Tuesday, June 21, 2011

a priest in the pews

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


  1. "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."

    Isn't that the truth? At my grandfather's funeral service, the Bishop was the main celebrant, and I forget how many other priests were con-celebrating with him, at least three or four. Plus all the nuns who were sitting in the pews.... Even at my own wedding, we had two priests - our church's assigned priest (who is a friend of my aunt) and another priest who is a good friend of my father.

  2. Father Z does not suggest that the priest sit in the pews like a lay person (this is highly frowned on and only happens when the priest is a wacko liberal or infirm), but rather be in the sanctuary in his cassock and surplice. It's called attending Mass in Choir and cassock and surplice are called "choir dress" in the Latin Church. This isn't very common, though. I think I've only seen a priest at Mass in choir dress when he's acting as MC.

    Plus, that's Father Z's opinion. Normally speaking, since the reform of the liturgy after Vatican II, priests concelebrate when there are multiple priests at Mass. Personally I think a concelebrated Mass is far more reverent than to have a group of priests attend the conventual Mass in choir and then run downstairs to a "Mass production factory" in the basement where there are 30 or 40 altars so that each priest can celebrate his own Mass.

  3. I share Alice's disagreement with Fr. Z's opinion. I find no fault with concelebration and certainly it is better than the former Latin practice of priests dressing up as deacons and subdeacons.


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