NAVIGATION: You are presently looking at Part 6
We publish this as the final song and images fade from the screen for World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney. In summary this World Youth Day will more likely be remembered as the birth of a "smaller, purer Church" rather than one endeavouring to reach out to all people. Tom McMahon's commentary today is nostalgic also — calling us back to re-capture the excitement that gripped the world in the promise held out by Vatican II. The focus today in Tom's commentary is the sacrament of ordination.
Being grateful for life…
Before I get into my own thoughts I want to fulfill a promise I made in last's weeks commentary; I am copying from the Forum of Catholica/Australia the following words of wisdom from Steve who was ordained six years ago and has left the office of priest; Steve speaks to a future idealistic seminarian with an eye to what the people need. Steve is challenging clericalism as a sacrament.
Steve:"…put them off, and you've lost the chance to have any positive impact. I have an expression. 'People have very finely-tuned bullshit radar'. By this I mean that people can smell a fraud a mile away. People can tell when people aren't genuine, and when their words don't correspond with their actions. If you take time to listen to people, to sit with them in good and bad times, to serve them, they will respond genuinely and openly to you. If you just talk at them, you have lost them. You have to prove yourself. In Australia at least, respect has to be earned. It can't be expected. A title and a collar are outward things only, and respect has to be earned through hard and genuine work."
"I found myself relaxing, and working with people outside the normal influence of the church. I have many friends in the local pubs, among the local youth and in groups that one would never encounter in normal parish life. I went to them, they didn't come to me."
"I have had various difficulties, and I left the active ministry early this year, after five and a half years. Too many dead babies. Too many agonizing deaths from illness. Too many suicides. I've had it. I have moved on, and my attitudes now are vastly different from what they were a decade and a half ago. I now work maintaining railway locomotives, and have a family future to look forward to."
"It is too simplistic to divide people into groups. There is more than 'orthodox', 'liberal', 'conservative', 'progressive', 'traditional', 'dissenting' and the like. Mark, people are people; highly complex three-dimensional individuals, and labels are one-dimensional. If you think that simple categories work, then you will be sadly mistaken."
"If you cannot see every single person as being created in imago Dei then you will fail. if you think you can do it by your own labors, you will fail. If you think that simple answers will suffice for complicated questions, you will fail." (end quote of Steve)
Tom here, back again, having read Steve's from the heart viewpoint of priest; Trent says that a man becomes sacred automatically (special sign of grace by the imposition of a bishop's hands) whereas I read Steve by his willingness to be with and open to people being and becoming a human sign of divine presence. This is the Jesus human presence which we commit to by our being baptized, a process most of us have to renew as adults if we were baptized as infants. There are two differences between Steve and myself, one that he had six years of a Jesus priesthood inside the Roman institution where I had the privilege of lasting 26 years, and two I had the model of a Jesus servant priest (my uncle Tuck, ordained in 1922) throughout my 12 years of seminary. I can identify with Steve in those times when human misery overwhelmed and there was no episcopal support or understanding. I see Steve as taking his "baptismal call" into the world, outside the narrow framework of Roman Catholicism and like Jesus bringing good news to all humankind. Tom here, ordained 54 years ago thanks you, Steve, for your words upon which I will meditate.
The contents of this commentary come to San Jose from overseas. Sean O'Conaill of Coleraine, North Ireland and I have carried on dialogue via the internet and in our own homes respectively about the sacraments. I copy from Sean his take on lay maturity (his words, Christian adulthood). As one formally ordained to the Roman priesthood I was considered one of the major Trentan sacraments; will the ordinary dedicated woman and man be considered as sacred signs of the 21 century? I am sure the clerical ceremony, so medieval and based in feudalism, must be dropped.
Sean O'Conaill shares: "Why did Trent not reserve Confirmation as a sacrament of adult initiation, and why are all three sacraments of Christian initiation usually administered to cradle Catholics before puberty?"
"The answer seems to be that Catholic clericalism sees no great advantage in lay people arriving at Christian maturity, as such an event would endanger clerical dominance and status."
"The absence of a sacrament or ceremony of adult initiation in Catholicism (to be received by all) is continuing proof that as a system it tends to inhibit the growth of most of its members to Christian maturity and to true human adulthood also. The trials of life make up the deficiency for some who continue thinking about their faith, but far too many Catholic adults never make the transition to a truly adult stage of faith. They get stuck at the 'loyalist' stage, unable to distinguish between clergy and God, which satisfies too many clergy completely!"
"The only adult sacrament of Christian commitment in Catholicism is ordination, and its status as a super-sacrament must be maintained."
"And that's one of the main reasons that clericalist Catholicism is dying in the West: all obstacles to growth are in the end self-destructive also. People just have to find a way around them." (end Sean)
Tom: As one ordained in 1954 I am sobered by Sean's message; over the 54 years since my being set apart I can see clearly the obstacle clericalism offers to the maturity of the People of God. Yet nothing in life is wasted; the office of priest was elevated above people in a time when ignorance, illiteracy, and chaos reigned in Christianity; the seminary system of Trent brought education and morality, I myself being a beneficiary of its wisdom and order. The times of medieval Europe with kings and nobles and serfs and separate clergy and nuns no longer exists, actually being a vital system in my personal life up to Vatican Two. John XXIII's Council was the death warrant of clericalism and a separatist office in Christianity; with Paul the Apostle I can agree that there is no male, nor female, no lord, nor servant in Christ Jesus. We have greatly grown. In 43 years the Holy Spirit of the Creator has been cleaning house, sweeping the face of the earth with a saving message of love and peace; with Ghandi we can say "I am not Moslem; I am not Jew; I am not Hindu; I am not Christian; I am a member of the human race, wanting peace for all." Vatican Two gives us a definition of CHURCH, A PEOPLE OF GOD, which is international. With Thomas Merton I can say "that retarded child is my brother". God is at home in the world.
The Spirit of Jesus remains alive after his cruel death on Calvary; for me it is part of my very being and upbringing. My great grandparents who came to America during the Great Potato Famine could neither read nor write and they sorely needed spiritual leadership and guidance, this through the office of ordained clergyman. Our two sons, ages 29 and 31, graduates of the University of California, Berkeley sorely need spiritual guidance and leadership but it will not come through the office of ordained separatist priest or bishop. Jesus enters their lives mysteriously, especially through the sacred signs the Creator has generously left in their path of life. I hope someday they will appreciate their father's move away from the outmoded Trentan system and into the new discoveries of the vital signs of divine life in our wonderful world … I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows … yes I believe … "He's" got the whole world in "his" hands … A wholesome Spirit is at work! … me thinks that we can make it without clericalism.
See ya'all next week at Polar Express Station MARRIAGE and thanks Steve and Sean.
Tom McMahon, San Jose. 12/07/2008
NAVIGATION: You are presently looking at Part 6
Image Credits: The graphic of the Phoenix lander which has recently touched-down on Mars was sourced from www.ian.cz/redsys/upload/612712-32036.jpg. Click on the other images to see the original source.
What are your thoughts on this commentary?