Our Life in the Sacraments

Last week we looked at five of the seven sacraments of the Church This week I shall explain about the two great sacraments of ministry:  Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony.

Holy Orders are the second level of the three ordained functions within the ministry of Jesus Christ. The first level is ordination to the Diaconate (from Diakonos/Diakonoz), meaning one who serves.  Deacons may not hear Confessions nor confect the Holy Eucharist. During the sacred Liturgy his function is as minister of the cup (chalice). Permanent deacons may be married—but the marriage must come first. If his wife dies, he may ask to enter into the priesthood but he must begin anew his seminary training.

The third level of sacred ministry is that of Bishop (from Episkopos/Episkopoz), which loosely means overseer.  I say “loosely” because his role is so much more.  His is the fullness of the priesthood…he is truly Vicar of Christ according to Lumen Gentium #27.  All priests must be ordained by a bishop; all bishops must be ordained by three bishops. For an eye-opening experience on the continuity of the Church in terms of Episcopal lineage/apostolic succession, go to this site, and find your bishop’s name.  Read who consecrated him and then follow the line backwards…all the way to the 1500’s—likely when formal records were first kept. Even today 95% of priests and bishops (even Pope Francis) trace their apostolic heritage through Cardinal Rebiba.  His was a time of great battles amongst the various Italian states so it is no surprise that records prior to him are scant, if any.

The second level of sacred ministry is the priesthood (from Presbyteros/Presbutepoz), meaning elder or priest. Priests are “ordained for sacrifice”—a term all Protestants took out of their ordination rites many years ago because they do not believe that the Eucharist is a sacrifice…they believe it to be symbolic only.

Sacred ordination is one of the three sacraments that leaves an indelible mark on the priest’s soul (the other two are Baptism and Confirmation).  He is, according to the rite of ordination a “priest forever”.

When priests are ordained, they marry their cherished spouse the Church in imitation of Jesus Christ who laid down his life for her.  Through that marriage they infuse life into the Church which the faithful lovingly receive, nurture within and bring forth to new life among God’s holy people and for the salvation of all the world. It is the reason he remains celibate—his bride is the Holy Catholic Church.  In union with Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit he makes Jesus truly present—Body, Blood, soul and divinity—at each and every Mass that he says. Jesus himself affirmed celibacy after Peter complained about giving up everything to follow Jesus.  Jesus’ reply to Peter was that there was “no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God” (Lk 18:29) who would go unrewarded.  Although Peter clearly was married at the time Jesus called him to follow him, (Jesus had healed Peter’s mother-in-law)…Peter’s mother-in-law would not cease to be his mother-in-law because he did not divorce her—but only set his sights and heart on the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus further affirms celibacy when he tells his apostles that “there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 19:12) while also stating that “not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given”. Therefore celibacy is a gift.

Not so long ago my family’s Assembly of God community had five pastors which meant salaries to take care of five wives, many children, five mortgages, cars, college tuitions, etc.  When the time came for them to search for a new head pastor it was determined that his family would always come first, so in times of family crisis the pastor would need to break church engagements to take care of a spouse, child, or in-law. His “interests are divided” (1 Cor. 7:32). On the other hand, when a priest in any diocese dies, the bishop is free to quickly send another priest to take his place without it being a cause of concern or hardship for any wife, child(ren) or mortgage.

Some Protestants make the claim that priesthood is no longer necessary but it was never done away with. Paul speaks of his “priestly service of the gospel” in his Letter to the Romans in 15:16.  All priests serve in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ and not something outside of it. Valid words as said by Jesus and valid matter—”wheat alone” (Canon Law #924, ¶2) for the hosts and “natural wine”—must be used. Most Protestants use grape juice and one or two faith communities use water. For a priest to use hosts made of rice or other grain/seed is to make communion invalid; indeed nothing at all happens…no transubstantiation.  It simply remains as rice and does not become the Precious Body of Jesus.

Holy Matrimony is the sacred act by which one man and one woman enter into a sacred covenant in order to become co-creators with God. They, too, bring forth new life for that is what the relationship is all about.  In imitation of God who infuses life into all things and a priest who mystically infuses life into the Church, so it is the male—the father—who implants life into the body of the woman who receives that life, nurtures it within and brings it forth.  This is why we address God as “Father” for from him all things have their origin.  In human reproduction, too, it is through the male that all of life has its origin.  He then is also called “Father”.

The roles of male and female, of course, are different…but complimentary.  Two males cannot give life one to another and two women cannot receive life one from another.  For there to be new life which springs forth from that deep and intimate union there must be one of each.  Jesus himself stated that the two—male and female—become “one flesh”.

Marriage is meant to be for “the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children” (Canon Law #1055).  Marriage is so important that “It is strongly recommended that those to be married approach the sacraments of penance and the Most Holy Eucharist so that they may fruitfully receive the sacrament of marriage” (Canon Law 1065, ¶2).  It is only the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches that see marriage as a sacrament.  No Protestant community does.

All dioceses have forms they use as part of the interview process/journey with the couple.  Two of the most important questions that it asks are these:

“The Catholic church teaches that marriage is a permanent union to be entered without reservation or intention of divorce. Do you intend the marriage to be such a marriage?”

“The Catholic Church teaches that persons entering marriage must mutually exchange the right to have children of this union (italics mine). Do you intend to give your spouse this right?”

Indeed, that second question comes straight from Sacred Scripture:  “The husband should fulfill his conjugal duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other…” (1 Cor. 7:3-4).

All men and women are made in the “image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26) of God; therefore all people are holy.  This is why the Church in her great wisdom insists that the sacred covenant of marriage takes place before the procreation of children.  It is the same with a priest.  He must be validly ordained by a bishop before he is able to say Mass and to make Jesus present in the Eucharist.   A couple must be validly married with a solemn blessing by the priest before a sacred act—the pro-creation of children.

Because all sacraments are for the people of God and not just for the ones receiving them (the marriage will be lived out in the community and in the Church and not just in the home) then the wedding must take place in a church and not in Aunt Martha’s rose garden or onboard ship.

In the original Greek, the term for “gift” that Paul uses in speaking of marriage is Charisma/Carisma—making it a spiritual gift of the Holy Spirit, just as priesthood is (see 1 Cor. 7:7) . Therefore both Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony give powerful testimony to our loving God who gives such gifts.

Editor’s note: This article is part seven in a series on the Eight Reasons to Love the Catholic Church. Look for a new reason every Tuesday. 

Cynthia Trainque


Cynthia Trainque is an author who is enrolled in the Master of Arts in Ministry (MAM) for the Laity at St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, MA. She has served the church for several years as a worker, writer, and volunteer and is presently an active member of St. Mary's Parish in Ayer, MA. Cynthia is available to come to speak as a guest speaker/teacher on the beauty of the Catholic faith.  She gives talks and also creates/uses PowerPoint presentations. She may be contacted at Catherineofsienamedia@yahoo.com.

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  • Joan

    The issue of redefining marriage is to be taken very seriously. Holy Matrimony is the sacred act by which one man and one woman enter into a sacred covenant… (etc.) Marriage does not include any human being marrying any institution.

    If all the Sacraments are for the people of God, please, what is the real reason the institution denies the Sacrament of Marriage to our priests? Where is the Faith in Christ as head of His Church?

    God gives the gifts and one cannot control God’s plan. Celibacy=Yes, Mandatory=No. His design, His Law. His Garden, again, the desire for a child is a desire of the heart, not the flesh.

    Philippians 4:8 KJV King James Version:
    Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest,
    whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are
    lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if
    there be any praise, think on these things.

  • leper

    As the article points out, the priest “marries” the Bride of Christ, the Church, in the image of Jesus, the High Priest (who also remained unmarried). Still, it is not a doctrinal issue so much as an issue of discipline. A priest remains unmarried to remain free as Jesus teaches (Mt 19: 12).

    Then there is the practical – as Paul discusses, a married man has to be concerned with his wife and family. Remaining unmarried, he can focus on the things of God. While marriage can be romantic, two people eventually have to face real life and its concomittant difficulties, especially in these days of casual marriage. For the wife, it’d be like being married to a busy doctor without the consolation of the money.

    Priestly celibacy is a gift and not a prison cell.

  • Joan

    yes, i think you’re right about the life of the husband and wife. They would certainly have to take their places in selfless love when the husband had to tend to what God was asking at the moment. In their Christ-centered marriage they know God is first even before mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, and the consolation would be Divine. Is that not the 1st Commandment. If we strive for that, all
    else follows and falls into place. Everybody has their cross given to
    them by God for His purpose and only discerned striving to live in His Grace. Rejoice.

    We need to also consider that the institution is bringing in re-ordained priests with their wives and children, and kicking out ours that
    have discovered they have grown to a certain level of love with another.

    I believe Paul’s words may be considered as guidance to a rightly ordered life – ‘But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is
    better to marry than to burn.’

    Although I very much support celibacy as a discipline, celibacy is a Divine Gift, a manifestation of Christ. Making it mandatory takes away from that Divine Gift, it creates division. Who are we? Our High Priest, Jesus, is God. I don’t know how else to say it. Real freedom is found only in Christ. We are not to conform to this world.

    The growth of Love (in a marriage) is exactly what it’s about. Facing real life here together, to help, to support, to comfort, to grow in holiness with and through the other. “Male and female He them created, and blessed ‘them.'” KJV

  • leper

    Joan, Our Lord said:

    [His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” (Mt 19:10-12)

    The Church, in its experience and wisdom, has judged that priests (in the west) should remain unmarried. This is because of the radical call of Our Lord (see above). The Church, given the power to loose and bind, has chosen to follow the mind of the Lord by implementing this discipline. Men called to the priesthood receive this gift, which is also a gift granted to men, if they ask for it. Certainly, the Lord desires the radical love He proposed and grants all of the graces needed to attain the higher spiritual state of life. This is not unnatural but supernatural.

  • joan

    hi, i suppose i am wondering that if this is so, then why celibacy is mandatory and not doctrine. In addition, i may be missing it, but there are re-ordained married Roman Catholic priests with children in the US.

    I recognize this quoted Sacred Scripture, but we are not looking at it as a whole, and i think that’s an important thing.

    I think you probably mean this supernatural gift is for any that ask for it, not just priests or men.

    I appreciate your time to help me sort this out in my mind/heart. I’m still not there and wonder why i am not understanding this mandatory rule. It’s something one ascends to through growth in Christ – or is that not correct? thanks

  • joan

    Honestly, there is just so much hypocrisy and justification. Everybody so worried about how to ‘handle’ things in and for the ‘church’ along with ‘who’ is going to do it.

    Is there no fear of God, and what about HIS Law.

    Our Church, gives me a very heavy heart.

  • leper

    Frankly, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I don’t see any hypocrisy and justification where I go to mass.

    Far from disobeying God’s law, the celibacy of priests is an admonishment by Our Lord. The Church, with its authority, chooses to require this discipline. It’s not an arbitrary and capricious exercise of power. There is wisdom in, and it is good for priests and the faithful.

  • leper

    As far as I know, the Church has accepted converts in their state of life, so if clergymen approach the Church for conversion, there is some consideration for those to become priests. There is no guarantee, however. Each case is examined and determined on its own merits. The convert becomes Catholic without the guarantee of being admitted to seminary and ordained.

    Celibacy is an issue of discipline though it has theological basis, which was given to us by Our Lord. It’s true that living for the Kingdom (remaining celibate) is not just for men — it is for all. I was talking about priests, the subject of our conversation here.

    There’s an article around here someplace. The title is “You’re Life is Not Your Own.” If your life is not yours, who’s is it? I think that is a good starting point for prayerful meditation on this topic.

  • joan

    hi, the last paragraph sounds like you’re admonishing my questioning or search for truth on the Sacrament of Matrimony for our priests. I’m sorry if i have offended you.

  • joan

    Oh c’mon – is it the Lord’s admonishment to priests or the Church’s authority to require what they call a discipline? And, Is it a discipline or a Divine gift?

    With heavy heart i will confess that i see and hear all kinds of hypocrisy and justification at every church i’ve ever been. I am seeing evil, not good. hmm, “not good.” I don’t know where i belong, i just know to who i belong. I was just talking with Him this morning about that.

  • leper

    Joan, I was pressed for time when I was writing my last 2 entries so I wasn’t as careful as I might have been. No, I wasn’t chastising or admonishing. I was just blunt. My suggestion is heartfelt — if we don’t belong to ourselves (we don’t really), then to whom to do we belong? If Our Lord shows us that there is a deeper, more radical way of living, in the world and not of it, what is it and is it for me?

    We were not created for this world but for the next. How, then, should we live? Hmmm…

  • leper

    Admonishment or requirement… The Lord beckons and the Church responds, “You’re right, Lord. That’s the way we’ll do it.” The Lord accommodates — when he calls a man to be a priest, the man already has grace to submit himself to the Church and its laws and disciplines. But the man needs grace to continue his spiritual battle against his own concupiscence.

    Hypocrisy: we are all sinners who do things we say won’t do but do anyway. That’s the nature of sin and our fallen nature. It’s only grace that can fix us. Each of us is where we are and not someplace else. I mean it’s easy to dream of being on an exotic tropical island enjoying oneself. But is that what we’re called to do? So, it’s not the place where we’re at, it’s what we’re doing (or not doing).

    Perhaps you are called to be quietly heroic in that situation to bring Christ’s light. We all should ask, “How can I make it better?” Don’t expect anybody to recognize your work — you may very well get some grief. If you’re doing something good, then those are signs you’re on the right track. It’s sad but true that saints face resistance, even from their allies.

  • joan

    hi, not sure what you really want – a response from me or are you trying to say something to me. I will answer your question: i believe we need to live a rightly ordered life. And I did answer this in my 2nd post:

    “Is that not the 1st Commandment. If we strive for that, all
    else follows and falls into place.”

    What is it I said, what is this question to me? What about my questions? I’d love it if you could give me answers. that’s what i’m searching for, answers, and i want the truth. thank you so much.

  • leper

    Joan, please assume all questions are rhetorical. In no case are you obliged to answer anything from me.

    I thought I answered your questions regarding priests being married.

    In the western Church, it’s not generally allowed The general exception is converts, but this is judged on a case-by-case basis. As a counterpoint, eastern priest are allowed to be married. Only bishops cannot be married, and bishops come from the monasteries, where they were priest-monks and, of course, celibate.

    Remaining unmarried, a priest follows in his Master’s footsteps by “marrying” the Bride of Christ, the Church. His devotion to Her is undivided. He is remaining a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom.

    You’ll find many things of Catholicism offered as “this is good, but that is better.” What I mean is: we are called by God to fulfill our place in His Kingdom, and if we are called to “this,” it is good and holy. If we are called to “that,” we are called to be good and holy, but in a different and perhaps more challenging way.
    It is all of our tasks to find and respond to the call to deeper holiness, whatever that may be. The Church belongs to Christ, and it is a good place to ask questions and find answers (your parish priest, etc).

    Take care.

  • joan

    My mistake, i didn’t assume anything, i believed we were having a discussion. I’m trying to get to the truth and i think i’ve frustrated you with my questions to the point of you trying to make your point, persuade, or educate me, by asking me questions. that’s okay, my friend, I really don’t know, that’s why i’m asking. And perhaps i’m wrong about that.

    One more thing, I just want to say that the church IS the Body of Christ – we are one. The institution exists because it has to.

    Not to be taken wrong, however, your argument was a bit superficial on some points. I’m thinking you don’t get me. I’m sorry. perhaps we’ll talk another day.

    oh, oops, where did you acquire your knowledge regarding priests being married?

  • leper

    Joan, I’m willing to continue if you are. You should beware that this forum has limitations. Writing about thoughtful, subtle, complex ideas is difficult, and reading them here wth speed does not help. It’s too easy to miss the fuller of meaning of what’s written.

    Therefore, I ask for shorter, simpler, focused questions. Let’s exhaust the issue before moving on. (Superficial arguments? I’m wounded…)

    I’ve learned because I’ve been asking questions for a long, long time. I’ve read some books on theology and of course, the Catechism.

  • joan

    it does not have to be complicated. i’ve read through and we are really in different places in our life with Christ.

    i can’t find anybody who understands what i’m trying to communicate. thanks leper, have a beautiful Thursday.

  • leper

    Articulating an idea is hard enough, but I recommend you prayerfully consider issues – bring them to our Blessed Mother. In time, you’ll find answers. Take care.

  • joan

    Hello, thanks, great recommendation as i do love to pray. I suspect i am a rebel of sorts. i’d never make it on the obedience thing as i do question this world’s authority, and perhaps to my own demise, I do question the institution, and specifically, because I worship God not the church.

    I so Love the Body of Christ, and still, i can’t get those words out of my head. ‘When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on earth?’ (one can’t hear those words and not pray to God to increase one’s faith)

    Leper, i am not convinced by what you say. Our priests are some of the most faithful men on earth, why would anybody want to prohibit them from procreating, let alone prohibit them from any Sacrament?

  • leper

    Joan, we are all rebels of sorts. Faith is the issue – for all of us. It’s a kind of trust. Christ established His Church and gave it His authority. So whatever issue you have, take it up with Jesus. (Pray more.) As I understand it, many of the Apostles were married, and after the resurrection, they did not have conjugal relations with their spouses. The Apostles’ spiritual lives changed the other areas of their (married) lives.

    I gave you lots of background on priesthood and celibacy. In the end, though, you accept it or reject it. Do you wonder why the sky is blue or why 2+3 is 5? Things are the way they are. You may prefer green to blue, but you can’t change the sky’s color.

    Why the fixation on sex and procreation? Like everything else in life, it is an area of life that must mastered. It is difficult enough for a married man to master this, but for one ordained, it’s mixing the profane with the sacred while being dedicated to the sacred.

  • jd

    A former Catholic Priest sits in the congregation on Sunday with his wife and 3 children watching a re-ordained minister celebrating Mass as his wife and children are watching.

    Thank you for the background on priesthood and celibacy, i reject what you have said to me – not all of it, but certainly a pattern i see.

    Profane ? wow. I wonder how the wives of the priests in the east and in the US feel about that.

  • leper

    Do I know you? What, pray tell, pattern do you see? As far as I know, I reported the Church’s position. If I did so incorrectly, I’m sorry. The Church is right. See Code of Canon Law, #277, para1.

    Regarding the priests in your example, what’s the complaint? It’s not unjust.

    “Profane” as used here in a technical, academic sense, means “ordinary”. As an example, a chalice is just an ordinary cup until it is consecrated — dedicated for sacred liturgical use. If one were to “borrow” a chalice from the sacristy and use it at a convenience store, that would profane the chalice. Conjugal relations are a sacred, but are on a different plane from sacerdotal functions.

  • jd

    Look, i’m sorry, i can’t accept mandatory celibacy. i know in my heart it is wrong. celibacy=yes, mandatory=no. The complaint: Too many contradictions. i.e., a gift or discipline? God’s admonishment or Church’s judgement? The pattern i see or maybe perhaps perceive is putting the church and it’s judgment and disciplines, etc., before God. Nothing, Nothing comes before God. Like i said, I worship God first and foremost.

    My fixation is for more Christ-centered families, everywhere.

    Yes, it is unjust. And it causes deep division.

  • leper

    Your description is a protestant one — that the Church and Christ are separate. Presumably, we are Catholic, which means the Church and Christ are one.

    Celibacy is required for priests in the west. The Lord is more than okay with that. Other men, holy men, can marry and have wonderful families to cooperate with God’s grace in transforming the world.

    Your claim that it is unjust doesn’t make it so. Perhaps, the Church, with 2000 years across many different cultures around the world and billions of lives of experiences knows something you don’t.

  • jd

    sigh, I Love being Catholic. I have said the church IS the Body of Christ. The institution exists because it has to. The pope indeed sits in the Chair of Peter. Celibacy is not God’s Law. The Institution of the Catholic Church, in the West, mandates celibacy as a discipline. Where is the faith in that? A rightly ordered life would be much more served for all. We need to saturate the world with Christ centered families.

    I’m not claiming to know, especially more then the institution, let alone the Body of Christ. I am saying God is first and foremost. The desire to have a child is placed in the heart by God. These faithful men should be receiving the God’s Sacrament of Matrimony and having children, passing the faith. Invading this world with Love. Seems so much to be an authority thing right now, some kind of competition. That is not

  • jd

    God is God, the Body of Christ is the Church, the Body of Christ is alive, it is living here and now. And the institution is just that, a worldly institution containing the men who’ve followed in Peter’s shoes and are part of the Body of Christ. It exists because somebody has to take care of the worldly goings ons while striving for Holiness.

    Yes, the Institution is definitely a separate entity. It’s a spiritual thing. God is Love.

    … “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

    God’s Law, not ours.

  • leper

    jd, your ecclesiology is faulty. Christ not only instituted the Church, He empowered it. Therefore, the Church can bind and loose on His authority. Therefore, celibacy is the law — for now. And the Church and Groom are one. You can’t separate them. When you try, your conclusions are suspect.

    You’re creating false dichotomies between priestly celibacy and a rightly ordered life. Don’t you think the Lord of All Creation knew what He was talking in Mt 19:12? He created that order and in a sense, He re-created it! And love can be expressed without physical affection — look at a crucifix.

    I think you’re missing the radical aspect of Jesus call. It’s about what the Lord wants and not about what we want.

  • jd

    Man, am i ever messed up. If what you are saying that i am understanding is truth – i am very, very lost.


  • leper

    Joan, jd, — may I recommend some time with the Catechism in front of the Blessed Sacrament? You’d have the authoritative text and the Lord to guide you in your reading.

  • jd

    sure, thanks. I’d like to ask is you’re an usher at Mass?

  • leper

    Not currently. I have been usher, lector, extraordinary minister of communion, sacristan — just not celebrant.

  • joan

    do you have a favorite?

  • joan

    hey, just wanted to share a thought and get your input. Nothing personal, of course, just that while in Adoration, i prefer to read the Navarre Bible or my current and everlasting read of the autobiography of St Teresa of Avila. There are a few others, but these 2 are my favorites.

    what do you recommend.. seriously. Would you recommend i read the Catechism instead and why? Pls let me know, I’m going tomorrow. thanks

  • leper

    That’s easy – sacristan. It’s about setting up for mass – hosts, patens, chalices, wine, etc. Once the job is done, I can participate in mass. The other jobs happen during mass and take me away from focusing on the liturgy or thanksgiving after receiving.

  • leper

    It’s not a case of either/or. Bring all of them. The Catechism is a refernce book so you should read it that way – a little bit at a time. For example, you could read about celibacy, which I think is 2 paragraphs. Just a few paragraphs at a time, which will give you a deeper appreciation of the Church and the Faith. St. Teresa of Avila is not easy going, I hear. Keep going. Read, pray, read, pray, repeat.

  • joan

    I’m re-reading St. Teresa and yes, I have read and do refer back to the Catechism. While in Adoration, I’d still prefer the Bible or a writing on the life of a Saint.

    ‘…….. which will give me a deeper appreciation of the Church and the Faith…………’

    what does that mean?

    Respectfully, just because i do not agree with all the rules, disciplines, or laws the church mandates, does not mean i do not have appreciation of and for the prevailing existence of the Catholic Church. I do know the Catholic Church has the fullness of the faith. That’s why I’m still there. The Church is still there because of God, no other reason, only because of God.

    The Catechism is a good reference. The Bible is the Word of God.

    God’s Law will always come first for me. There are so many warnings in the Bible about this, the 1st Commandment and yet, still so many burdens are placed on the people.

  • joan

    again, most respectfully, what is it that would prompt you to tell me what a sacristan is about?

  • joan

    wanted to share this, it’s so beautiful and says what i did not have the words for:

    “he mind is purified by spiritual knowledge, the spiritual passions of the soul by charity, and the irregular appetites by abstinence and penance.”
    – St. Serapion

  • leper

    Joan, let me give my omnibus reply here. I was being descriptive about my duties and not condescending – sorry if I came across that way. My “deeper” comment was about your difficulties with the institutional Church. Faith in Christ and His Church are an integrated whole, and the Catechism can flesh out details much better than I can to help you work through that area. The Catechism represents the Magisterium of the Church, one of the three pillars of authority of the Church. You’re absolutely right that the Church continues, despite occasionally bad leadership and members, to be the fountain of mercy to humanity because of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

    Thanks for sharing St. Serapion. His words are familiar since other saints talk about the same things – in order to follow the Lord; we have to master ourselves with His grace.

  • joan, jd

    My Faith is in God and The Body of Christ as HE is our sovereign and providential God.

    You tell me I have difficulty with the institutional church. I am not agreeing with the word difficulty. The reason I don’t agree is because the difficulty does not belong to me. It is that I do not agree with all of the rules and (to me) man-made laws.

    However, I do obey and respect those rules and man-made laws of the institution, again, i just don’t agree with all of them and i voice that–because i have to.

    If i said i didn’t see hypocrisy, double-standards, justification, etc., in the church, even at Mass, it would be a lie. God’s House of Prayer is filled with human beings. I use it as opportunity to learn to Love more.

    I try my best to keep my focus on HIM. I want to grow in HIM. If i can surrender my whole being to HIM, i will be closer to HIM and HE can use me better – be HIS instrument.

    All the worldly stuff that we need as humans in this world will not be in the next. That does include the institution. It exists here in this world because it has to. Somebody has to lead the dance, and as for me, I agree with some, but not all the directions of those steps.

    Am i not Catholic? Does God love me less? I don’t think so. I am ever grateful HE knows me better than i know myself, i need HIM, and count on HIM revealing Truth to me.

    God’s Church is the Body of Christ, a living organism so to speak wherein we are One. God IS Love.

    The institution is not perfect, but is surely guided by our sovereign and providential God. God is in it as He is everywhere.

    Your friend in Christ –

  • leper

    Dear Joan, I hesitate to write this, but we need clarity with charity. You have an “issue” with the Church. It is a Divine Institution, and, therefore, perfect. It is the human members that are less so. The humans who stand and strive for something, those are the hypocrites, and they are us.

    Your personal theology (ecclesiology) seems rather protestant. It’s just me and Jesus. The imperfect Church is separate from Jesus.

    The Church teaches that it is WE and Jesus, and the Church and Jesus, while distinct, are nevertheless united in communion for all eternity. The issues of Christ and His Church and humanity and sin are, in the end, mysteries. They exist here and now, but also on a supernatural plane. Christ is also in the naked, the poor, the dirty, the hungry.

    It’s true that no one has to like every utterance or action by Church members, but one has to recognize (as a good Catholic) their just authority. If there is something criminal, one must react. If there is just a disagreement of opinion, then obedience is the way to greater holiness. As an example, Padre Pio was gaining in popularity and fascination when the local bishop took away his faculties for public ministry. For 3 years, Padre Pio was alone in his priesthood. Then, he was restored to public ministry. Did he do anything wrong? No. Did Padre Pio protest? No. He maintained his obedience to his superior and bishop. Padre Pio is a saint.

    As a counter example, it was a staff member in the Diocese of Belleville (IL), who heighted the issue of child abuse to the president of the USCCB, Bishop Gregory, ordinary of Belleville. The good bishop was not as sensitive to the issue as he should have been, and the staff member, a father, pushed back (in an appropriate way). Bishop Gregory (now Archbishop of Atlanta) gained a new perspective and escalated the issue within the USCCB, and they took action.

    God is acting through the institutional Church and through people in everyday encounters. In reading the Old Testament, it is easy (I think) to see God’s actions through the people. But that’s a distilled version, like a fast forward view of the video. Played at actual speed, like we are, it’s a slow show with some action and a lot of waiting. Like real life.

    Take care.

  • joan, jd

    Yea, he became the Saint. God’s people suffered the loss of those 3 years with Padre Pio because human stuff got in the way. Where was the Love in the decision to pull him? As God does make good come of everything, i see an example in that story.

    I think if there is disagreement, Love should prevail. That, Love, is obedience to God and surely a path to Holiness. I believe it is in obedience in worship to God that provides path to participation in the Body of Christ, the Divine Life.

    I agree, the Institution is Divine – it is where the Chair of Peter is.
    Honestly, the pride, power, honor thing runs rampant within this Divine Institution because there are worldly business matters to be tended to by human beings. Ignoring this truth and going along with poor decisions for the sake of obedience to the institution is not Divine. It is not putting God first.

    The Institution that is tending to the worldly affairs will not be needed in Heaven- because: “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb.”

    The Institution exists in this world because it has to, and it does make mistakes as it tends to worldly affairs. The SS, the priests that were moved around, the cover-ups, the priests who currently have women and children hidden, some not being supported or being supported in secret. Father Thomas Williams is a perfect example and it is surely a terrible loss for the Church that he’s left. A Lexus is hardly a car of simplicity as well as was the Philadelphia mansion. That stuff is very worldly and very embarrassing to me as a Catholic. And, i would hardly say any of it contains Love or unity.

    Protestant, geez, all through childhood and into adulthood i have been mocked on and off because i’m the Catholic girl. As a kid, I remember feeling hurt. And now, somebody with all your education, book knowledge, and experience, to say:

    I’m “Faulty in my ecclesiology, i’m creating false dichotomies, and “Your personal theology (ecclesiology) seems rather protestant. It’s just me and Jesus. The imperfect Church is separate from Jesus.”

    Well, what can i say, these things are rather hurtful. However, i do respect that it is your conclusion from education, knowledge, experience, observation, opinion, and interpretation perhaps because of my lack of words to describe the indescribable.

    Please know, HIS Church IS the Body of Christ. We are One. I’ve said this before, and i know I am not making myself clear.

    I will make a statement about me because the ‘me and Jesus’ has touched my heart in not a good way. i used to care for retired clergy. I did get paid $8 an hour working midnight shift, but i did not do it for the money. I did it because these are the ones who have given their entire life to God. I was there because i could not-not be. And please, let me say it was “Jesus and us (and our Lady)” at every moment. I no longer do this work because of age, physical ability, and my STNA certification/registration has expired. I try to live my faith in a way i can only describe by saying my love for God goes right through the other to Him. I don’t want the things i do to be loud, if that makes sense.

    I’m thinking this may be where we lack in clarity. Yes, I admit, I am centered on my relationship with Jesus. You know, trying to make more and more room for Him by trying to listen to Him. I know the Institution is there with all it’s goings ons, but that’s not my interest. I’m just trying to be what God wants me to be so He can do what He wants me to do. I’m trying to cooperate with God, His Law, His plan. Unlike Padre Pio, 🙂 I just have a different outlook or discretion as to whom I am obedient to.

    I crave Mass and I love Adoration, why? because somewhere inside of me, i do believe in Real Presence.

    I’m sorry we don’t agree. I still feel very Catholic and hope you can come to at least the mutual agreement we’re in different places in our journey with Jesus.

  • joan, jd

    If God is love, then the Body of Christ is intangible. Thus, the institution is not to be our final obedience, but only the Lord God Himself. I do recognize and obey the Chair of Peter in it’s guidance in worldly matters. However, I do question/examine, as I seek truth and love.

    Am i more protestant than Catholic?

  • leper

    Hi Joan, God is Love. BUT, Our Lord Jesus has two natures: Divine and human. His human nature has a body like yours and mine. A body necessarily is physical — if a body wasn’t physical, it wouldn’t be a body. Just as Christ and His 2 natures in hypostatic union are a mystery, so are Christ and His Church a mystery. Protestants think the Body of Christ, the Church is an invisible thing. They’re wrong.

    There are many “tensions” in Christian mysteries, like divine and human; transcendent and immanent; just and merciful; 3 persons and one God. Some protestants try to resolve these tensions in favor of one side or the other, resulting in error.

    I cannot know if you’re more protestant than Catholic. You understand (and participate in) the liturgy, the mediation of the Church, and Blessed Sacrament, all of which are wonderfully Catholic. However, you’re view of the Church, one part of your personal theology, is in error. Perhaps you should talk this over with your pastor.

    As I mentioned elsewhere, Christ is united to His Church and God is in the messy/pleasant/unpleasant interactions with Church members including those of the hierarchy. You and I don’t have to like it, but there is grace and merit in obedience. There is none in disobedience. Maybe we have issues with certain aspects of the Faith — we can struggle but not undermine or rebel (and remain faithful).

    Fulton Sheen told a story that he completed one level of studies and told his bishop that he was ready for the next level. The bishop put him in parish work for a time. Fr. Sheen did his work and then was reassigned to graduate studies because he passed the bishop’s test — he went to parish work obediently and without complaint, thereby gaining the bishop’s trust.

    I recommend that you get a spiritual director to guide you. That would be a better place to talk about all of this.