According to J.R.R. Tolkien in his masterpiece The Fellowship of the Rings, “Not all those who wander are lost.” We do not have to look too far to notice that man in the 21st century wander often.
Struggling with anxiety, I go through periods in my life where desolation and loneliness—for those who have followed The Simple Catholic blog previously, you are already aware this is a common theme of my writing. Filling my day with social media and DC comic books, after my children go to bed, I still feel overwhelmed from the continual onslaught of changes at work, financial strain, and fussy children.
As a Catholic I often forget that the solution to despair is always safeguarded and housed within the Catholic Church—camaraderie in Christ!
Saint Pope Pius XII declared in his encyclical letter Mystici Corporis Christi, “For, as We said above, Christ did not wish to exclude sinners from His Church; hence if some of her members are suffering from spiritual maladies, that is no reason why we should lessen our love for the Church, but rather a reason why we should increase our devotion to her members” (no 66). Along with loving Christ the Head of the Church, all Christian are compelled to love other members of the Body of Christ as well.
No Man is an Island
Being a social rational animal humans need companionship and interactions with fellow man in order to be happy. While people do require alone time—I myself require it occasionally due to the frenetic nature of family life, it is not natural individual to prefer isolation for the majority of their earthly existence. Our actions and inactions effect not only us and those closest to, but can ripple out to effect, positively or negatively, people beyond our immediate scope or moment in time. The great English poet John Donne wrote about the interconnectedness of humanity. In his poem No Man is an Island Donne states,
No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
As a Catholic I am reminded weekly of the importance of communion with God and neighbor alike. Central to Christianity is the tenets of the Nicene Creed—a profession of beliefs Catholics recite weekly every Sunday Mass.
Called to Be United as One
The first characteristic of the Church—the Mystical Body of Christ—is unity. Jesus himself prayed for Christian unity in John 17:19-23. Recognition that we truly are all brothers and sisters of the same human race helps center myself toward a better daily outlook. Viewing daily strife at work as an opportunity to reconcile or reunite my fellow neighbor into communion allows me to limit anxiety, anger, and impatience. No man in an island our good deeds help others and bad deeds hurt others too!
Many Hands Make the Load Light
Among the best advice given to me has been to learn to accept the help of others. As a perfectionist and someone who suffers from OCD, I often struggle to allow my wife and children aid me in the household chores. Giving up control by letting family, friends, and co-workers help me in daily tasks in the long-run ease self-imposed burdens.
Jesus Christ himself urged all struggling with burdens to trust in Him. In Matthew 11:29-30 the God-Man told his disciples, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,* and I will give you rest. 29* p Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Lesson from The Lord of the Rings
Besides Scripture, the most relatable example I discovered of bearing the weight of another comes from the fantasy classic The Lord of the Rings. Over the course of the trilogy, the central figure of the novels the hobbit Frodo Baggins bears the burden of carrying the One Ring to Mount Doom to destroy it and ultimately destroy the Dark Lord Sauron’s control over Middle Earth.
While hobbits possessed a natural ability to withstand the allure of the power of the One Ring longer than other races, Frodo wore the ring so long that he started to grow weak.
Arguably the most striking scene in trilogy in The Return of the Ring involves Frodo’s friend and fellow hobbit Samwise Gamgee entering into the suffering of the ring bearer when he cries,
“Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried.’I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he’ll go.”
Carrying Your [and other’s] Crosses
Helping others shoulder their cross is the hallmark of Christianity. Cooperation in suffering pervades the history of Christianity. From Simon the Cyrene helping Jesus bear the weight of the cross up Calvary, to the modern day saints like Saints John Paul and Maximilian Kolbe offering their suffering and death to alleviate the suffering of their fellow mankind, we are all called to a Catholic [a universal] camaraderie.
Purgative experiences on my earthly journey allows me to get beyond my limited purview. Engaging and uniting to the suffering of my family members and neighbors [near and far] plunges us into deeper camaraderie.
Behold me, my beloved Jesus, weighed down under the burden of my trials and sufferings, I cast myself at Your feet, that You may renew my strength and my courage, while I rest here in Your Presence. Permit me to lay down my cross in Your Sacred Heart,
for only Your infinite goodness can sustain me; only Your love can help me bear my cross; only Your powerful hand can lighten its weight. O Divine King, Jesus, whose heart is so compassionate to the afflicted, I wish to live in You; suffer and die in You. During my life be to me my model and my support; At the hour of my death, be my hope and my refuge. Amen.
According to C.S. Lewis, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” Recently, my faith has been lacking so I was missing the miniature and miraculous letters forming a story before my own eyes. I have previously written about my family’s journey of finding out our youngest son, Josiah, has autism spectrum disorder, but I will provide a short recap for any new readers.
Josiah’s Journey [So Far]
In the summer of 2017, my wife and I noticed our son struggled to make sounds and form words. Because Josiah could not communicate with us he started to bang his head on the ground when he got frustrated. This habit became so bad that we were basically homebound unless both my wife and I were off work at the same time. On good days we could only take our son out for one errand as any transition proved too overwhelming for him.
We knew something had to change—he had to get better help then what we could offer at the time. In December 2017, Josiah was evaluated and diagnosed with autism. We enrolled him in a birth to three program offered by the city. He received speech, occupational, and development therapy. Eventually, his speech therapy was increased to weekly hour long sessions. It took a lot of time, focus, and diligence, but with consistent therapy with professionals and reinforced at home Josiah made tremendous gains. He was able to learn to talk and show us his needs for water, food, a preferred toy, and diaper changes. This summer he said his first 10+ word sentence!
Power of Words
Over the weekend, Josiah hit another milestone goal—telling me his full name and recognizing the letters to his first name. As I was in the playroom getting him dressed, Josiah pointed at the letters on the wall. For each kid, my wife and I hung their names in wooden letters in their rooms. We recently moved Josiah into the older kids room so the wooden letters remained in the “new playroom” (formerly Josiah’s room). This following was our exchange centered around those letters:
Me: “Yes, Josiah that is your name on the wall. What letter is that [pointing to the ‘J’]?”
Josiah: “J, O, S, I, A, H!”
Me: “And what is your name?”
Josiah: “Jo-sia-ah, Fabian, Sha-qin [Chicoine]!”
Practice Makes Progress
Some people have told my wife, “Aren’t you hoping that scientists find a cure for autism? Then you won’t have to waste all the time doing therapy.” This is the wrong thing to say to a parent of children with autism. Thankfully, my wife is quite professional and always tactful otherwise a vicious verbal exchange may have ensued. Autism is not something to be cured. Instead, it is something to be explored. Different does not mean diseased. Unfortunately, people naturally fear the unknown and treat it with disdain.
The reason I continue writing daily and sharing my thoughts is because I want to provide hope, perspective, and joy to families and individuals going through similar situations. Our world does not readily accept differences. I want to be a help change that. I want to bring tangibility and reality as to how autism looks in our little boy.
The Gift of Healing
Before he was born, I struggled mightily with depression. Our previous pregnancy due to miscarriage. We named our unborn child Jeremiah. Josiah proved to be God’s healing gift to us. His name literally means “healer”. All our triumphs are intricately tied to our struggles, doubts, fears, and worries parenting Josiah. We all have a cross to bear. Our cross is not more difficult than most people’s. It is merely different. Josiah’s smile and giggles are infectious. Hearing him tell me his name meant everything in during that moment in the playroom.
Do you have special needs or have a family member with special needs? I would love to hear your story. Please feel free to share in the comments.
Miracles do happen we just are too busy to see them sometimes. Our son’s special needs forces me to slow down and view the world differently. I am thankful that I embraced that change of pace this past Sunday. I pray for the strength and humility to be more willing and ready to learn from my son in the future!
💡💡💡Be authentic. We hear that all the time on across the Internet. Life coaches. Bloggers. Podcasters. Everyone seems to have their two cents on this topic.
If you are like me you probably think: Of course be authentic, but what does that look like specifically?!”
This can be done using the following tips:
1️⃣ Don’t exaggerate your experience. It is good to use engaging language, but if you over exaggerate your story it almost becomes like a tall tale or a big fish story.
2️⃣ Use details in your content.
Over the past few weeks I have been reading Gary Halbert’s “The Boron Letters”. It is a fantastic read for anyone in the field of advertising or copywriting.
I came across this quote of his that actually inspired me to write this post. “Believability is one of the top most important ingredients of good promotions,” he wrote.
Share the details of your story! Today, my older kids are home from school. It is busier than usual. How did I find time to write this post?
I took my kids to the library and we are in a large playroom with tons of toys (play food and shopping carts) and I let them free play. This freed me up to write and read some of Halbert’s letters.
3️⃣ Share your triumphs AND your trials.
It is easy to filter our social media posts or blogging content to show only our wins. Who doesn’t like a success story?
However, the best stories involve overcoming a conflict or struggle. Those also happen to be the realest. Without showing your vulnerability and weaknesses a you run the risk of becoming unrelatable or stuff—one sided lacking dimension. Embrace the fullness of your life. Share your highs lows, and the in between times as well.
These simple tips will lead to being more authentic.
Do you agree with these tips? Let me know in the comments.
In the modern world “reform” is a frequently used word. During the 2008 presidential election, a major issue was the reform of the United States healthcare system. Currently, violent revolutions occurring in Libya and Egypt cause people to call for political reform. The modern world frequently criticizes the Church. Many people believe that the Church should update its doctrine by permitting gay marriage and contraceptive use.
The Church is Incarnational
Though being a human institution, the Church has a Divine aspect, and is guided by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, all of its doctrines are immutable and Her truths are eternal. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the “liturgy as the sacred action par excellence is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed and it is likewise the font from which all her powers flow.” So the Church desires liturgical worship focused on God rid of excesses that deter from that goal.
Papal authority throughout the centuries advocated liturgical reform when abuses crept in. A prime example of this can be found in the 6th century with Pope Gregory the Great. He made several changes to the Roman Rite in response to heretical groups which caused some bishops to become scrupulous with prayer texts.
Another instance of immense liturgical reform occurred in the 16th century when the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant Reformation, sought to elucidate the Catholic doctrine, in particular the sacraments and reaffirming the Sacrificial nature of the Mass. While successful in clarifying the Church’s teaching, the rigidities of Trent led to decay in liturgical participation among the laity.
Context for Liturgical Reform
Within the 20th century, the 2nd Vatican Council provided the renewal needed for the liturgy of the Roman rite. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium states, “The liturgy builds up those who are in the Church, making of them a holy temple of the Lord, a dwelling-place for God in the Spirit, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Because of the importance of the liturgy, the Council required that reforms should be made and practical norms established. Yet, the reform decrees found in the conciliar document did not develop in isolation. Rather, liturgical reform was several years in the making. Starting as a pastoral movement, the Liturgical Movement of the twentieth century began in monastic centers and sought to return piety to the liturgy. It gained papal impetus through Pius XI’s Divini cultus in 1928 and Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei in 1948.
Since the liturgy’s development is organic, many of the renewal efforts of the Liturgical Movement pushed for a return to earlier Christian liturgical elements such as: an increased focus on the centrality of Christ’s sacrifice, better use of Scripture reading, greater emphasis on Gregorian chant and promotion of active participation among the laity. Ultimately, these concerns were addressed and declared by the Church in the 2nd Vatican Council.
A brief liturgical history from the Reformation to the 20th century will help to put the Liturgical Movement into perspective. Protestant reformers rejected not only the abuses of the Church, but the medieval liturgy as well. Dustan Tucker viewed the Reformation as “essentially an anti-liturgical revolution”.
Council of Trent and the Liturgy
The Council of Trent responded by criticizing such departures from Tradition. Pope Paul V declared, in the papal bull Quo primum, a return to the rite of the Early Fathers. This included removing lengthy and unnecessary prayers, ornate elements, and superstitious piety from the Mass. Soon after Trent, the Church implemented this reform. From 1568-1570 the Tridentine Missal and Breviary took shape. Requirements to pray the office of the Blessed Virgin and of the dead were lifted. General rubrics at the beginning of the missal provided uniformity in worship.
For the next few centuries there was stability in liturgical reform. However, abuses in the liturgy still arose. For instance, the number of feast days increased from 182 to 300 between 1584 and 1903. Many started to take priority over Sunday. Several attempts at reform failed during the three centuries preceding the Liturgical Movement.
Influence of Prosper Gueranger
Liturgical study blossomed within monastic communities in France in the 19th century. The Benedictine Abbey of Solesmes, in France, housed one of the early promoters of the European liturgical movement, Prosper Gueranger. He advocated a return to Gregorian chant as the authorized liturgical music for the Church. By the 1870s, his fellow monks researched chant manuscripts and desired to purify the texts to their original content. Gueranger made liturgy the center of monastic life.
Despite his positive contributions, he never encouraged the essential liturgical principle full and active participation by the whole congregation. Despite this, reform in France soon found its way to Germany and later Belgium around the turn of the century.
Though Gueranger had an important part in the liturgical reform in Europe, many historians acknowledge the movement’s true founder as the Belgian Benedictine, Dom Lambert. Beauduin. A speech given by him at the Catholic Conference at Malines in 1909 marked the beginning of the Liturgical Movement.
Pius X and Spread of Liturgical Reform
Influenced by Pius X’s motu proprio, Beuduin called for complete and active participation of all Christians within the liturgy. He wanted to reach beyond the people of Belgium to all Catholics. To accomplish this, Beuduin wrote a missal for the laity. Later he organized his abbey to provide liturgical education and even published a journal, Les Questions liturgiques.
The Liturgical Movement soon spread beyond Germany, France, and Belgium. As the century continued, the liturgical reform came to the Netherlands in 1911 and Italy in 1914 and eventually throughout the rest of Europe.
The liturgical movement traveled across the Atlantic in 1926, under the efforts of Virgil Michel. As a student of Beuduin, he sought to promote liturgical piety in the United States. To endorse the movement, Michel founded the journal Orate Fratres and Liturgical Press at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. He once said, “Should not every devoted Catholic try to the utmost of his power to participate actively in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to follow the priest in mind and heart, to pray with him and act with him?”
Origin of 20th Century Liturgical Reform
While the liturgical movement originated and grew forth from the monastic centers in Europe, the Holy See was not detached from this development. At the beginning of the century, in 1903, Pius X held the liturgy in high esteem. In his motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini, the pope referred to the liturgy as “the Church’s most important and indispensible source.” Papal support continued with Pius XI’s apostolic constitution Divini cultus in 1928. Released on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Pius X’s motu proprio, this document advocated an increased need for reform in liturgical music. The pope declared,
For the Liturgy is indeed a sacred thing, since by it we are raised to God and united to Him, thereby professing our faith and our deep obligation to Him for the benefits we have received and the help of which we stand in constant need. There is thus a close connection between dogma and the sacred Liturgy, and between Christian worship and the sanctification of the faithful.
Pius XI also states that task of the popes are to maintain the Liturgy like a custodian. In his 1924 bull Inter multiplices, he warned the Church of the dangers of modernism and upheld the notion of the liturgical growth as an organic development. Read in light of Divini cultus, the papal bull is not an ultramontane claim of papal power over the liturgy. Rather it is a warning to prevent liturgical reform from falling victim to antiquarianism.
Pius XII’s Mediator Dei
Papal impetus to the Liturgical Movement continued under Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei. Written in November 1947, this document solidified the relationship between the movement and the Holy See. The encyclical gave the Liturgical Movement official papal approval, yet at the same time warned against liturgical abuses. Mediator Dei became the first encyclical dedicated solely to the liturgy.
In defining the Sacred Liturgy and affirming liturgical piety as the center of the Christian life, Pius XII’s encyclical is viewed as the Magna Carta that set up the general reform in Sacrosanctum concilium. The conciliar document’s theme of the presence of Christ in the liturgy is declared in Mediator Dei. “In obedience, therefore, to her Founder’s behest, the Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the Sacred Liturgy, states Pius XII. This displays a striking similarity to a passage in Sacrosanctum concilium regarding the presence of Christ in the liturgy. According to the conciliar text, “The liturgy, then, is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ”.
Sacrifice of the Mass
Another major point given by Pius XII is the fact that the Liturgy should be seen as a sacrificial act. The salvific effects of Christ’s sacrifice are explained by the pope, “…it can be said that on Calvary Christ built a font of purification and salvation which He filled with the Blood He shed; but if men do not bathe in it and there wash away the stains of their iniquities, they can never be purified and saved.” By placing such stress on the sacrificial nature of the Mass, Pius hoped to prevent the faithful from error in viewing the liturgy exclusively as a memorial banquet.Sacrosanctum concilium reaffirmed the centrality of Christ’s sacrifice as well.
Practical Liturgical Reforms
Along with a deeper understanding in theology of the Mass, the Liturgical Movement also promoted pragmatic reform such as active participation for the laity. “The cooperation of the faithful is required so that sinners may be individually purified in the Blood of the Lamb,” stated Pius XII. Such cooperation could be facilitated by involving the laity. As previously mentioned, promotion of active participation started in the monasteries during the late 19th century. Publication of missals for the laity ensued at the turn of the century. This allowed them to follow along through prayer responses and singing along in the “dialogue Mass”.
A large majority within the Liturgical Movement agreed that the preferred understanding of the liturgy could not be reached until more vernacular was infused into the Mass. Many of the early pioneers of the movement such as Michel advocated for vernacular usage in the Mass. German bishops asked the Holy See, in 1949, to allow the epistle and gospel reading to be in the common language. By the 1950s more papal allowances permitted vernacular usage in the liturgy.Musicae sacrae disciplina, Pius XII’s encyclical on liturgical music granted hymns during Mass to be sung in the language of laity.
Issues with the Vernacular
Not all involved in the Liturgical Movement agreed on the amount of vernacular to be introduced into the liturgy. Many groups, like the English Liturgy Society in particular, welcomed the use of the vernacular and believed it should replace Latin in many rites including: baptism, anointing of the sick, and funerals.
An issue from usage of common language, raised by H.A. Reinhold, is faulty translations. He stated, “What I am personally afraid of …is a ‘commission’ of professors who know all about their fields but do not speak the language of the people…And that would be worse than what we have now, because it would falsify the spirit of our Roman Liturgy.”
Loss of meaning occurs when translating a biblical text into various languages. “The use of the Latin language, customary in a considerable portion of the Church, is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth,” proclaimed Pius XII on the importance of keeping Latin in the liturgy.
Another aim of liturgical reform in the 20th century dealt with sacred music. The Liturgical Movement sought a restoration to an unadulterated Gregorian chant. In the previous century, a method for renewal in sacred music began in Abbey of Solesmes. Here monks researched liturgical music and undertook the reinstatement of Gregorian chant in the Mass. While support for this style of music lacked uniformity, the majority in the movement endorsed Gregorian chant. In his motu proprio, Pius X called it the “supreme model for sacred music.”
Participation in the Mass
Further promotion of this style occurred with Divini cultus by which Pius XI encouraged an end to “silent spectators” and urged an active participation among the laity. “In order that the faithful may more actively participate in divine worship, let them be made once more to sing the Gregorian chant, so far as it belongs to them to take part in it,” the pope stated. His predecessor’s encyclical Musicae sacrae disciplina reaffirmed Pius X’s motu proprio. At the same time, Pius XII’s document displayed openness to development in sacred music. Yet, music must not become profane for the sake of mere exhibition in the liturgy. Rather, sacred music is an integral part of liturgy and must be given a high honor.
Lay Involvement with the Liturgy
Besides the external elements of the liturgy, the Liturgical Movement encouraged inward participation of the laity during Mass. According to Romano Guardini, the chief goal of the liturgy is not concerned with individuals showing reverence towards God. He states,
The liturgy is the Church’s public and lawful act of worship. It is performed and conducted by the officials whom the Church herself has designated for the post— her priests. In the liturgy God is to be honored by the body of the faithful, and the latter is in its turn to derive sanctification from this act of worship. Here the Catholic conception of worship in common sharply differs from the predominately individualistic Protestant style of worship.
In Mediator Dei, the pope encouraged Christian participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass. Such involvement takes place in laity’s offering of the bread and wine and of alms to the priest. Upon their behalf the priest offers the sacrifice. Through the liturgy and their sacrificial offerings the Christian becomes more attentive to the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Second Vatican Council
The activities of the Liturgical Movement culminated in the 20th century with the Second Vatican Council. Here the nature of the Church became better clarified. The Constitution, Sacrosanctum concilium, expanded upon the advocated reforms by the previous council. The conciliar document’s stress on the presence of Christ in the liturgy also harked back to Pius XII’s Mediator Dei.
Regarding Holy Scripture, in the 1950s, the movement sought for greater emphasis placed on the Word in the liturgy. Pius XII granted limited sanctions by having the epistle and gospel read in the vernacular, but only after said in Latin first. This allowed for greater attentiveness in Mass. Sacrosanctum concilium continued such reform in permitting use of the common language in places like the readings and some prayers. But the document still maintained to keep the Latin language as the norm in the liturgy.
Mystical Body of Christ
Another theme found in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy was the Nature of the Church as the Mystical Body. About twenty years prior to the council, the encyclical Mystici corporis christi examined the Pauline concept of the Church being the body of Christ. This provided great insight on the nature of the Church. Like the monks from Solemes and the popes, especially Pius X, the Council held sacred music with high esteem. Sacrosanctum concilium decreed, “The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride and place in liturgical services.” Furthermore, the document declares that the liturgy’s development must be organic. “Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority,” asserts Sacrosanctum concilium.
It is God who “wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” Through liturgical worship humans are sanctified and receive Christ in the Eucharist. Yet, because of the human aspect of the Church, abuses have entered into the liturgy. Because of this, reform is constantly needed. In the twentieth century, this renewal came in the form of the Liturgical Movement.
Established first in monastic hubs in Europe, the movement eventually gained papal momentum from the encyclicals Divini cultus and Mediator Dei. They promoted a return to early Christian liturgical practices and encouraged more usage of Scripture, Gregorian chant, and active participation of the laity during the Mass.
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Guardini, Romano. The Spirit of the Liturgy. New York, N.Y: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1998.
Jounel, P. “From the Council of Trent to Vatican Council II.” In The Church at Prayer Volume 1: Principles of the Liturgy. New ed. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1987. 63-84.
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Koenker, Ernest B. “Objectives and Achievements of the Liturgical Movement in the Roman Catholic Church since World War II.” Church History 20, no. 2 (1951): 14-27.
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Reid, Alcuin. The Organic Development of the Liturgy: the Principles of liturgical Reform and their Relation to the Twentieth-century Liturgical Movement prior to the second Vatican Council. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005.
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 “Liturgica.com | Liturgics | Western Latin Liturgics | Gregorian Reforms.” Liturgica Home. http://www.liturgica.com/html/litWLReform.jsp (accessed March 31, 2011).
 Ernest B. Koenker, “Objectives and Achievements of the Liturgical Movement in the Roman Catholic Church since World War II,” Church History 20, 2 (1951), 15.
 Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963), 2.
 Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy: the Principles of liturgical Reform and their Relation to the Twentieth-century Liturgical Movement prior to the second Vatican Council 2nd Ed.( San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005), 39.
The Veneration and Administration of the Eucharist: the Proceedings of the Second International Colloquium on the Roman Catholic Liturgy organised by the Centre International d’Etudes Liturgiques. (Southampton: Saint Austin Press, 1997), 123.
 RobertCabié and Aimé Georges Martimort, “The Celebration of the Eucharist in the West from the Council of Trent to Vatican Council II.” In The Church at prayer: an introduction to the liturgy, New ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1988), 183
Note: I originally wrote this article for a course on the Teachings of Vatican II during my Master’s degree. I have noticed across social media that some Catholics are misinforming others that to have married priests it would be a heresy. Married priests are a matter of discipline not relating to the tenets of our faith as outlined in the Nicene Creed.
By examining the Vatican II document on the priesthood, Presbyterorum ordinis, I hope the laity will a greater appreciation for the ordained life. I also hope this reflection will lead others to petition the Holy Spirit for guidance during these confusing times in the Church.
In the post-conciliar era, the Catholic Church has experienced both joys and tribulations. On the positive side the Church opened up to the world from a bulwark against polemical, rationalistic, and heretical tendencies to seeing itself as the “light” drawing humanity towards its ultimate end─ namely Christ. Yet, despite Pope John XXIII’s and the Council Fathers’ enthusiasm for reform, several developments in stark contrast to their intentions emerged after the Second Vatican Council.
According to Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, “it is not Vatican II and its documents that are problematic” (Messori, The Ratzinger report, 29). Hastily made translations of the texts and failure to properly interpret them considering the whole conciliar documents caused many Catholics to lose sight of the intended reforms.
State of Affairs with the Catholic Priesthood
Poor execution in the reforms called for by the council had adverse effects on the external visage of the Church, particularly regarding the priesthood. A study showed that worldwide the numbers of registered active diocesan priests diminished from 35,000 in 1966 to 21,000 in 2005 (Schoenherr).
Due to such a figure, many people lament over the Church’s situation and Her seeming decline. Yet, the present time should not be a time for despair among Catholics. The Holy Spirit is continually working within the Church, albeit not always according to man’s time. Every pope since the council has fervently called the faithful to a life of holiness. It is through this sanctification of the individual that authentic ecclesial reform occurs.
A reading of the conciliar documents would also be of great advantage to the laity. In doing so, Catholics can discover the true spirit of the Second Vatican Council (Messori, 40). To combat the “crisis” of the priestly shortage, a proper appreciation of the priesthood is essential. By becoming acquainted with the conciliar text on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum ordinis, Catholics will gain knowledge of the role of the ministerial priesthood and its connection to Church life.
At the beginning of the conciliar text, a distinction is made between the common and ministerial priesthood. The entire baptized are called to share in the priestly office of Jesus. Participation in this type of priesthood occurs through the offering up of spiritual sacrifices to the Lord. Yet, the Council Fathers state, “the Lord also appointed certain men as ministers, in order that they might be united in one body in which ‘all the members have not the same function’” (Romans 12:4). Endowed with the sacred power of Orders, these men have the authority to forgive sins and offer sacrifices on behalf Christ’s name (PO art. 2).
Acting in Personi Christi
Priests are also sharers in the ministry of the bishops’─ to a lesser degree. Together they act in authority given by Christ to sanctify and build up the Church (PO art. 2). An indelible mark is made on a priest’s soul upon receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders. This special imprint allows select ordained men to act in the person of Christ the Head. The prime way priests act in Persona Christi is by the confecting of the Eucharist. According to the Council Fathers, “The ministry of priests is directed to this and finds its consummation in it (PO art. 2). A more thorough treatment of this topic will be addressed later in the paper.
Though the sacrificial nature of the priesthood seems to be highly spiritual and sacramental, priests are not to be aloof from the world. On the contrary, the conciliar document proclaims that, while being “set apart” in a specific way from the People of God, they are not detached from humanity (PO art. 3). Christ came to live in among men in all ways but sin, in order to save all men. Priests are called to live in a similar way. “Their very ministry makes a special claim on them not to conform themselves to this world; still it requires at the same time that they should live among men in this world as good shepherds,” declare the Council Fathers (PO art. 3).
The Ministry of Priests
After learning about the nature of the priesthood, the ministry of priests can be addressed. A major component of their office is the role priests carry out for the Church. “For since nobody can be saved who has not first believed, it is the first task of priests as co-workers of the bishops to preach the Gospel of God to all men,” states the conciliar text (PO art. 4). Easily overlooked as a priestly function solely done from the pulpit, priests are not called to preach to their congregation in that way alone. Through both word and deed priests spread the gospel message to all.
Reflecting on this point calls to mind a talk I had with my cousin about preaching the gospel as a priest. He recently got ordained, but our talk occurred during his time in seminary. My cousin shared his fears about sharing the gospel in everyday concrete situations with his future parishioners. He worried his shyness would hinder the spreading of the gospel to others. However, the decree on the ministry and life of priests says, “Thus the ministry of the Word is exercised in many different ways according to the needs of the hearers and the spiritual gifts of preachers” (PO art. 4). I assured my cousin, that charisms given to him by the Father would assist in preaching to meet his parishioners’ needs.
Instruments of God
Besides the task of ministering the Word of God to all mankind, priests share in the unique priesthood of Christ. Through the special grace received by the Holy Spirit during the sacraments of Orders, priests are able to administer sacraments to make Christ present to individual assemblies of the faithful. This is most perfectly done with the celebration of the Eucharist. “Hence priests teach the faithful to offer the divine victim to God the Father in the sacrifice of the Mass and with the victim to make an offering of their whole life, proclaim the Council Fathers (PO art. 5).
During the Rite of Ordination to the Priesthood, the newly ordained men receive a paten and chalice from the bishop. These items demonstrate the importance and primacy of the priest’s role in confecting the Eucharist. After my cousin’s ordination when asked about the most important function of the priest, he mentioned that consecrating the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ as being the “most basic and essential role a priest can ever do”.
Daily Devotions of a Priest
Liturgy of the Hours also holds an important place in a priest’s daily life. Clergy are required to pray at least five times a day. “By their fulfillment of the Divine Office priests themselves should extend to the different hours of the day the praise and thanksgiving they offer in celebration of the Eucharist,” states the conciliar document (PO art. 5). Through the official prayer of the Church, priests pray to God on behalf of the Church. For me, this shows how much of a priest’s work goes unnoticed. Until a few years ago, I lacked an adequate understanding of the Divine Office and never knew bishops and priests were bound to recite five “hours” daily.
In addition to administering the sacraments, priests constantly strive for holiness in their personal lives. To aid them the Church gives them a prescription for saying Liturgy of the Hours on a regular basis. It is through liturgical prayer that priests continue to offer thanksgiving to God daily.
Along with the liturgical function of the priest, they are also given authority given by Christ to lead God’s people. As mentioned by the Council Fathers, “For the exercise of this ministry, as for the rest of the priests’ functions, a spiritual power is given them, a power whose purpose is to build up” (Po art. 6). But this building up of the Church must be done in charity.
Role of Teaching the Faithful
Instructing the laity in Christian doctrine becomes another essential task for the priest. “Very little good will be achieved by ceremonies however beautiful, or societies however flourishing, if they are not directed towards educating people to reach Christian maturity,” states the Second Vatican Council (PO art. 6). Priests should provide service to people both individually and communally. Regarding the former, priests have a special duty to care for the elderly and infirmed. For the latter, article 6 of the document reiterates the importance and centrality that the Eucharist has in building up the Christian community.
One final point on this topic that I found interesting pertained to a priest’s inability to take a political stance. The text declares, “In building up a community of Christians, priests can never be the servants of any human ideology or party” (PO art. 6). For in publicly advocating a certain political agenda, there is a potential for priests to succumb to the logic and notions of the temporal world. They should be promoting the Gospel message to all people, not getting wrapped up in passing ideologies.
While the ministry of the priesthood often involves interaction with the laity, priests have a relationship with the clergy as well. A unity exists among priests and their bishop by nature of the Sacrament of Orders.
Unity in the Person of Christ
Due to the sharing of the same priesthood, bishops should respect their priests as brothers and friends (PO art. 7). Furthermore, those holding episcopal offices are urged to listen to the needs of their priests. But the relationship does not work one-way. “Priests for their part should keep in mind the fullness of the sacrament of Order which bishops enjoy and should reverence in their persons the authority of Christ the supreme Pastor,” demands the conciliar text (PO art. 7).
At my cousin’s Ordination Mass, after the examination of the candidates they pledged obedience to the local bishop. Many family members asked my cousin which parish he would be assigned to. In response he said, “Wherever my bishop decides to place me”. A priest obeying the bishop is necessary to maintaining proper management of a diocese and preventing confusion in doctrine.
The Priestly Life
Now that the ministerial aspect of the priesthood has been addressed, the rest of the paper will expound upon the life of priests. From the onset of the third chapter of Presbyterorum ordinis, the call of priests to holiness is emphasized. As the gospel of Matthew puts it, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (PO art. 12). It is through a holy life that priests garner a fruitful fulfillment of their ministry. Specifically, they obtain holiness through the threefold exercise of their priestly office─ priest, prophet, and king.
Regarding the priests’ sacrificial function, the work of our salvation is continually carried out. Because of this, the Council Fathers strongly encourage daily celebration of the Eucharist by priests (PO art. 13). Moreover, they are called to be available for administering Confession whenever a member of the faithful reasonably requests. I think that all Catholics need to read this portion of the document, for it concretely states that the laity has the option to ask for Penance at any time, as long it is a reasonable time.
Oftentimes, Catholics miss out on this sacrament. They might make the excuse that their schedules do not match up with allotted confessional times. A priest’s purpose is to serve the congregation in a sacramental way. He does this by striving to always assist those in need as best as possible.
Prophetic Office of the Clergy
The second distinguishing way priests attain holiness is through exercising their prophetic office. This can be done through daily reading of the scriptures. “If they strive at the same time to make it part of their own lives, they will became daily more perfect disciples of the Lord,” proclaims the document (PO art. 13). In addition to mediating upon the Word of God, priests are called to teach to faithful what they read. A homily is a great way for priests to instruct their parishioners on the message contained in Sunday’s scripture passages.
Lastly, the kingly role of priests relates to how they govern and direct the People of God. An image that the Council Fathers drew upon with respect to this function was Christ the Good Shepherd. Like a shepherd that guides and cares for his sheep, priests need to develop a similar care for their parishioners. The conciliar text says, “They [priests] set up a steadfast hope for their faithful people, so that they may be able to comfort all who are in distress by the exhortation wherewith God also exhorts them” (PO art. 13). Priests are called to be sacrificial putting their congregation over themselves.
Spiritual Gifts Priests Receive
Priests also rely on several spiritual gifts in daily life to assist them in carrying out ministerial work. Among the first virtues mentioned by the Council is humility. The Council Fathers proclaim, “Therefore the true minister of Christ is conscious of his own weakness and labors in humility” (PO art. 15). As the Church’s representative of Christ, it makes sense that such a virtue is expected of priests. Jesus humbled himself by taking on the form of man and served his disciples. Likewise priests are called to serve the faithful.
A second virtue in the priest’s arsenal for holiness is obedience. Only through complete union within the hierarchical system of the Church can a priest’s ministry come to full fruition. Practically speaking, this includes reverence towards their bishop and the Pope and submitting to their will. The conciliar document concisely explains the significance of these two spiritual gifts in a priest’s life, “By this humility and by responsible and willing obedience priests conform themselves to Christ. They reproduce the sentiment of Jesus Christ who ‘emptied himself, taking the form of a servant …and became obedient unto death’” (PO art. 15).
A key gift to the priesthood along with the virtues of humility and obedience is celibacy. On this point, many people contest the necessity for priests to maintain a celibate life after being ordained. The Council even states that the nature of the priesthood does not mandate celibacy (PO art. 16). For a time married priests existed in the Western Church. Yet, tradition from the early Church, even in the Eastern churches, bishops practiced chaste living. Moreover, the conciliar text gives a multitude of reasons why celibacy is in harmony with the priesthood. For instance, “By preserving virginity or celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven priests are consecrated in a new and excellent way to Christ”, declares the Council Fathers (PO art. 16).
Furthermore, as an eschatological anticipation of Heaven, celibacy represents undivided loyalty to the Church. Married to the Church, priests are fitted into a broader fatherhood in Christ, by which the People of God become their spiritual children (PO art. 16).
Time for More Married Priests?
A common hindrance to those contemplating the priesthood, in the Latin rites, revolves around the inability to marry and have kids of their own. But viewing celibacy in this way helps a person better understand the Church’s perspective. I have friends in the seminary who have struggled with that very issue about family and children. Ultimately what got them through such struggles was studying the Church’s teaching and understanding on celibacy.
In addition to the spiritual gifts, priests need some external and practical aids in their life. During the rite of ordination, the bishop commands the new priests to be highly educated and ready to answer questions presented by future parishioners. To meet this need, they should pursue continued study, aided first and foremost by sacred Scripture (PO art. 19).
Another concrete help for priests in daily living is a just compensation for their work. The Council Fathers continue by saying, “Moreover, priests’ remuneration should be such as to allow the priest a proper holiday each year. The bishop should see to it that priests are able to have this holiday” (PO art. 20). This struck me as the most interesting of all the articles in Presbyterorum ordinis. Usually the words vacation and priest are never uttered in the same breath. However, I think that Council Fathers saw the importance of pointing out that priests need rest just like any normal human. Even the Lord demanded that people be repaid fairly for their hard work.
Renewed Appreciation for the Priesthood
A pessimist might view the Second Vatican Council as a complete failure for the Church. Confusion about doctrine and a dwindling number of priests occurred in the years following the council. While a contradiction between the intention of the conciliar texts and its application in the world ensued─ hope is not lost. At the end of the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, the Council Fathers reiterate Christ’s consoling words, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (PO 22).
Along with continual reliance on the Lord, a keen study of Presbyterorum ordinis will create a deeper love and appreciation for the priesthood in the faithful’s hearts. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Magisterium seeks to properly implement the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. For when executed correctly, the understanding of the conciliar teaching will foster an ecclesial environment with fruitful vocations, especially those to the priesthood.
Messori, Vittorio. The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985. Print.
Second Vatican Council, Presbyterorum ordinis: The Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests (7 December 1965).
Schoenherr, Richard A. “Numbers Don’t Lie: A Priesthood in Irreversible Decline.” Commonweal 122 (1995): 11-14. Print.
“What matters isn’t storytelling. What matters is telling a true story well.” — Ann Handley
💡The most engaging content I have written does not include the best grammar, language, or most philosophical ideas.
💡A common thread I noticed about posts that get more comments, likes, and views are about actual events in my life.
💡Truth. What is truth? For me it is something that matches reality.
💡The truth about me is that I am a devout Catholic, husband, and father. I enjoy writing (this should not be a shock to anyone 😊), running, reading, and geeking out over comic books and anything Tolkien.
💡The truth is my work schedule is not ideal. My wife and I get only a few times during the week to talk, actually talk about our day, hopes, and dreams.
💡 I have wanted to give up or at least take a long time off from my work as a writer. In hindsight, I know that it was sleep deprivation talking.
💡The truth is I am grateful. On my worst days I am at least grateful for my faith, family, and friends. On my best days I see literally everything I encounter as a blessing. We are blessed to have the ability to use blogging and social media as a platforms to share our truths with others.