He can minister to an actively dying person and talk down an angry ex-boyfriend. He is able to take care of a sick baby and laughs along with his children at Kung Fu Panda. He can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. But if you ever want to see my priest-husband uncomfortable, you will find him sitting in the pews of a church.
The pew is just not his place. His fingers will be intertwined, trying not to make any of the liturgical gestures if he is visiting at a Catholic church. And I do not really know what dance steps he was performing while sitting in the stage-style Protestant church where our son's preschool was having a concert. He just has not not had a liturgical clercial function in church since he was eighteen years old. So we don't usually spontaneously go together to a church function- like a May Crowning- where either it wouldn't be appropriate for him to be at the altar or he didn't have time to introduce himself to the pastor. It just is too uncomfortable. He is fine with not being the primary celebrant, but the priesthood is a vocation he will take to the grave and into the afterlife. He cannot help himself, wanting to be a part of the liturgical activity. It is who he is.
My heart is sad for those forever priests who have left their ministry or even the Church. Even when the priest was dignified and went through the proper channels of laicization and is still a practicing Catholic and has different things going on in his life, it must be a big hole is his heart to sit in the pew as a priest forever who cannot even distribute Eucharist. I am sorry for their choices that brought them to that point, because I know how difficult it is for my husband to temporarily sit in a pew and act like a lay person. As clergy, it is not his place. Perhaps in the Roman-rite where concelebration should be "legal and rare" according to Fr. Z, it is not such a problem for a priest to sit out a Mass in the pews. But, as a Byzantine Catholic, the altar can get blessedly crowded with priests and deacons and any men or boys who will serve the altar. So my husband itches to be there.
just one more post 'inspired' by Fr. John Corapi's decision to leave public priestly ministry while he is under suspension...here's a link to a good post on laicization of priests. I just don't know how a priest of 20 years can function in his life without a sacramental priestly ministry. I pray that he will decide to go back to his SOLT community (as his superiors have asked him to according to the Natuional Catholic Register) while he is suspended