing the distinction between the priest… er um… “ordained minister” and all people… er um…  “non-ordained ministers”, all of whom exercise “ministry” in some vague way.   In essence, “ministry” was pretty much anything people might do.  I have no problem with all people being virtuous and holy, integrating prayer and contemplation together with their daily tasks, raising all their words and deeds to the Father in self-oblation, but not everything is “ministry” and not everyone is a “minister”, in the sense the Church understands the term. Priest and minister are radically different ideas.  Ministers do good things within a community but priests offer sacrifice and are themselves set apart.  Ministers are characterized mostly by their tasks and the priests is distinguished by what the sacrament of Holy Orders has made him ontologically, at the level of his being.   In those days of seminary, they were trying to strip the Mass and the priest of their sacral character.  The same applies to architecture.  Churches had sanctuaries but very often we hear now about “worship spaces”.  The architecture reflects the differences of views.   The general effect of this squishy 60’s-80’s language about Mass and the priest is something like this: “People are gathered together to celebration of Christ’s memory during which one of their number, who happens to be designated by that community, retells the story of the night before He died, when He established the custom about to be reenacted.” 

 

Here is the comment:

 

Your remarks about the use of the term “ministry” rang true to my experience. I believe the problem stems from a reductionist and ultimately protestant ecclesiology which sees the Church in terms of being a club of the like-minded. In this model, reinforced by so much that we now do liturgically, everybody has to have a job. I think it is crucial that we recover the proper sense of our activity (that is the activity of the lay faithful) in Church life as being primarily a preparation for our eternal life with God and that we see our “ministry” in the terms of Lumen Gentium 31, in terms of our secularity. The new Compendium (at para 188) sums this up elegantly in the following terms, “The lay faithful have as their own vocation to seek the Kingdom of God by illuminating and ordering temporal affairs according to the plan of God. They carry out in this way their call to holiness and to the apostolate, a call given to all the baptised.”
Comment by Stephen Morgan — 14 January 2007 @ 12:08 pm

 

Here is my response:

Stephen: This question of ministry may be the most pressing problem to resolve as we start cleaning up the devastation of the last forty years and strive to understand new directions through a "hermeneutic of continuity" rather than of rupture.  Who is the minister?  What is ministry?  We must make distinctions.  I have an anecdote about this.  A couple years ago I went to visit my old friend Card. Mayer (who is still living here in Rome).  As I came to the door for our appointment, I was met by the sister who told me that he was still with his previous guest and could a wait a moment in the chapel.  After a few minutes, I was called and there was met with Card. Mayer and his previous guest Card. Ratzinger.  As we knew each other, it was a rather cordial meeting.  They told me they had been talking about which pressing issues in the Church’s life required attention and they asked me my opinion.  I responded that we had to clarify who a minister is and what ministry means, because today they are so confused as to strip priests and laypeople of their proper identity.  It happens, they told me, that that was preciously the topic they had been talking about during their meeting.   

It is terribly dangerous to the life of the Church, and a horrible act of condescension, to fall into an attitude that lay people do not have dignity in the Church unless they are doing what is proper to the clergy.  In abdicating their proper roles in order to give lay people more to do, clerics actually fall into a subtle but corrosive clericalism: "You aren’t good enough on your own, so I will permit you be like me."

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67 Responses to The meaning of ministry

  1. Brian Anderson says:

    Yes, this “avoidance” language is everywhere, even at Mass. Regularly, during
    Eucharistic prayer #2, for example, I here the priest say “…and all
    who serve…” rather than “…and all the clergy…”. I have even heard priests skip
    the words “…together with N our Pope, N our bishop…”. Did not
    Redemptionis Sacramentum address this abuse?

  2. WRiley says:

    Your thoughts are right on the mark Father. When I was young I had the good fortune of having my formation through priests of Opus Dei. I learned that my task was to go out into the world and act as an apostle in it, while raising the ordinary tasks of my life to God as prayer. That concept of life has provides me with more dignity then I deserve. When I go to to our parish Indult Mass (thanks to our archbishop and the FSSP), I go to unite myself to the Sacrifice of Christ offered by the priest. I do not want to be in the sanctuary doing some task (in the context of a Novus Ordo Mass) that properly belongs to a cleric, my job is to be in the world. The real dignity of the laity is the chance to be in the world and strive to bring it to Christ.

  3. Diane K says:

    You hit the nail on the head with this post. I’ve come to loathe the word “ministry” as it is used today. Some would call scrubbing a toilet a ministry. I stopped using the expression “music minister” in 2005 when the light-bulb went on. Along with “worship space” are these I find difficult to say anymore, right along with the word “gather” for going to Mass. My eye begins to twitch with the word “gather”. Then again, it’s not only something that has been used to dumb-down worship, but is also affiliated with dumbed-down and even heretical liturgical music.

  4. Diane K says:

    WRiley said: “I do not want to be in the sanctuary doing some task (in the context of a Novus Ordo Mass) that properly belongs to a cleric, my job is to be in the world. The real dignity of the laity is the chance to be in the world and strive to bring it to Christ.

    I agree here too. I am a 44 year old American female who spent 2.5 years in a European convent right out of high school. Sadly, I had to leave that convent and it’s traditional habits behind along with the country I was in due to health problems that could not be dealt with there. I received a recommendation from my community to use here in the States to get into another order, but encountered a formation director with degrees in psychology (no more need be said about my gut feelings to get out quick).

    Even decades after I had abandoned pursuit of religious life, going to Mass weekly, everyone always pushed me to get involved in what I call “sanctuary activities” (lector, EMHC, etc.). I almost did it feeling some sense of obligation. I do believe a good many of these folks don’t have a clue because I didn’t. I never got involved, but felt some sense of guilt with so many people telling to do so. This is why I believe it is going to take a long time to correct and it must be done with charity. This mentality is ingrained.

    Jump forward to May 2005 when I discovered the liturgical oasis of Assumption Grotto in Detroit. There are no females in the sanctuary – I noticed this immediately. But, I was very rapidly falling in love with the liturgy there and it’s profound effects on me. I knew in my heart that I would have to abandon any thoughts of being a lector of EMHC. This was a little difficult for me because I was still conditioned from that mentality that said I should “help”.

    As I closed my eyes one weekday and just “took off” with the chant and the beauty of the liturgy my whole being let go and I finally felt the freedom of realizing that I am helping the most by simply being in prayer, in worship and praise of my God.

    People have no idea what authentic worship is and they miss any opportunity to truly encounter God in the Mass with all of these “ministries”.

  5. Adam van der Meer says:

    Some would call scrubbing a toilet a ministry

    Ah, yes. Instead of “Janitor”, we’ll call it the “Minister of Sanitation”. Sort of like calling the “Usher” the “Minister of Hospitality”.

  6. Joseph says:

    While I agree with your post, father, there is only one snag to not, namely being that the Roman tradition does not have a developed theology of the laity. It seems to me the question of the laity and how the laypeople are involved in the Church, in the corporal facit of this very transcendent reality, is a very new one-at least so far as concerns the intesnity of investigation and depth of discussion.There needs to be a time of reflection. Perhaps we need more time?

    In other news, I’ve acquired a copy of the Gregorian Sacramentary! To quote Homer Simpson, “Woo-hoo!”

  7. o.h. says:

    I’m tackling this question from the grassroots this month, as my 3rd grade CCD class approaches the chapter on vocations. Our text, Blest Are We, refrains from defining the word “ministry” until a later chapter (with the following definition: “Ministry: Work God calls us to do. Our ministry is to serve others by working for peace and justice”), but makes it clear that “vocation” is universal and means What You Do At Church.

    The effect is two-pronged. First, “vocation” is never defined but this list is given as exhaustive: pope, priest, bishop, deacon, catechist, musician, lector, altar servers. Religious brothers and sisters aren’t mentioned, nor is marriage, undermining the usual meaning of “vocation” (unless the catechist explicitly subverts the text, which I do try to do, though I would rather just not use it at all). “Holy Orders” and “Matrimony” do make a passing appearance in the margin of another page, defined as “the vocations that the Church celebrates with sacraments.” This is directly contradicted by the rest of the chapter, however, which is explicit that a “vocation” is a job someone has at Mass.

    Second, the children, few of whom are going to have religious vocations, have it reinforced that the really important thing they will be doing in adulthood, as far as the faith is concerned, is busying themselves about the parish. This is disastrous for children who are already convinced that religion is just for the two hours a week they have to spend at Mass and at CCD, and that God is not concerned with what they do outside Mass (except for Being Nice to People, and Being Happy, which is the sum total of the Christian life as presented throughout the BAW series).

  8. Robert says:

    Bingo. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that Vatican II never once uses the word “ministry” in respect of the laity. What ever happened to “apostolate”?

    I’ve sometimes joked, when asked what my “ministry” is (the assumption being that everyone has one), that I am a Minister of Long-Handled Wicker Basket and Numbered Envelope, and my calling is to facilitate the Pecuniary Giving Ministry of the entire People of God, or at least the ones who remembered to stop at an ATM before Mass.

  9. RBrown says:

    While I agree with your post, father, there is only one snag to not, namely being that the Roman tradition does not have a developed theology of the laity. It seems to me the question of the laity and how the laypeople are involved in the Church, in the corporal facit of this very transcendent reality, is a very new one-at least so far as concerns the intesnity of investigation and depth of discussion.There needs to be a time of reflection. Perhaps we need more time?

    That is about 95% untrue. The mendicant friars founded in the 13th century (Dominicans, Franciscans) have had lay associations for hundreds of years. And there is a long tradition in the Benedictines of lay association of Oblates.

    In the 20th century Fr Garrigou LaGrange OP was writing about the universal call to salvation and promoting lay saints long before Vat II. Fr Garrigou retired in the late 50′s And some years before him Fr Arintero OP also promote a theology of the laity.

    And of course there is Frank Duff and the Legion of Mary.

    Further, no one knows more about theology of the laity than Opus Dei because it is the very foundation of their order. My understanding is that the founder Msgr Escriva never said the Novus Ordo.

    Re the 5% in which it is true: The religious orders founded during the Counter Reformation Church were based on the Jesuit model, in which there is not only no women’s branch but also no lay association.

    Of late, the SJ’s have tried to introduce a lay association. It was done partly to counter the power of Opus Dei and C&L but also partly to try to keep control of their US universities.

  10. Bingo. Correct me if I’m wrong …..

    Robert: Are you to young to remember when all the parish bingo ministers gathered for devotions after the Friday night fish fry?

  11. RBrown says:

    If I might make a distinction:

    Vocation refers to a call from God, and so it is a subjective concept. God can call people to becoming a priest or religious or to being married (which is a Sacrament).

    But objectively the priesthood or religious orders are supernatural institutions that have no existence outside of religion. This differs from marriage, which is a natural institution that has been supernaturalized by the Church

    Having said that, contemporary secular culture is so anti-Catholic that it almost requires heroic (i.e., saintly) virtue to maintain a Catholic marriage.

  12. RBrown says:

    Not only is there the Long-handed Wicker Basket Ministry, but there is also the Hospitality Ministry (ushers) and the Flower Ministry. And of course there is the well known Music Ministry. A priest friend told me that when he wanted the music changed, he was told: Father, you are the Sacramental Minister–I am the Music Minister.

    Often after daily mass I find myself called to the Holding the Door Open Ministry.

  13. Fr. D says:

    Fr. Z., Thank you for writing about this and please continue to do so. As the number of priests per capita decreases the idea of the \”Lay Minister\” enters in to save the day. It\’s happening more and more across the States. I\’m happy the Holy Father is aware of it but I don\’t know if he can do anything about it. Remember the 1997 document about collaboration b/w lay and ordained? Pretty much ignored except by faithful bishops.

    In my diocese the bishop is preparing to \”authorize\” about 25 people (mostly women) as our first class of \”Lay Ecclesial Ministers\”. It\’s a shell game. Can\’t ordain us? We\’ll find another way to power and that\’s what this is all about. What they don\’t know is that any pastor younger than 40 won\’t hire them and if we find one intrenched upon arriving at a new assignment, she will be \”let go\”. The talk among the lay ministry crowd is that they deserve tenure since this is a vocation. Some bishops are going so far as to grant this indirectly by not assigning priests to run parishes or only giving a parish to a priest who will play ball with this new vision of \”being church\”. Yuck.

    The more this is exposed the better because you can\’t have it both ways. Either priests, via the grace of Orders, have the charism to teach, govern and sanctify for the salvation of the people or they do not. If everything is ministry then nothing is.

    My approach would be similar to Bishop Finn of KC/St. Joe, Missouri. They had one of the more prominent LEM programs in the country. One of his first acts was to shut it down. He then set a vision for having a priest as pastor of each parish. It\’s all about the vision.

  14. Fr. D: What you wrote is disturbing. I went into your comment and edited it so as to emphasize an important part of your text.

  15. ALL: Again, would you PLEASE begin your comments with the name or handle of the of person you mean to address?

  16. rudi says:

    Manual workers, especially male manual workers used to be the vast majority and mainstay of most Catholic parishes, these seem to be the very people we have lost over the last 40 years.
    The sign we give tends to be that if you haven’t the enthusiasm to become involved in pseudo-clerical activities you are in some sense a second class Catholic. The functions that we seem to value seem to favour the female management class.
    I am sure there is a connection to be drawn.

  17. Ave Maria! says:

    At Mass this morning in my round church (so we can better greet Christ in each other), we ang songs about ourselves and how wonderful we are. There was a little army of ‘Eucharistic Ministers ‘ about the alter, one of which pours out the Precious Blood and one who divyies up the Hosts like potato chips. Yes, we are all ‘ministers’ here.

    But I think the worst I personally encountered was in Saginaw a few years ago (before Bp. Carlson). The priest is the ‘sacramental minister’ you see. I went to ‘Mass’ at the cathedral where a ‘sister’ did most of the Mass including the homily and then the priest stepped in tfrom the wings for the consecration. The catedral was wreckovated and in the round with chairs and a big screen at one end. I hated the distractions then and do now. Only the beautiful windows were left untouched-for some reason. After Mass, my cousin and I went to see if it were possible to bring Holy Communion to my bedridden grandfather but we were told we were the sacrament! That was the second time that week in Saginaw that I heard that I was now the sacrament. I wanted to say, but did not, “Yes, but Grandpa can’t eat me!”

    My diocese has also been ‘empowing the laity’ for some years which is mostly older women. I am sorry for all the ‘catechists’ and ‘liturgists’ trained by my diocese for they think only peace and justice initiatives have any merit. Try to promote a devotion such as adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the big wall will appear before you. As one liberated sister said, “We do not do that sort of thing anymore’. That is the truth. Our Lord is not the focus and center of our worship spaces.

    There is no Latin Mass allowed in my liberated diocese but if I could get to one that was Church approved, I think I would go there in a heartbeat. I wished I had a missal with me this morning from the TLM with prayers in it to be able to pray at Mass; it is very hard in the present situation, I find. And I love Mass and go daily but Sundays are the most difficult.
    However the miracle still takes place.

    I love what Mr. Wiley said in his comment. Yes, we have lost the concept of the duty of the laity to live our faith in the midst of the world.

  18. Ave Maria,

    I wished I had a missal with me this morning from the TLM with prayers in it to be able to pray at Mass;

    I have copied (from a TLM missal) the offertory prayers below and inserted them in the Magnificat that I carry with me to new Mass – so I can sandwich them (as indicated) around the unsatisfying “Blessed be God for ever” responses. Also, particularly if the celebrant uses the quickie E.P. II, I may turn to the Roman Canon and try to hit the high points privately, so at least my own personal prayer is more complete.

    Offertory Prayers

    Receive, O holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this spotless host which I, thine unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my living and true God, for my own countless sins, offences, and negligences, and for all present; as also for all faithful Christians, living or dead; that it may avail for my own and for their salvation unto life everlasting. Amen.

    [ Blessed be God for ever. ]

    O God, who, in creating human nature, didst wonderfully dignify it, and hast still more wonderfully restored it, grant that, by the Mystery of this water and wine, we may become partakers of His divine nature, who deigned to become partaker of our human nature, even Jesus Christ our Lord, Thy Son, who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God: world without end. Amen.
    We offer to thee, O Lord, the chalice of salvation, beseeching Thy clemency, that it may ascend before Thy divine Majesty as a sweet savor, for our salvation and for that of the whole world. Amen.
    Accept us, O Lord, in the spirit of humility and contrition of heart, and grant that the sacrifice which we offer this day in thy sight may be pleasing to Thee, O Lord God.

    [ Blessed be God for ever. ]

    Come, O almighty and eternal God, the Sanctifier, and bless this Sacrifice, prepared for the glory of Thy holy Name.
    Receive, O holy Trinity, this oblation which we make to Thee, in memory of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honor of Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and of these and of all the Saints, that it may avail unto their honor and our salvation, and may they vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven, whose memory we celebrate on earth. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

  19. Stephen Morgan says:

    FrZ, I am delighted to be in such exalted company.

    I am a confirmed believer in the theory of unintended consequences and recent Church history only strengthens my belief. What distresses me about all this is that the notions of lay apostolate and of the universal call to holiness have been lost in some kind of quasi-marxist power game in the Church. My heart leapt with joy when first I read the Servant of God John Paul II’s encyclical “Christifideles Laici”: here was a vision of what it was to be a lay Catholic in the post-conciliar Church. Sadly almost everything it commends is ignored and almost everything we suffer finds not even the slightest support there.

    To adopt for a moment the language of so many of these ecclesial bunny-huggers, the problem is that people don’t like moving out of their comfort zone. So much easier to go about being a Catholic in Church, at the Presbytery, on this committee or doing that non ministry than being identifiably Catholic in lives of devotion, charity and service.

  20. WRiley says:

    I read with sadness the posting of Ave Maria and Father D. The inversion that is being passed off has nothing to do with the Second Vatican Council. Apostolicam Actuositatem states:

    To the apostles and their successors Christ has entrusted the office of
    teaching, sanctifying and governing in his name and by his power. But the
    laity are made to share in the priestly, prophetical and kingly office
    of Christ; they have therefore, in the Church and in the world, their own
    assingment in the mission of the whole People of God. . . . The characteristic
    of the lay state being a life led in the midst of the world and of secular
    affairs, laymen are called by God to make of their apostolate, through the
    vigor of their Christian spirit, a leaven in the world.

    Now that is exciting stuff! This idea that the laity have to function as or replace the clergy is contrary to the very identity of a layperson and the mission Christ has entrusted to each laywoman and man. The place for the layity is in the operating room, the classroom, the factory, the mom involved with her kids school, or the courtroom, not purifying the sacred vessel while father sits down. Converting and sactifying the world is not for wimps and it takes more effort then an hour on Sunday! The inversion that is going on in some locations will not bear any fruit and is doomed to failure. The question we can’t answer is what are the temporal and eternal consequences of this grave situation?

  21. nab says:

    rudi: I completely agree, that was my first thought when reading this entry. Because there are so many “lay ministers” whether as EMHCs or lectors or whatever, that we have “those people who are REALLY INVOLVED IN THE CHURCH” and those people WHO ONLY PRAY A LOT.” We make these little lay hierarchies, and sometimes undermine the value of raising a family because what’s really important, obviously, is being on the parish council.

    Ave Maria!: The reason why stained glass windows remain untouched most places is because people like to take wedding/First Holy Communion pictures in front of them. Gotta give the people what they want!

    Anybody else: What is a lay ecclesial minister? Is it like a parish business manager/head of liturgy or something? I never heard of it before.

    What I really can’t understand is: Why don’t we let our priests be spiritual fathers, and our religious be spiritual mothers and brothers and sisters? I realize that a lot of them have dropped the ball, but didn’t we (the laity) enable that?

  22. michigancatholic says:

    The simple fact of the matter is that the formal Church structure cannot go where I go everyday–among people who never enter a Catholic church building–the Masons, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, secularists and others with whom I work and among my relatives who are not Catholic. [I'm a convert.] For them, I am an example of a living, breathing, believing Catholic who is okay, not too weird, well-educated, reasonably moral and decent…but who believes all that Catholic “stuff.” It makes the Church real for them the way that no “lay minister” could because they would knowingly never tolerate one. [These people pull no punches--lay ecclesial ministers are bogus anyway and they know we have priests. It's in the movies. ;) ]

    In the inevitable discussions of the day (news, etc) I can carefully point out the Church’s providential and gracious good news to them. I can quietly make the choices that show I believe. I can pray for these people. That and my personal relationship with the Lord are my vocation, but real laypeople say “job” (but never “ministry”).

    It pains me that the Church is currently in such a mess. And that it has ceased to offer the kind of spiritual guidance, scholarship and beauty that it should. The notion has become commonplace that it is not the Church’s business to do any of these things. It’s a huge aberration of history. And the dumbing down of catechesis, music, liturgy and the education of priests has taken the brunt of this new way. That’s wrong and for this Catholics are paying and will yet pay more.

    People wonder why they should bother to be Catholic. That’s our fault. We are not clear enough about why we are Catholic and what it might mean. And it gets played out in 100 ways which speak louder than words. I am always shocked when I find it, but it happens all the time. [I'm thinking of the latest insult (beyond the normal liturgical schlock, mind you)--the incredibly blase approach to the Jan 1st holy day in this neck of the woods. Catholics, even clergy, don't seem to know what to do with holy days out here.]

    You know, there is supposed to be a huge disjoint between what the Church does and what we see on the streets, as long as the world is not converted. Laypeople should see this because it’s there. It’s no good trying to bring the church down to the level of the street, because the street is not all we want to have, in the end, you understand. Laypeople are supposed to head to the streets as sons and daughters of the Church, engaged in the world, but not fully–working while seeing what lies beyond. It’s the Church’s job to give us a picture of that “beyond” which we can take with us and share. She’s currently doing a pretty poor job of that important primary task of hers. The world is more than it appears and it’s the Church’s job (and ours as her children) to make it known, very well known.

    Can you point it out when your mother takes to alcohol and gambling and insists on behaving like a slovenly bum who has nothing to say? Yes, rather firmly but kindly, while still loving her.

  23. michigancatholic says:

    BTW, there are many lay saints who form a very firm foundation for a “spirituality of the laity.” It takes a little effort to read some of the lives of these saints, but nevertheless they’re there.

    And, um, I have to point out that being a decent lay catholic(which involves that awful word obedience) is very difficult, with some really painful choices. If reading a few books is a problem, then the whole thing is probably going to be a problem, honestly.

    Catholics have got to get the lead out of their trousers. If we refuse to do it voluntarily, history will make sure it happens the hard way. That’s just how these things work.

    PS, Fr. Z. A few of your anti-spam words run of the box at the right on some computers and one can’t see what to type!

  24. Jeff says:

    Brian Anderson:

    But “clergy” includes “deacons” does it not?

    And deacons ARE ministers, or much more like them than priests. No diss: I have a particular fondness for deacons.

  25. Jeff says:

    To All:

    You know, sometimes I think the Holy Spirit allowed all this nonsense so that we could rediscover the Truth by really plumbing the depths of the alternatives.

    Modernism is such an all-pervading and fungus like heresy, it’s impossible to defeat it with mere words. And even “tough action” doesn’t do the job: Ask St. Pius X and the Cardinal Merry del Val. You can endlessly purge and purge…people just hunker down and mutter to each other in the shadows til a brighter day dawns.

    Modernists are perfectly happy to “reinterpret” endlessly and refuse to be pinned down. And “actions” aren’t “dogmas” and can’t be dealt with easily in the same way.

    Most of this stuff just seeps in from our culture and letting us have our wish about all this marvellous, innovatory stuff just makes utterly clear the salvific value of all that it was intended to sweep away. The end result of the wish-fulfillment is senescent gloop like in pre-Carlson Saginaw–or modern Anglicanism.

    The old-guard revolutionaries and a few of their idle spawn will continue to revel in the stuff, but the new generations have the privelege of rediscovering the Royal Country they came from and, in Eliot’s words, are able to “know the place for the first time.”

    Perhaps there was no other way to effect a purge.

  26. WRiley says:

    Jeff, well said! I know only my little patch of the Church (which may not be the Shire, but it’s not half bad) seems to be on the road to the Royal Country.

  27. Andrew says:

    Funny, lately I’ve been thinking that all of the mess following Vatican II is due to one basic fundamental misconception: an assumption that the sheep do not need a shepherd, that somehow the sheep will find green pastures on their own. This goes also for the liturgy: we think that everyone needs to be asked his opinion about it. That’s a mistake I think. The assumption that bishops and priests will do the right thing on their own initiative, is mistaken. The right thing must be imposed from the chief shepherd. We will not have true liturgical renewal unless someone puts down the law: this is what you will do and this is what you will not do. Period! The ‘tridentine’ Mass is designed like that. It gives the priest room to do what he is supposed to do what he only can do what no one else can even attempt to do. The laity can participate with engaged participation (actuosa participatio) but there is no way they can play or pretend being what they are not, as opposed to the Novus Ordo where the underlying assumption is: see how far you can take this, see how you too can be a priest, (raise your hands, handle the sacred species, take charge of the action, make decisions, etc, etc).

  28. dcs says:

    Brian Anderson writes:
    I have even heard priests skip the words “…together with N our Pope, N our bishop…”.

    Wow, who would have thought — Novus ordo sedevacantists! OK, my tongue is in cheek but . . . there’s a word for omitting the prayer for the Pope from the Eucharistic Prayer — schism.

  29. RBrown says:

    I am a confirmed believer in the theory of unintended consequences and recent Church history only strengthens my belief. What distresses me about all this is that the notions of lay apostolate and of the universal call to holiness have been lost in some kind of quasi-marxist power game in the Church.

    Some months ago a priest friend asked me what I thought were the most important theological works of the 20th cent. I told him that Garrigou’s “Three Ages” had to be among them because it affirmed the universal call to holiness but also still upholds the superiority of the priestly and religious life.

  30. Thomas says:

    Today, one of the rare times I go to a “liturgy” (Novus Ordo Mass), the woman who announced the beginning of mass used the “P” word – PRESIDER! “Let us stand to welcome our presider.” Oh, well, makes the 150 mi. round trip worth it to avoic this nonsense.

  31. WRiley says:

    “I told him that Garrigou’s “Three Ages” had to be among them because it affirmed the universal call to holiness but also still upholds the superiority of the priestly and religious life.”

    Regarding RBrown’s comment above on the “Three Ages,” I think that type of statement in a vacuum carrys with it the seeds of the problem we face today. Say the janitor at the cathederal lives a life of heroic virtue by sanctifying the ordinary dies and goes to heaven, while his Grace the archbishop, who possesses the fullness of orders and led a celibate but uncharitable life, dies and goes to hell – does it matter at the end of time to the archbishop that he had a superiority in his state of life over the janitor? What truly matters in the response to the vocation that God has given each person.

  32. Fr Ephraem says:

    Fr Z, thanks for this post. I was once appointed administrator in a parish which had been run by a clique of modernists for over a decade. The usual desacralising and “declericalising” had taken place. There was no kneeling during Mass at all. The acolytes and special ministers gathered around the altar for the Canon as though concelebrants. The choir formed up behind the priest like a Methodist conventicle. The priest’s only job was to “empower” the laity – not in a spiritual sense but in the Gramscian. His job is seen as stepping aside for someone else to his job. This is the sort of thing that is taught at seminaries and diocesan education courses. It is absolute poison. Thankfully I was only in that Hussite hell-hole for a few months, but the liturgy was again recognisably Catholic by the time I left. It requires a great deal of fortitude to face down such mindless hatred of the Catholic faith – inculcated by priests more interested in being well thought of by their tiny group of sans cullottes supporters. I was reported to the chancery after my first Sunday for infringing the rights of the faithful to the chalice (there had been a hepatitis outbreak), using incense and having cross and candles on as on the altar

  33. Paul Murnane says:

    Thomas,

    Just this morning our pastor made great pains to make sure we all knew he was just a “presider” at “Eucharist” (used in lieu of “Mass”) and he can’t do it alone, all of us celebrate with him. A positive, though, my wife sensed my reaction and we had a fruitful discussion. She, a convert of almost 3 years, now sees the urgent need for change. Since her philosophy is using honey instead of vinegar, she promptly invited the pastor for dinner this week to start some dialogue as per the suggestions of Fr. Z, Fr. Fox and all the other fantastic priests who comment here and elsewhere. We’ll see how it goes.

  34. Fr Arsenius says:

    Robert observes: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that Vatican II never once uses the word “ministry” in respect of the laity. What ever happened to “apostolate”?

    Robert is correct. The documents promulgated by the Father of the Second Vatican council were consistent in their use of the terms “ministry” and “apostolate”. “Ministry” is used only to describe what the clergy does, while what the laity does is described solely by the term “apostolate”.

    The confusion in the terminology seems to have originated in documents that were disseminated after the Council, a good example of “the clericalization of the laity and the laicization of the clergy.”

    The true Council was never fully implemented because so many of the clergy were [mal]formed to waste their vocations trying to be like the laity – spreading the Gospel in the world – while the laity were wrongly taught that their true role was in the Church…like being lectors, acolytes, EMHCs, etc. ad nauseam. End result: the clergy have not been ruling, teaching, and sanctifying the people, and the laity have not been carrying on the task of evangelization out in the world. No doubt our Enemy is very pleased at the outcome.

  35. Sean says:

    God bless you Father Ephraem

  36. Jordan Potter says:

    “Father, you are the Sacramental Minister—I am the Music Minister.”

    The proper response to such impertinence, I think, would be, “You mean you WERE the music minister.”

  37. Joseph says:

    RBrown,

    I would kindly disagree with you. Escriva has made a great contribution no doubt, however, I do not believe we’re dealing with a matured theology of the laity. There has yet to be produced a great theological tome concerning the laity, one influencing subsequent doctrine and dogma. I can tell I seem to have irked you with my previous comment. Such was not the intent. But, again, from my perspective, our tradition’s theology of the laity is in its infancy.

    Joseph

  38. Jordan Potter says:

    “Just this morning our pastor made great pains to make sure we all knew he was just a ‘presider’ at ‘Eucharist’ (used in lieu of ‘Mass’) and he can’t do it alone, all of us celebrate with him.”

    Of course that’s true in the sense that the priest offers the sacrifice on behalf of us, and you can’t offer a sacrifice on behalf of people who don’t exist. But it’s false in the sense that a priest needs any laity to be present for the sacrifice to be valid and effective. That’s why the traditional word for the role of the laity at Mass is “assistance.” We assist the priest, but in the sense that the assistance we give is not absolutely indispensable, such that he would be incapable of offering the sacrifice without our assistance.

  39. Thomas says:

    Fr. D,

    This kind of stuff confirms my belief that the TLM is the mass of the future. The new “liturgy” and its attendant abuses and innovations cannot survive in the long run.

  40. michigancatholic says:

    The ministerial priesthood isn’t superior to the laity. It’s just different. We all have our parts to play in the drama of salvation. This really is very important to understanding this crisis. Priests are not laity and have no business trying to be laity. Laity are not priests and have no business trying to be priests. Isn’t there enough work to do????

  41. michigancatholic says:

    Dcs,

    There are tons of Pauline mass sedevacantists.

    These are the “everything is about our community” people who refuse to obey the Congregations & the Pope because, as they’ll readily tell you, they think their rulings are invalid–rulings on liturgy, birth control, gay sex, female ordination, married priests and on and on. These folks sometimes look to their bishops like little popes, or so sometimes to their little parish organizations and activities. They are protestant. Unfortunately they occupy the buildings and run the copy machines in LA and many other places.

  42. Paul Murnane says:

    Jordan,
    Re: “Of course that’s true in the sense that the priest offers the sacrifice on behalf of us, and you can’t offer a sacrifice on behalf of people who don’t exist. But it’s false in the sense that a priest needs any laity to be present for the sacrifice to be valid and effective. That’s why the traditional word for the role of the laity at Mass is “assistance.” We assist the priest, but in the sense that the assistance we give is not absolutely indispensable, such that he would be incapable of offering the sacrifice without our assistance.”

    Everything Father said was in terms of how we are “building community” and that the community gathering around the banquest table was the primary reason we were there, etc. etc. It was straignt from the LA archidiocese playbook, which is where I’m located. Of course, right after the homily, he asked everyone to stand and hold out their right hand so that “we could all bless” the RCIA candidates and catechumens as they left Mass. The blurring of the line between priests and laity is in full swing here.

  43. Jordan,

    Of course that’s true in the sense that the priest offers the sacrifice on behalf of us, and you can’t offer a sacrifice on behalf of people who don’t exist.

    Of course, you know full well that the communion of saints exists in all its glory and is present at every Mass, whether or not any of them happen to be physically present in the room itself. But perhaps your priest doesn’t know this. Of all the recent tragedies in the Church, I know of none greater than the lack of formation of the priests of a certain generation. I recall an account by by one, that his single-term liturgy course in the seminary was taught by a woman dissident using as textbook a slim paperback written by a Methodist.

  44. RBrown says:

    WRiley

    Regarding RBrown’s comment above on the “Three Ages,” I think that type of statement in a vacuum carrys with it the seeds of the problem we face today. Say the janitor at the cathederal lives a life of heroic virtue by sanctifying the ordinary dies and goes to heaven, while his Grace the archbishop, who possesses the fullness of orders and led a celibate but uncharitable life, dies and goes to hell – does it matter at the end of time to the archbishop that he had a superiority in his state of life over the janitor? What truly matters in the response to the vocation that God has given each person.

    Yes, it matters at the end of time because the consequences of our deeds continue after our death. The evil done by a bad bishop is greater than the evil done by a janitor–corruptio optimi est pessima.

    When a man has an appointment with an inventment advisor or physician, he expects each to be more familiar with investing or medicine than he is. Why? Simply because they have dedicated their work to their professions.

    By virtue of Baptism all are generally called to perfection, but the bishop and religious are specificly called to it, thus are formally dedicated and obligated–the bishop according to his office and the religious according to his vows.

    Now the Greek and Hebrew equivalents of the English word “holy” means “set apart, dedicated”. A bishop, priest, or religious is someone set apart and dedicated to God such that they are not required to be involved in those trivial matters that distract us laics from what directly pertains to God and His Church.

    By virtue of Baptism all are generally called to perfection, but the bishop and religious are specificly called to it, thus are formally dedicated and obligated–the bishop according to his office and the religious according to his vows.

  45. RBrown says:

    The ministerial priesthood isn’t superior to the laity. It’s just different.

    Don’t confuse “superior” with being “morally superior”.

    But by virtue of the circumstances of their lives, they are provided with the means (and obligated) to be morally superior.

  46. From Redemptionis Sacramentum:

    [45.] To be avoided is the danger of obscuring the complementary relationship between the action of clerics and that of laypersons, in such a way that the ministry of laypersons undergoes what might be called a certain “clericalization”, while the sacred ministers inappropriately assume those things that are proper to the life and activity of the lay faithful.

    [Cf. Pope John Paul II, Allocution to the Conference of Bishops of the Antilles, 7 May 2002, n. 2: AAS 94 (2002) pp. 575-577; Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles laici, 30 December 1988, n. 23: AAS 81 (1989) pp. 393-521, here pp. 429-431; Congregation for the Clergy et al., Instruction, Ecclesiae de mysterio, 15 August 1997, Theological Principles, n. 4: AAS 89 (1997) pp. 860-861.]

  47. RBrown says:

    I would kindly disagree with you. Escriva has made a great contribution no doubt, however, I do not believe we’re dealing with a matured theology of the laity. There has yet to be produced a great theological tome concerning the laity, one influencing subsequent doctrine and dogma. I can tell I seem to have irked you with my previous comment. Such was not the intent. But, again, from my perspective, our tradition’s theology of the laity is in its infancy.

    Joseph

    It irked me because I think it is one of the foundations for the confusion in the Church today.

    You’re right, there hasn’t been a theological tome on the laity, but there also hasn’t been one on the priesthood. There are various books on various aspects of the priesthood and apostolates of priests. Basically, a priest is someone who offers the Sacrifice of the Mass and who is obligated to pray the Breviary. There are priests who administer the other Sacraments, but not all do. There are priests whose Breviary obligation exceeds that of a diocesan priest. There are priests whose vocation emphasizes the intellectual life, and there are priests who are missionariies. There are priests who live as hermits, and there are priests who are professional diplomats, members of the Vatican diplomatic corps.

    To me there have been two main changes in the understanding of the layman.

    First, theology now considers work not merely punishment for original sin. It is now seen in its generative aspect–which mirrors not only the Creation, but also the Trinity and Incarnation.

    Second, previously the laity has been primarily involved in matters of justice and economics. But there has been a massive change in the lay situation due to the pressure exerted by secular culture and governments. How the laity should react in secular culture and archdemocratic societies is problematic. Opus Dei has been much involved in this.

    Example: Many years ago I studied under a man named John Senior, who, despite being a prof at a state univ, was instrumental in the conversion of perhaps as many as 150 students. Two of his ex students are nuns in the south of France, perhaps as many as 20 are now priests, and one is a bishop. He was also the driving force in the Benedictine foundation at Clear Creek.

    Obviously, not every layman can do what John Senior did or suffer (among other things, a brick was thrown threw his living room window). But the laity has to be involved in some way in the conversion of others. I cannot offer specific ways, but I do know that the lay vocation does not include pretending to be clerics at mass.

  48. Joseph says:

    RBrown,

    “but I do know that the lay vocation does not include pretending to be clerics at mass.”

    I never said it did, nor do I think anything I’ve written implies such or that I entertain the notion.

    Thus, I’m somewhat bewildered, if that was/is the root of your reaction to my comments, as to how anything I’ve written could have sparked such a response.

    Regarding the priesthood, we’ve had many of our greatest theologians compose treatise on the priesthood or discuss at great length the profound theology of the priesthood (something I read by Athanasius whilst in seminary springs to mind). There is a substantial literary tradition on the subject. As for the laity…in my estimation, again, it’s in its infancy, whereas the priesthood is probably in its teenage years (the rebellion of certain priests against their priesthood would seem quite indicative of it).

    Joseph

  49. WRiley says:

    RBrown wrote:

    “Yes, it matters at the end of time because the consequences of our deeds continue after our death. The evil done by a bad bishop is greater than the evil done by a janitor—corruptio optimi est pessima.”

    I do not think you have answered my question on the ultimate relevance to the soul in hell concerning his mortal superiority in relation to other states of life. I think a better course to follow is what is the vocation of an individual and how can they attain sanctity in that state of life.

    “Now the Greek and Hebrew equivalents of the English word “holy” means “set apart, dedicated”. A bishop, priest, or religious is someone set apart and dedicated to God such that they are not required to be involved in those trivial matters that distract us laics from what directly pertains to God and His Church.”

    St. Josemaria taught that it is in exactly the ordinary that the Christian will encounter a means to sanctity.

  50. “Ministry” always sounds kind of “1984.”
    Bishops’ conferences will soon be divided into three main branches:
    for catechisis: MINISTRY OF TRUTH,
    for work with the poor: MINISTRY OF PLENTY,
    and for work with those who are more traditional: MINISTRY OF LOVE. :P

  51. nab says:

    Roman Sacristan: LOL. I thought I was the only one who got creeped out by “ministry” Your examples are great!

  52. Fr Bede Rowe says:

    All this “ministry” makes it very difficult for us priests. I just want to say Mass, and feed the people with the spiritual food that they need to spread the presence of God in the world.

    Just leave me to the sacraments. I’m good at them. I am rubbish at pretending to be a lay person – and as soon as someone finds out that a priest is masquerading, then they just feel betrayed.

    Let me do my bit – and others can do theirs. (For goodness sake, next patients will be wanting to have have an active part in their own operations!)

    It’s not really very complicated…

  53. RBrown says:

    I never said it did, nor do I think anything I’ve written implies such or that I entertain the notion.

    I never said you did.

    Regarding the priesthood, we’ve had many of our greatest theologians compose treatise on the priesthood or discuss at great length the profound theology of the priesthood (something I read by Athanasius whilst in seminary springs to mind). There is a substantial literary tradition on the subject. As for the laity…in my estimation, again, it’s in its infancy, whereas the priesthood is probably in its teenage years (the rebellion of certain priests against their priesthood would seem quite indicative of it).

    St Thomas wrote no Treatise on the Priesthood. He does take up certain questions on the Sacrament of Holy Orders, both in the Supplement of the Summa and the Summa Contra Gentiles, but there is no treatise on the Priesthood.

    I’m not aware of any work by St Athanasius on the Priesthood, but I have read St John Chrysostom’s.

    As I noted above, there are various priestly apostolates. And so there are specific works dealing with them from various aspects, among which by Garrigou LaGrange and von Balthasar. But I know of no Treatise on the Priesthood.

  54. RBrown says:

    I do not think you have answered my question on the ultimate relevance to the soul in hell concerning his mortal superiority in relation to other states of life. I think a better course to follow is what is the vocation of an individual and how can they attain sanctity in that state of life.

    You write as if they’re mutually exclusive: My point is that the universal call to perfection does not exclude the superiority of the priesthood and religious life. Both principles must be held.

    BTW, sanctity is not attained–it is a gift of the Divine mercy and a reward for participating in that mercy.

    I prefer to consider the states of life according to the reward of heaven rather than the punishment of hell. Those in the priesthood and religious life have more of an opportunity to receive the Sacraments–it is almost impossible for most people who are not retired to attend daily mass.

    St. Josemaria taught that it is in exactly the ordinary that the Christian will encounter a means to sanctity.

    So does St Thomas and every saint who ever lived. And, as I noted above, so does Garrigou LaGrange.

  55. RBrown says:

    The ministerial priesthood isn’t superior to the laity. It’s just different.

    If it isn’t superior, then celibacy is unjust.

  56. RBrown says:

    “Ministry” always sounds kind of “1984.”

    Some years ago a priest told me that when he was in seminary (pre 1984), they all had to visit a Protestant seminary. Afterwards, they made fun of all the “ministry this” and “ministry that” they had heard from the Protestants. Then he added: “And now we’re talking exactly like they were.”

  57. WRiley says:

    RBrown,
    “… it is almost impossible for most people who are not retired to attend daily mass.”

    I disagree. People who live in metropolitan areas have a multitude of chances to find a Mass. Where there is a desire, there is ususally a means.

    “I prefer to consider the states of life according to the reward of heaven rather than the punishment of hell. Those in the priesthood and religious life have more of an opportunity to receive the Sacraments … ”

    The current reality of the Church demonstrates (as do the fathers) that being around the holy is not indicative of any personal holiness.

  58. michigancatholic says:

    WRiley,

    Not so. If one doesn’t live in a big city, it’s very difficult to find a daily mass to attend. Most of them start around 8 or 9AM and sure enough are totally populated by a handful of older ladies who are regulars.

  59. michigancatholic says:

    RBrown: I’m still trying to figure out your comment above.

    Priests are superior because they get compensated that way for not having women? What? (The most likely–I expect–of several awful interpretations. You must be a guy.)

    If you are talking about hierarchial superiority, then that’s one thing. Moral or spiritual superiority is another. And then there’s the matter of the context. Let’s be clear.

  60. Joshua says:

    michigan catholic wrote:If you are talking about hierarchial superiority, then that’s one thing. Moral or spiritual superiority is another. And then there’s the matter of the context. Let’s be clear.

    The graces the priest have are certainly given for the sanctification of others and do not, merely by having them, make the priest holy. That is true and admitted. Nevertheless, he is superior to the laity in several ways:

    1. Jurisdiction or hiearchial- in that he is given charge over the laity under his care, and is a superior

    2. In virtue of the power of order. The very fact that the priest has the grace to be able to offer the Mass is a superiority over the layperson in power, just as the power to give the priesthood make the bishop inherently superior to the priest, and not just so because of rank (one might then hold what many Scholastics did, that the episcopate is not a holy order but an exalted priest)

    3. But more to the point, the priest is ontologically superior to the layperson because he is in persona Christi. All Christians are made to partake in Christ’s divine life in baptism, the priest (to a lesser degree the deacon) this participation is more perfect. He actually acts in the person of Christ, and in him Christ is more present than in the layman by virtue of Holy Orders. Hence why in the past a serious penalty was attached if you struck a priest (and even now to strike a bishop carries latae sententiae penalties).

    The priesthood and celibacy are also superior in themselve because they are more perfect forms of life. Indeed, the highest form of life is the contemplative. It is objectively higher. Now this does not mean that all who take these vocations are holier, but that their form of life is superior in itself for attaining holiness. This cuts both ways, if they fall short in holiness we remember “to whom much is given much is expected”. Now the lay life might be superior for this or that individual, but not in itself (how could it be superior to the highest act man can do, contemplation?).

    As for the charge that this is no “theology” of the laity, that seems wrong. We have a theology of the Christian life, of baptism, of marriage, and so on. It seems to me baptism is common to both priest and lay, the priest has a perfection added to him. Likewise a married person has a certain perfection of the Christian life. “Laity” seems to be just the Christian life taken as common through baptism, and insofar as “theology” differs concerning it seems to me only to come up insofar as one speaks of moral or spiritual theology in married life, or in civil life, but there is no real ontological reality of the laity except what they have in common with by baptism and confirmation. Anything that make the laity ontologically different than a pagan a priest has as well. The difference seems only that the laity are those who are in the world.

  61. RBrown says:

    Priests are superior because they get compensated that way for not having women? What? (The most likely—I expect—of several awful interpretations. You must be a guy.)

    Every hear of women religious? Apparently not.

    The principle is the same for anyone, including women religious, who takes a vow of celibacy.

    The nature of sacrifice is that something good is given up for something better. Marriage is a natural right. If someone voluntarily renounces this right, it must be for a good that is higher than marriage.

    Thus celibacy is not a good in itself but relatively. For example, it makes no sense for someone to renounces marriage in order to be a better computer programmer or football player.

    If you are talking about hierarchial superiority, then that’s one thing. Moral or spiritual superiority is another. And then there’s the matter of the context. Let’s be clear.

  62. RBrown: Who are you talking to? Did you not get the memo?

  63. RBrown says:

    If you are talking about hierarchial superiority, then that’s one thing. Moral or spiritual superiority is another. And then there’s the matter of the context. Let’s be clear.

    I suggest you read all my comments above. I am referring to the state of life. The state of life for a priest or religious is morally and spiritually superior to that of a laicus. Why? Simply because the life of a priest or religious of itself is dedicated to moral and spiritual goods. For example, it is set up so that they always have access to prayer and the Sacraments (by which they become spiritual and moral) and don’t need to pursue material goods.

    Further, by virtue of their vocations they are obligated to dedicate themselves to take advantage of such access.

    This obligation, by which they have consecrated their celibacy to God and His Church, is why for a priest or religious fornication is a much more grievous sin than for someone in the lay state.

  64. RBrown says:

    Fr Z: Who are you talking to? Did you not get the memo?

    Sorry–in a hurry and keep forgetting.

  65. RBrown says:

    On the other hand, I’m talking to anyone who wants to listen.

  66. RBrown says:

    The current reality of the Church demonstrates (as do the fathers) that being around the holy is not indicative of any personal holiness.
    Comment by WRiley

    Two responses:

    1. As noted above: Corruptio optimi est pessima–the corruption of the best is the worst.

    2. The current reality of the Church indicates why we need reform. Priests and religious now are often placed in circumstances that undermine many of those things to which they are formally dedicated.

  67. RBrown says:

    The current reality of the Church demonstrates (as do the fathers) that being around the holy is not indicative of any personal holiness.
    Comment by WRiley

    Two responses:

    1. As noted above: Corruptio optimi est pessima–the corruption of the best is the worst.

    2. The current reality of the Church indicates why we need reform. Priests and religious now are often placed in circumstances that undermine many of those moral and spiritual goods to which they are formally dedicated.