Why Women Can’t Be Priests

My blog posts are normally spiritual in nature. I do not normally venture into the world of politics and the teachings of the Catholic Church. However, there is an issue that has been on my heart for a while. It started with questions from my youth group teens, and then I read a couple of articles on the subject, one from a blog called Roman Catholic Cop. The title of the post, Why Jimmy Carter is Wrong, got my attention. It was a blog about why women can’t be priests in the Catholic Church–the question I have been asked several times by my youth group teens over the past year.

My answers to my teens have always been what I was taught: “Jesus was a man”. “Jesus appointed 12 male Apostles, not female.” “It’s tradition.” While these arguments are true, they don’t hold much weight. Then things, like Jamie McAdams blog and other resources, kept presenting themselves to me. I didn’t look for them, they just found me. While I agree with Jamie and his arguments, I want to share my thoughts on the matter.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition states:

Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination. The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry…The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible. (1577)

Clear as mud, right? This is the same argument I heard growing up. While biblically based, I believe that there is a much deeper reason for this, and one that is also biblically based. For that, we have to go to St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. In chapter 5, St. Paul says, “For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.” (Eph. 5:23-24). Paul is talking about many things here. He is talking about the relationship between husband and wife, but he is also talking about the relationship between Christ and the Church. Just as a man is the bridegroom and his wife the bride, so is Christ the bridegroom and the Church the bride. In other words Christ is married to the Church as a man is married to a woman.

You might be asking, what does this have to do with women not being able to become priests? A priest acts “in the person of Christ” when conferring the sacraments. It is not man that can change bread and wine into the Body and Blood, but Christ. It is not man that can forgive sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but Christ. Just as Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church, the priest acts in “His person” as a bridegroom in giving up his body for his bride, the Church. For a women to attempt to confer the sacraments, this changes the relationship altogether. You no longer have bridegroom to bride, but bride to bride.

St. Paul also says: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Eph. 5:31). In the same way, a man who becomes a priest leaves his father and mother and joins his wife–the Church–and becomes one flesh with the Church. A priest marries the Church–enters into a covenant with Her. This becoming of one flesh can only occur in the context of the covenant of marriage. This line of reasoning also works with priestly celibacy. No where in the bible (correct me if I’m wrong) does God ask any one person to enter two covenants at the same time. A man must either make a covenant with his wife in marriage or with the Church through holy orders. He can’t do both. (Revision: It has come to my attention that my statement on married priests is not theologically sound. I need to give more thought to this matter. Thank you to Scott P. Richert and Adoro (see comments) for your input.)

I don’t know why God put it on my heart to share this, but I hope it proves helpful to anyone who reads it. I keep finding the more I seek to find the answers of my Catholic faith, the more I come to understand the wisdom of the Church. Everything the Church teaches just makes sense. I just hope and pray that my youth group teens choose to seek out the truths of the Church to gain a better understanding for themselves.

Published in: on July 24, 2009 at 7:22 pm  Comments (10)  

Who Is The Good Shepherd? You!

I recently went through a lectio divina exercise in which I meditated on John 10:7-11. In that exercise there was one phrase that grabbed a hold of me. It was the last line of the passage:

“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

Christ is the Good Shepherd. He did lay down His life for us, His sheep. However, my conversation with God in that prayer was not about Christ being a good shepherd. God told me that He wants me to be a good shepherd. He wants me to be a good shepherd first and foremost to my spouse. He wants me to nurture her, love her, and lay down my life for her. He also wants me to be a good shepherd for my children. He wants me to guide them into a loving relationship with Him. This is the same call that he has for me as a youth minister. He wants me to shepherd the teens I serve in my parishes and bring them into a relationship with Christ.

This is a big responsibility. I have the salvation of my wife, my children, and the teens I serve in my hands. I am being called to lay down my life, to serve them, and to guide them. I cannot do this….on my own. I can only do this through the power of the Holy Spirit. I can only do this with Christ, the true Good Shepherd, as my guide. Although this is a big responsibility, I am not overwhelmed by it. I know the Holy Spirit is working through me. I just have to get out of the way and allow Him to work.

We are all called to be good shepherds. Whether we are married with children or single men and women. Whether we are working in ministry or corporate America. We are all called to serve the people in our lives, to shepherd them. We are called to lay down our lives–to sacrifice our fears, our selfish desires–to bring all we encounter closer to Christ.

Published in: on July 23, 2009 at 7:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

I’ve Got It All Backwards

I pray every day. Well…I attempt to pray every day. In my line of work (youth ministry) it is absolutely critical that I pray every day. How can I feed the youth if I am not fed myself? How can I teach them to have a relationship with God if I don’t have a relationship with Him? So, as any good youth minister would do, I schedule an hour every day to pray. And every day I go to the church and sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament and pray. However, I rarely make it through the full hour I schedule. As soon as I sit down I feel a pull to go back to my office and do something productive (as if prayer is not productive). I feel the strong desire to leave Jesus’ presence as soon as I enter it.

I was reflecting on this today as I was praying in the church. It hit me that if I really knew what I was attempting to do (i.e. talk with God) then it should be more difficult for me to leave the church. My desire should be to remain in front of the Blessed Sacrament ALL DAY LONG! Instead, I’ve got it all backwards. I want to stop praying–to stop communicating with God–as soon as I start. How can I have a relationship with God if I keep running away from Him?

This world has many distractions. We allow ourselves to get caught up in them. No wonder we are all physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. We don’t take the time to nurture the ONE relationship that will truly fill all of our needs–physical, emotional, and spiritual. We should not allow ourselves to become distracted with everything else we feel that we have to do. The only thing that we absolutely HAVE to do is to talk to God, to enter into a relationship with Him, through prayer. And that goes for doctors, lawyers, astrophysicists, and grocery store clerks in addition to youth ministers. We all need to take the time-and get our priorities right–to enter into a relationship with God through prayer.

Published in: on July 22, 2009 at 8:05 pm  Comments (3)  

Truth and Lies

“If I really know the truth, then I have to change something.” This is a quote from a speaker at Franciscan University of Steubenville’s summer Youth Conference in Atlanta which I attended this past weekend. It really struck me. I have always thought that I really know the truth. I’m a Catholic youth minister, so my life is surrounded with the truths of my faith. This statement got me thinking about whether or not I really do know the truth.

So, what is the truth? The truth is that God the Father sent his Son to save and redeem us. He started a new covenant with his people with the blood of His Son–a covenant that we are all a part of through our baptism. It is a covenant that requires a commitment on both parties to give of themselves completely to each other. God gives Himself completely out of love for us. This covenant requires us to give ourselves completely to God. It requires us to change something–to change everything–in our lives. This is the ultimate Truth in life.

So, the question again–Do I know the truth? I can speak the truth, I can write about it, but do I really know it in the depths of my soul? Yes, I have changed some things in my life. Unfortunately I have not changed everything. I have, on some level, bought into the lies of the devil–lies of individualism, hedonism, and minimalism. I often times live for myself, for my own pleasures. I want the maximum return with minimal effort. This is not living the Truth.

I, we all, need to make a commitment to reject the lies of the devil. We need to reject the lies that life is about ourselves. We need to reject the lies that tell us that pleasure is the ultimate goal of life. We need to reject the lies that tell us that we don’t need to exert any energy to achieve salvation. The adventure to salvation is about rejecting self and turning away from the pleasures of this world. It requires a lot of hard work and energy. It is only in living in the Truth that we can obtain the joy, the glory, and the love of God. This is accomplished through prayer–through a relationship with Christ. It is in sharing our struggles and joys with Him that we can obtain the Truth and achieve salvation.

Published in: on July 20, 2009 at 3:18 pm  Comments (3)  

I’m Inadequate

Have you ever felt inadequate? Have you ever felt that you just don’t measure up, that you are just not succeeding at anything in life? I have. As a matter of fact, I’m in the midst of that feeling right now. I’m feeling inadequate as a father, a husband, a provider for my family. Mostly, though, I’m feeling spiritually inadequate. This feeling has just come at me out of nowhere. In expressing these feelings I had someone tell me that a feeling of spiritual inadequacy may mean that the Holy Spirit is at work in me. Could that be true? Could the Holy Spirit be truly at work in me? Yes, I do believe that the Holy Spirit does work in me, but why the feeling of spiritual inadequacy with it?

I took these feelings to prayer. Even though I schedule time every day to spend in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I went early today. I just had to get in front of God and ask Him about this. I also took my bible today, something I don’t normally do. So as I was pouring out my heart to God and the tears were flowing down my face, I felt the overwhelming sense that I should pick up my bible and read the Book of Jeremiah. I opened my bible to the first chapter and this is what I read:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. “Ah, Lord God!” I said, “I know not how to speak; I am too young.” (Jeremiah 1:4-6)

I can feel what Jeremiah is going through. He felt inadequate as I do. It makes me feel better knowing that a prophet like Jeremiah struggles with the same things I do. It makes the scriptures more real to be able to relate to their struggles. God has an answer for Jeremiah. He has an answer for you and me, too.

Say not “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. Then the Lord extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying, “See, I place my words in your mouth! This day I set you over nations and kingdoms, to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:7-10)

We all are inadequate. None of us measure up. We must rely on the Lord God to “touch our mouths” and give us the strength to do what He wants us to do. It is through the power of God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–that we become competent. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to measure up.

Maybe the Holy Spirit is at work in me. What He is up to, I don’t know. Only time will tell. Until then, I give it all to Him.

Published in: on July 8, 2009 at 7:04 pm  Comments (3)  

God’s Grace is Sufficient

Today’s second reading is from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. As it was being read during Mass, one line stuck out to me. I kept repeating that line over and over throughout the rest of Mass. I just could not get it out of my head. That one line is:

“My grace is sufficient.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

Much of my blog is writing about the struggle between this world and the lives God wants us to live.

“My grace is sufficient.”

Many of us are struggling with financial hardship.

“My grace is sufficient.”

Many of us are struggling with health issues.

“My grace is sufficient.”

Many of us are struggling with the temptations of sin.

“My grace is sufficient.”

Despite all of our struggles, the grace of God is sufficient. St. Paul was in the midst of a struggle. He went to God and “three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me.” God’s response was probably not what Paul was looking for. Paul was looking for relief from his struggle and God’s response was “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect from weakness.” God was not going to take Paul’s struggle away from him. God may or may not take our struggles away from us, but we all need to remember that “My grace is sufficient.”

Published in: on July 5, 2009 at 5:40 pm  Comments (1)  

Treasure Hunting

I’m hunting for treasure! In fact, we all are. We are all on a hunt for the treasures this life has to offer.

The reign of God is like a buried treasure which a man found in a field. He hid it again, and rejoicing at his find went and sold all he had and bought that field. (Matthew 13:44)

In this parable the man who found this treasure made a decisive and life changing decision. He sold everything! He gave up everything in order to buy field that contained the treasure. I often wonder why I’m not willing to “sell” everything–to give up all–in order to obtain the Kingdom of God.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I have not yet found it. I’m still hunting. I can’t have found it! If I had, I would be willing to give up everything for it, but alas, I’m not. Sure, I find “gold coins” from time to time. I have found bits and pieces of the treasure of the Kingdom of God, but not the full treasure. I’m still clinging to my stuff, to my earthly life. I think many of us are in the same situation. We want to find the treasure and we’re searching for it, but most of us haven’t found it yet. If we had our lives would be radically different than they are now–at least mine would be.

We must ask ourselves: Why haven’t I found the full treasure of the Kingdom? Is it that I’m not looking in the right places? Is it that I’m not searching hard enough? I think that for many of us–especially for myself–that the answer to both questions is YES! I’m not looking in the right places. I still cling to the comforts of this world. I’m still distracted and busy with the things of our world. I am seeking the treasures of this world and not those of the Kingdom.

I also believe that many of us are not searching hard enough. I know that I certainly do not spend as much time searching for the Kingdom of God as I should. The Kingdom of God is in the depths of our hearts and souls. The only way to explore those depths is through prayer. Jim Beckman in his book “God Help Me” said that prayer needs to be as important in our lives as breathing! We should not be able to function if we don’t pray. It is through searching the depths of our soul and finding God there that we are truly able to find His Kingdom.

I hope and pray that we all are able to find the full treasure of the Kingdom of God. I hope we keep searching and that we are able to keeping finding the “gold coins” that help keep us motivated to continue our search. I commit to not look for the Kingdom in the things of this world and to spend more time looking for it in the right places. Someday I may find the treasure. I hope you do, too. It will change our lives!

Published in: on June 23, 2009 at 4:35 pm  Comments (3)  

Genuine Faith, Part III

Trust. That is something that can be very hard to do. Do I trust the auto shop to repair my car correctly AND give me a fair price? Do I trust my children to carry through on the responsibilities I have given them? Do I trust the leaders of the country to uphold our freedoms and liberties as granted to us in the constitution? There are many, many aspects of our lives that require us to trust. Do you trust? I know oftentimes I fall short in that area of my life. I have a tendency to get wrapped up in my fears and expect the worst from everything. Trust is a virtue that we all need to grow in our lives.

Trust begins and ends in a relationship with Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus compels us to trust: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24). The operative phrase here is “follow me.” Jesus doesn’t tell us where we are going. He doesn’t map out our journey for us. All He says is “follow me.” Not knowing where we’re going or what we’re doing on this adventure requires trust. It requires us to completely let go of EVERYTHING!!!

Nearly two years ago I lost my job. I was working as a financial advisor for a major national firm when the rug was pulled out from underneath me. I went home that evening devastated and fearful. I was (and still am) the sole source of income for my family. I had a wife and 4 children that trusted me to provide for them. I feared for my future. That night I got down on my knees and prayed. I prayed that God would provide me with a new source of income…and quickly!! More importantly, I prayed that I would be able to trust God in my life. And for the first time in my life I was truly able to let it all go. I put my trust in the Lord like I have never done before.

Eventually God provided me with a job, although not on my timeline. It took nearly 7 months and we exhausted all of our savings. One more month of unemployment and we would have to decide which bills got paid and which ones wouldn’t. The whole experience was a lesson in trust. We need follow God without knowing where He is taking us. God brought me to youth ministry, something I never thought I would do, but something which I absolutely love. God knows better than me. He knows better than you! We need to let Him take control of our lives. We need to trust Him.

Genuine faith is an important part of our adventure to salvation. We all need to deny ourselves. We need to be willing to endure suffering and sacrifice with the heart of Christ. We need to trust the Lord with everything in our lives. Most importantly, we need to pray. We need to pray through it all. Pray constantly. I’m not there yet, but someday I hope to have genuine faith. How about you?

Published in: on June 16, 2009 at 7:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

"God Help Me"–A Book Review

Anyone who has been following my blog for a while knows that I am an avid reader. As a matter of fact, I’m in the middle of three different books right now. I believe that good spiritual reading can bring you closer to Christ, so I always try to have a spiritual book with me. When I found out that an acquaintance of mine wrote a book I picked it up. Jim Beckman, whether he realizes it or not, has played a pretty significant role in my spiritual development. I first met Jim last summer at a conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. I was there to get my youth ministry certification, and Jim was the coordinator of the program. Jim recently published a book titled God Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer. Of course when I saw it as an available review book for Catholiccompany.com I had to get it to review.

I have mentioned in a couple of my recent blogs the importance of prayer. Prayer and Sacrifice discusses the need to sacrifice ourselves in prayer and force ourselves to do it even in the midst of feeling spiritually desolate. Beckman addresses this issue that we all face in our prayer and encourages his readers to be consistent in prayer despite how we feel. I make specific reference to Beckman’s book in Honesty and Consistency, which are two main themes of prayer in his work.

This is a fantastic book and one that I will re-read over and over again. Beckman really challenges his readers to deeper prayer and gives some practical tools to do so. This book is recommended to anyone who wants to grow deeper in prayer.

Published in: on June 15, 2009 at 9:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Genuine Faith, Part II

Oh, how I hate suffering! Even the slightest discomfort brings me to the edge. Yet I need to learn to endure it better. We all do. Let’s face it. We all suffer. There is no way to avoid it. We have two choices when it comes to suffering. We can allow ourselves to be miserable, thus prolonging our suffering and making it worse. Or, we can allow Christ to work through our suffering.

It is the latter that I believe brings us into genuine faith. Saint Paul tells us:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow. If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement. (1 Corinthians 1:3-7)

So often I get angry and resentful in my suffering. I also have a tendency to become withdrawn and discouraged. I become so wrapped up in myself that I don’t see how it is affecting myself, my family, my relationship with God. As I stated in Part I, genuine faith requires a complete self denial. It requires a complete self denial when it comes to our prayer, and it also requires a complete self denial when it comes to suffering. If we can allow Christ to work through our suffering, if we can just let go of ourselves, then we will receive His encouragement. This will then allow us to encourage others in their suffering. Allowing Christ to work through our suffering will remove the selfish tendencies that we have. Allowing Christ to work through our suffering will bring us closer to genuine faith. For “if we are afflicted it is for your encouragement and salvation.”

Published in: on June 9, 2009 at 11:15 am  Leave a Comment