Thursday, September 6, 2012

He's MARRIED? 7 Quick Takes replay

Priest-husband has bi-ritual faculties for the local Roman-rite archdiocese. This means that he is available to help 'supply' Roman-rite parishes who might be short on help. He regularly celebrates the 6:30 AM (sometimes 8:30 as well. We don't leave for our Sunday mission until 10) Sunday Mass as well as help with confessions and his hospital weekday Masses. So nowadays, people are surprised that he is married after seeing him in a 'Roman' capacity with no wife or children in tow. 
Not much has changed in the two years since I published the following post. I do feel a bit more hostility and/or desperation from those Catholics who are against the possibility for a married priesthood. Roman-rite Catholics who do not feel comfortable with any married clergy sometimes see my husband as a threat because there are already 10 married deacons at this 'mega-parish' in contrast to 2 priests. Too many married men (and occasionally their wives) are around. But the silent hostility I feel most is with fellow Byzantine Catholics from a different jurisdiction than mine that does not (or very, very rarely- perhaps sometimes accepting a man from an old country) ordain married men in the United States. Although some are lovely and friendly, most of the believers from this community ignore me- look me in the eye while I am greeting their priest, frown, and remain silent when they are three feet away from me. My married priest husband replaced their priest for almost 3 months over Advent, Christmas, and the New Year 2 1/2 years ago with nary a stipend, but I can't get a nod or smile.  Ah well. The legacy of Bishop John Ireland continues.
In any case- Here's the replayed post from October 2010- After the initial shock of seeing a guy in clerics with a group of little kids calling him "Daddy"-  it usually goes like this with one or more of the following 7 questions or comments:

1. "That's weird."

Well, it is certainly unusual for a Catholic priest (of any rite) to be married in the United States.

2. "That's great! Father John Western-rite should get married, too!"

First of all, ordination to the diaconate and priesthood come after Christian marriage where permissible. So, it's too late for Fr. John to be married unless he asks his bishop to set aside his priestly faculties. In the Eastern rites, married priests cannot remarry after their wives have died. It is the order of the sacraments at play; any man ordained a priest should 'stay the way he is.'
Also, priestly celibacy in the Western-rite is a long tradition- as much as married men being made priest is in the East. This tradition should not be treated flippantly with a "married priesthood, why not?" Books have been written on the gift of celibacy, a concept that we in the East also respect with monastic life.

3. "That's great! Are you a priest, too?"

Um, no. Not possible. You might find us priest's wives more traditional than the average Catholic. We like our incense, altar boys, and our role as women in the Church. Mary the Mother of God, Martha, her sister Mary and Mary Magdalena all had honored roles in the ministry of Jesus. He didn't make them apostles even though He allowed them to sit at His feet and listen to Him preach. I'll remain in the company of these women and try to serve God by their example.

4. "So, you're Orthodox?"

No- and we aren't Anglican, either. The Pope is our boss, and he likes us!

5. "It must be really burdensome on your church to pay for a family."

Yikes! Are you really discussing money with me, a stranger? Well then, I must tell you that my husband receives a stipend (and no living expenses like house, food, insurance, car) from our 'big' mission and not one farthing from the 'little' mission. He supports himself and his family through his full-time job as a certified chaplain.

6. "That's a bad idea; a priest should have only church and God to be concerned with. Your husband can't possibly be dedicated to God, the Church and family. It's just too much."

Sometimes it does feel like too much. Like many families with a busy life, we have to be flexible. Frequently we celebrate holidays the day before or the day after to accommodate his schedule. Christmas presents are opened in the evening. With three Master's degrees between the two of us, we live in a small house in one of the most expensive areas of the United States so that Fr. can minister at the two missions.

It is not necessarily a good thing, but we have no day off. If Fr. has any time to relax, he'll take the kids fishing or to a movie. While a celibate priest might go golfing with friends or practice another hobby, my husband doesn't have large blocks of time (like a half day) to pursue interests that don't directly correlate to church, work or family.

My husband doesn't want to be 'that priest' that didn't take the time to be a shepherd, so he always makes time for parishioners. He answers his calls. No gate-keeper, we are too small. He will celebrate Mass in your home for your anniversary. Homes are blessed at the New Year and when it is requested. As you see, I think he is doing a stellar job.  Even though this life is challenging, I think it is a bit like love for our kids. The love grows. It doesn't diminish. Having two big vocations is difficult, but not impossible through God's grace. Pray for him that he fulfills his priestly vocation well!

7. "Is it hard that his vocation to the priesthood is an eternal one while your marriage is only here on earth?"

Is it possible that I share in the priesthood of my husband? When we were married, we became one. Then, he was ordained deacon and priest, a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. His ordination actually put an eternal mark on his soul while all I got was an overnight, self-led retreat in preparation for this change in my husband and our marriage. 

I might share in the practical side of his priesthood. I lead singing when I need to and step aside when another person wants to sing.  I prepare food for after the services and try to keep my little ones behaving in church. I have supported his priesthood by moving across the country twice, once with a 4-month old baby and a 4-week pregnancy. I try to subdue my feminist tendencies of wanting to be the leader. My husband is the 'important one,' and I wish I could be like Terese of Lisieux who was content to used as a broom and put back into the corner when not needed. 

There is a huge part of my husband's life that I can never understand or participate in. This is probably the strongest argument against a married priesthood in any rite. We priest's wives cannot fathom the feelings of being at the altar or the confessional. These experiences are hidden from us. God's grace abounds in these situations, but I suspect the evil one is lurking in the shadows, waiting for us to fail. Evil doesn't like husbands, fathers or priests. So it is a lot to say yes to these vocations.  All we wives can do is be positive complements to our  priest husbands like any wife. Pray for the wives and children!

34 comments:

  1. 8. The canons prohibit serving more than one liturgy a day. How does he do 3? :)

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    1. He has a dispensation from his bishop and the local Latin ordinary- there is a severe priest shortage here- but except for this month with one of the two Latin priests serving a 10,000+ family parish being in the Holy land- he usually does only 1 Mass for them on Sundays

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  2. A newbie Latin/Roman Catholic reader here!
    Simpy put--thanks for posting this. This was helpful! :)

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    1. Welcome Elisa! I'm glad this post made 'sense' ;)

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  3. Thanks for your post. Shortly I will be re-ordained (Anglican to Roman), and my wife will have many a story to tell me.

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    1. many blessed years to you, Father!

      aren't you a lucky man- your wife's first job as a priest's wife is to see to your household (I should be so perfect...I'm trying)- everything she does for the Church is icing on the cake

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  4. I'm sorry to hear that it is your fellow Byzantines (probably from my own jurisdiction) who have had so much hostility toward your family. In my own parish, we have embraced our married priest and his family with gratitude for all the sacrifices that they must make to serve our parish. We cannot support them, and he, like your husband, works another job and also says Mass 3x per week at the local Latin Rite parish. God bless all of you for your sacrifices for others!

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    1. I'm glad it is working out for your community- it is always an adjustment when changes are made...but reviving our Eastern traditions are so important for unity- don't you think? How can we ask Orthodox to be in union with Rome if their lawful traditions are compromised?

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    2. Sarah, I've gotten used to a married priesthood. It doesn't bother me, at all, to be honest. I got to know various priests, of different denominations; and their wives. You, and they are great people; and take on a certain load, in life. For that, I, and - I hope - the rest of the laity should be thankful for what you do for such men.

      On the revival of Eastern traditions: after reading about the latinzations occurring, in the past, I felt irked, knowing people within the Western ranks, have some deeply rooted sense of being threatened, jealousy; and whatever else the evil one decides to plant in their hearts, when it comes to the tradition of married clergy. It doesn't help, however, as I encountered a text put out by Catholic Answers, where institutionally celibacy in the priesthood is a pushed at the forefront.

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  5. I remember this post--I think it was the first one of yours I ever read. I'm glad you re-posted it.

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    1. thanks Kathleen- and your blog is one I read and enjoy

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  6. Good for you. I always hesitate when people blythly say catholic priests don't marry and try to explain that there are over twenty rites within the Catholic church. Latin rite priests don't marry but Eastern rite cathoic priests do and convert anglican priests and frankly some men become priests following the death of a wife. So the answer is always more complicated than one might think.

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  7. Well, enough about the good Father, let's talk about you? Shall we address you as Matushka? Pani? Pani Matka? Or is there some other title?

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    1. I am 'preoteasa'- pronounce every letter like in Spanish- but some people call me matushka, etc depending on the ethnicity of the speaker

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    2. "Preoteasa." That's Romanian for ... uh, something.

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    3. :) literally, it translates as 'priestess' (so not 'mother' like many of the other languages)- but it really just means 'priest's wife

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    4. For the benefit of your readers, the Greek address a priest's wife as "Presbytera," which also literally means "priestess." For the Russians, "Matushka" means "little mother," and for the Ruthenians (including Slovaks), "Pani" means roughly "Madame" or "Lady." ("Matka" means "mother.") A couple would be referred to, then, as "Father John and Preoteasa Mary."

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  8. Great post. Why do people always assume that priests rake in the money?

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    1. depending on the community, they do get 'everything paid for' (NOT us)...no matter what, the money should be very transparent so that the believers feel comfortable giving!

      on a side note: my husband, after counseling somebody, gets this comment a lot: "WOW! You just saved me years of therapy!"...and he doesn't get paid :) he's a better person than I; it makes him very happy to hear this

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  9. As a side note, my only experience with they Byzantine rite was with a prom date. It was a great experience.

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    1. My senior prom was great too- I didn't go but went to the big city to watch a ballet instead ;)

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  10. Umm... I feel like I should say something... But nothing good comes to mind, so here's an e-hug. Hope that counts for something.

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    1. 'Baron'- this is why I try to be anonymous...but your family and others like Steve and Mike and others are the "lovely and friendly people" that I wrote about. And just for the fact that we are allowed to be there after your Liturgy is proof that everyone is open to us crazy Romanians. I'm just such an introvert that it is a struggle to go into that coffee room to greet your priest (which I think is the polite thing to do as I am in his house) when I know that the people at his table see right through me - which is difficult to do as I am not a slim person ;)

      in any case, for those brave enough to tolerate my foibles, like your family and others- it makes the trek to the mission do-able- just so you know- I have been absent about every other Sunday (but I am at the Saturday Divine Liturgy vigil and the 6:30 Sunday up here) to try to get my lupus under control. Fr and the two big girls got home at NINE PM last Sunday because they had a dinner invite...not the most fun for a severely introverted lupus lady

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    2. we'll be sure to remember you in our prayer - for recovery from the lupus, and that you can opportunities to get some rest.

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  12. Thank you work posting. I have run across you blog before. I wish more people would see it. One of the things that first struck me when reading this particular post is how similar it is to women who post about strangers who come up to a large family and ask them 'if they know where babies come from', 'don't they have a tv', etc. Comments that generally stem from either ignorance or being set in one's ways. It seems that most people who approach you are the same, either ignorant or stubbornly set in a particular view that you seem to be messing with.

    I appreciate these posts though because you are helping to dispel misconceptions and prejudices that abound. I am always saddened by people's ignorance of their own Church's teachings. Even when they do know that there are Eastern Churches that are a part of the Catholic Church they do not realize that marriage can only come before, but not after ordination, or that Bishops come (I think always) from the monastic, vocations. The Church needs to "breathe with both lungs" as John Paul II has famously said. But in order to use both lungs we need to be aware that the second lung exists.

    So thank you. Thank you for answering your vocation to be a priest's wife, with all the work and struggles that that entails. Thank you for posting on the internet so that you wisdom, knowledge and experience can touch a wider community. Thank you for supporting your husband's vocation and ministry when he goes beyond what he originally envisioned to help the Latin diocese where you are. And thank you for raising your children to love and appreciate both lungs of the Church (I am assuming that the life philosophy I see in your writing is also how you live. A safe assumption I believe.) My prayers are with you as you continue to follow God's call in your life.

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    1. but your first point- yes, it does feel a lot like that- I have no problem when friends or family or parishioners question stuff...but total strangers- I don't like it so much

      yes- bishops are always celibate (they should come from monastic tradition)

      yes- my girls are also helping at the 6:30 Mass- they now lead a Eucharistic song because that Mass does not have a cantor or choir (which for me is weird with a 10,000 family parish)

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  13. God bless you and your family for it's service to the Lord. Please do not assume that Roman rite folks are hostile to you. I'm pretty sure that some are, but a person's frown may not be indicative of their disagreement with Byzantine tradition. Yes, most are probably ignorant regarding your rite. But, I'll bet that most Roman rite Catholics would not have a problem if they knew that the Holy Father "sanctioned" the practice. I respect the practice of celibacy of Roman priests AND married Byzantine clergy. I believe the Pope is "smarter" and has more of a "connection" with the Holy Spirit than I do. And I think that Roman rite folks would feel the same way if they were a bit more "educated". But I also think that many of the people who greet you with a frown are not even thinking about Father being married. Sincere thanks to you and your husband.

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    1. no- I don't assume that Roman-rite people are hostile- a 'frown' might be simple thinking about something else or not 'actively' smiling- some people don't have a natural smile to their face when it is at rest (that's me too)- no, on the fairly rare occasions when I see hostility from anyone it is very clear. But this should just motivate me to be holier so I am my family don't cause scandal- but the rare people who want to see something bad, I can't worry about that. It is hard enough to be holy without worrying that someone might be scandalized by my girls watching Sound of Music

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  14. This was the first post I've ever read by you, back almost two years ago!

    Being in Israel most of the Christians I meet in my day-to-day dealings are not Roman rite, but Eastern Catholics, Orthodox or Coptic. My kids were raised Armenian Catholic in the orphanage they are from (even though they are Jews), and we have a few Armenian nuns who regularly visit us and let us visit to help our oldest Armenian daughter keep her first language.

    My point is, I run across many married Catholic priests. I find it strange when anyone argues against the married priests. In addition to serving G-d, they have a pastoral responsibility as well, and they are often the person people turn to when they have a challenge or a struggle. A married priest is often more qualified to assist in these struggles, simply because he has experience. I kinda wish Rome would follow suit.

    (In Jewish tradition, btw, an unmarried rabbi is not taken very seriously by most people, sinply because he has no idea about real life.)

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    1. Hevel- thanks for your perspective! BUT celibate priests get plenty of experience in 'real' life- they have parents, perhaps married siblings, and they hear the confessions of 'normal' people- a holy celibate priest (in my opinion, from a monastic tradition)is a treasure

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    2. I love how you balance things out. I remember you "straightened me out" during our conversation, from months ago :). Thinking about it, now, I think about what you say, in terms of a balance, and reflect to recent conversations I've had with a friend in Russian Orthodoxy, say his own parish priest (who's married) says there's much respect for those who go the path of celibacy. As he says, in many cases, family comes first. Is this what you found, in your own experience; and the experience of Father? Thanks!

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