Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blogging Once Again: A Response to Abu Daoud

Yes, things have been quiet around here lately. But not necessarily in my actual life, and this may have something to do with why the muse has been rather silent. As I mentioned in a comment on the last post before this one, I returned from Chicago to find that, for economic reasons, I no longer had a secular job. However, God was good, and that situation prevailed for only a couple of weeks before I found another such job, a job which, in several ways, is better than my previous one.

And, speaking of Chicago, Junior is doing very well, as are the Cubs. May this be their year! Thanks to all of you, especially Ttony and Alice, for your prayers and expressions of concern and support. Please keep the prayers coming. Alice, you of course have been in my prayers for some time, and I have now begun to remember your sister and her husband and daughter as well.

But that’s not why I called y’all here today…

Several days ago, Evangelical Anglican missionary Abu Daoud, of Islam and Christianity, wrote about attending a Roman Catholic service in which a man was ordained a priest. In the post, "Attending a Catholic ordination: where's the teaching ministry? " AD contends that the preaching, teaching, and evangelizing aspects of the priesthood were not sufficiently stressed in this liturgy. After reviewing the text of the service, I noted that I did not share that perception, and I still don’t, so I thought I’d take a look at that liturgy in this post.

I may be wrong, but I don’t think the liturgy is online (although the old rite is found here). In any event, the ordination takes place during Mass and begins after the gospel reading when the ordinand, already a deacon, is presented to the bishop. After the bishop states his intention to ordain the man a priest, the bishop preaches a homily on the meaning of priesthood. The service itself includes a text for the homily, although the use of this text is optional. In most RC ordinations I have attended, this homily has been pretty much used verbatim, with occasional extemporaneous expansions. It is possible that the bishop veered off the text entirely at the service AD attended. Nevertheless, this homily certainly does not ignore the ministry of the priest in the areas of preaching, teaching, and evangelizing. (In the quotes which follow, emphasis is added.)

In the first paragraph, the homily alludes to St. Clement of Rome, speaking of Christ being sent by the Father, who sent the Apostles, who in turn sent “their successors, the bishops” to continue Christ’s “work as TEACHER, Priest, and Shepherd,” then noting that priests, presbyters, are co-workers with the order of bishops.

In the next paragraph, the homily states, “[The priest] is to serve Christ the TEACHER, Priest, and Shepherd in [Christ’s] ministry, which is to make his own body, the Church, grow into the people of God, a holy temple.”

From the third paragraph: “By consecration [the ordinand] will be made a true priest of the New Testament, to PREACH THE GOSPEL, sustain God’s people, and celebrate the liturgy, above all, the Lord’s sacrifice.”

Then the bishop addresses the ordinand directly (I love this paragraph):

“My son, you are now to be advanced to the order of the presbyterate. You must apply your energies to the duty of TEACHING in the name of Christ, the chief TEACHER. SHARE WITH ALL MANKIND the word of God you have received with joy. Meditate on the law of God, believe what you read, TEACH WHAT YOU BELIEVE, and put into practice what you teach.”

The bishop continues:

“Let the doctrine you TEACH be true nourishment for the people of God. Let the example of your life attract the followers of Christ, so that by word and action you may build up the house which is God’s Church."

The next two paragraphs deal with sacramental ministry, especially the Mass, as well as the priest’s duty to pray for all. Finally, the bishop concludes:

“Always remember the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and to SEEK OUT AND RESCUE THOSE WHO WERE LOST.”

Next, in a rubrically mandated dialogue between ordinand and bishop, the latter asks the former to “declare before the people your intention to undertake this priestly office.”

There are four questions, and the ordinand replies “I am” to the first three, “I am, with the help of God” to the fourth. The first and last questions are general: “Are you resolved…to discharge without fail the office of priesthood…?” and “Are you resolved to consecrate your life to God for the salvation of his people…?”. The second question deals with the sacraments. The third question reads as follows: “Are you resolved to exercise the MINISTRY OF THE WORD worthily and wisely, PREACHING THE GOSPEL and explaining the Catholic faith?”

After preliminary prayer, the chanting of the Litany of the Saints, the ordination proper takes place. The ordinand kneels before the bishop, who lays hands upon the former in silence, followed by the same action by all the priests present. The bishop then offers the Prayer of Consecration.

The first two sections of this prayer note that the Christian priesthood of bishops and presbyters is rooted in the ministries of the High Priest and priests of Israel. Then we read, “….you gave companions to your Son’s apostles TO HELP IN TEACHING THE FAITH: they PREACHED THE GOSPEL to the whole world.”

Then follows two paragraphs, the second of which is considered necessary for the validity of the ordination, asking essentially that the ordinand be made a priest.

The prayer offered by the bishop then concludes:

“May [the ordinand] be faithful in working with the order of bishops, so that the WORDS OF THE GOSPEL MAY REACH THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, and the family of nations, made one in Christ, may become God’s one, holy people.”

The rest of the service, culminating in the newly ordained priest concelebrating Mass with the bishop, is not directly relevant to the question at hand, but it should be clear from the above that the priestly ministry of the word is prominently presented in the contemporary RC service of ordination to the priesthood. What say you, AD (and others)?


Abu Daoud said...


I have written a short response with a question over at the blog:

A response to Fr Greg

Peace, and thanks for the great conversation.

Abu Daoud

Father Robert Lyons said...


The last RC presbyterial ordination I went to saw the bishop preach his own homily which was repleat with a dual focus on the teaching and sacramental ministry of the priesthood.

From what I can tell in the US, most American bishops do preach their own sermons at ordinations, so I guess it depends on the bishop...

Back to Incarnation preparations...