From whence did these two models of priesthood emerge — the Trentan "liturgical/sacrament-dispensing priesthood"; and the Vatican II/First Century/Twentieth Century "Jesus' servant'priesthood"? That's essentially what Tom McMahon explores in this second part of this series. Today's commentary is also a useful refresher in some recent world, and ecclesial, history with plenty of fascinating links to further exploration in Wikipedia and other places.
Part Two looking at two styles or models of priesthood...
Recovering from computer problems I am now able to return to a division I clearly see between the liturgical Trentan priesthood and a servant Jesus priesthood that can be traced back to the Gospels. I first experienced a servant priesthood as a very young boy. Allow me to offer my personal experiences through which I have lived in a combination of both styles all my life. A Jesus servant-priest rarely got public recognition.
Two separate priesthoods dawn into my consciousness in my early childhood. The notion of a service priest came first. During my grade school years a man arrived at our home on 15th Street every Sunday night; he had his own room. He ate with the family, my recalling him repairing toilet and roof and returning Tuesday morning to his pastorate. Thomas I Bresnahan was my mother's brother — the seventh native son ordained a priest for the archdiocese of San Francisco. Brother and sister first bonded as they experienced the horror of the Great Fire and Earthquake of 1906. After the death of my father in 1931 they would silently pair in raising my sister Midge (8), my brothers Al (7), Jim (6), and this writer Tommy (2), during the Great Depression. From age five I would be accustomed to a man hanging his black coat and Roman collar in his closet. A volunteer rural fireman and deputy sheriff he carefully took off his holstered gun, careful not to alarm my mother who disapproved. Before I went to seminary at age 13 I had seen this man saying Mass. I also had witnessed a multitude of service involvements as a community member. I did learn as a child that the two roles could blend and conflict.
Uncle Tuck was my male role model, the person who gave me my first railway train. Uncle Tuck was my surrogate father. Uncle Tuck happened to be a priest.. I admired greatly this celibate who loved and served my mother and our family as well as his people in a role that I rarely observed.
After being a mass-serving altar boy I entered the minor seminary at age 13, attending daily mass for 12 years (over 5000), witnessing only a liturgical priesthood. Every day of those long years the mass priest was the only model I would observe. I was ordained a mass priest in an elaborate liturgical ceremony on June 11, 1954. No training or mention was ever made in seminary about a service priesthood.
Within weeks of my ordination I realized there was more to clerical life than saying Mass whether daily where few attended, or Sunday, when large uneducated crowds gathered. For over eleven years I would struggle with phobic pastors who desperately attempted to block my being a service priest to people. After training in the U.S. Army's School for Chaplains my life and understanding of priesthood would radically change, interestingly enough in Jerusalem and Rome itself. I had become a lone wolf priest who had no idea of community. I had avoided the clerical trap of alcohol and in confusion I would turn to ordinary people for life's meaning. I would meet face-to- face with John the 23rd.
As I struggled with a religious order priest in Jerusalem, he wanting my wad of military pay for a shrine and I wanting to feed the poor; late at night I despaired of the Roman church in the Garden of Gethsemane. The next week I would stand two feet from John the 23rd on Ash Wednesday of 1961 as in his humor and wisdom this beautiful person called me back to Christian membership. Salvation awaited me in John's Vatican Council, studies that made sense of life. I pondered how Christianity might benefit daily life. I was rescued from despair by John the 23rd, Yves Congar, and Vatican Two. From 1967 on I would see clearly and feel free to be a Jesus servant-priest — a person of hope with a meaningful message to all humankind. I would heavily question my past, its origin and the genuine meaning of the seven Trentan Sacraments as the presence of Jesus-in-the-world. I was becoming an intelligent follower of Jesus, my Christ-savior. Once outside the clerical priesthood I became clearly aware of the servant-priest role played by my mother, Uncle Tuck and other lay and clergy who had enriched my life. I walked n the moccasins of real believers.
Church Counsils and People help me to appreciate a Jesus-priesthood:
The Second Vatican Council (also known as Vatican II) addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed under Pope Paul VI on 8 December 1965. Of those who took part in the council's opening session, four have become pontiffs to date: Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, who on succeeding Pope John XXIII took the name of Paul VI; Bishop Albino Luciani, the future Pope John Paul I; Bishop Karol Wojtyła, who became Pope John Paul II; and Father Joseph Ratzinger, present as a theological consultant, who became Pope Benedict XVI.
With a simple understanding of Catholicism I devoured the Documents of Vatican Two. Their tone was positive and there was no condemnations and no punishment. There was healing to a hurting world. The value of the person screamed at me, hidden like gems in clerical institutional wording. Pius the 12th had spoken during WW2 of the sleeping giant of the Catholic laity and Yves Congar had used ordained French priests disguised as factory workers to infiltrate the Nazi conscription of munitions workers. The genuine role of the woman and man who wished to follow Jesus was there for the world to examine. A servant-priesthood mingled in the slag of clericalism and the defensive past of Vatican One and Trent would linger heavily in the forthcoming expose of the valued need of the laity to bring Jesus back to life and institutional religion becoming a vital part of the modern world. Jesus has greater value to society and Jesus comes alive today in ordinary people and how they live.
Yet the challenge lay buried in Vatican documents and innocent people knew only male ordained clerics as acceptable teachers, a role the majority of clerics failed at. I provoked myself into study of the Council that got underway about 60 years after the tumultuous French Revolution, the First Vatican Council.
The First Vatican Council was convoked by Pope Pius IX on 29 June 1868, after a period of planning and preparation that began on 6 December 1864. This twentieth Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church, held three centuries after the Council of Trent, opened on 8 December 1869 and adjourned on 20 October 1870. Unlike the five earlier General Councils held in Rome, which met in the Lateran Basilica and are known as the Lateran Councils, it met in the Vatican Basilica, hence its name of First Vatican Council. Its best-known decision is its definition of papal infallibility.
And Tom asked himself: was Vatican One a direct response to the French Revolution? Was the monarchical pope afraid of a united people?
The French Revolution (French: Révolution française; 1789-1799), was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France that had a major impact on France and indeed all of Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years. French society underwent an epic transformation as feudal, aristocratic and religious privileges evaporated under a sustained assault from radical left-wing political groups, masses on the streets, and peasants in the countryside. Old ideas about tradition and hierarchy - of monarchy, aristocracy and religious authority - were abruptly overthrown by new Enlightenment principles of equality, citizenship and inalienable rights.
I saw a fencing duel between the new French government "of-the-people-by-the-people" and the feudal monarchy of the Vatican. Then comes the fall of the Vatican States and Rome will speak defensively of science and new theologies (except for Vatican Two, a huge contradiction). Furthering the mosaic I went then to further study the Council of Trent.
The Council of Trent (Latin: Concilium Tridentinum) was the 16th-century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It is considered to be one of the Church's most important councils. It convened in Trent (then capital of the Prince-Bishopric of Trent of the Holy Roman Empire, in Italy) between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563 in twenty-five sessions for three periods. Council fathers met for the first through eighth sessions in Trent (1545-7), and for the ninth through eleventh sessions in Bologna (1547) during the pontificate of Pope Paul III. Under Pope Julius III, the council met in Trent (1551-52) for the twelfth through sixteenth sessions. Under Pope Pius IV, the seventeenth through twenty-fifth sessions took place in Trent (1559-63).
The prominent face on this 500-year-old mosaic is the lay person. The cleric is fast fading away. From the days of the wool workers strike in Florence...
Florence – Located on the banks of the River Arno, Florence is famous for its history and wool industry. ... Of a population estimated at 94,000 before the Black Death of 1348, about 25,000 are said to have been supported by the city's wool industry: in 1345 Florence was the scene of an attempted strike by wool combers (ciompi), who in 1378 rose up in a brief revolt against oligarchic rule in the Revolt of the Ciompi. After their suppression, Florence came under the sway (1382-1434) of the Albizzi family, bitter rivals of the Medici.
What do we learn from this: the voice of the people has been heard around the world, demanding dignity and human rights. Vatican Two was a Catholic Magna Carta — a Revolution, led by clerics to serve the laity, a charter for freedom for the people religiously from fear and ignorance. Vatican Two was a mandate and a challenge to followers of Jesus to take up his cross and become servant-priests-of-Abba. We recommend THE NAKED NOW by Richard Rohr as an introduction to this mystic path; one will find it very human.
The seeds of recognition and renaissance were sewn for me back in the 1930's. Today as I write I realize I have the privilege of watering those seeds in today's Church in the Modern World. Jesus has died; Jesus is rising and she/he wears no clerical garb.
Next Week: a summation of the two priesthoods and a look to the possible future.
Tom McMahon, in San Jose, Ca. the 15th Street San Francisco kid who happily happened to become an ordained roman catholic priest and who has had the privilege of being alive in this glorious period of reform. 14Feb2012
P.S. Thanks Mom and Uncle Tuck!
What are your thoughts on this commentary?