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Ministry and Holy Orders:
- Jesus Christ is the only priest in Christianity; All Christians share in his priesthood. What makes the second of the three holy orders unique is that it is the presbyterate, not that it is a priesthood unto itself. This is not to deny the sacramental priesthood of holy orders (including deacons), but to suggest that perhaps we should officially restore the ancient and official title of ‘presbyter’ to the common lexicon in reference to those ordained to the presbyterate.
- Deacons participate in the ‘headship’ of Christ and the governance of the church, just not the presbyterate or the episcopate. Let’s make that clear.
- Traditionally (patristically), presbyters advise, deacons assist. The presbyterate acts in council, the deacons act individually. The presbyters preside locally in sacraments and spiritual life, the deacons assist the bishop preside in administration of the church’s goods – financial, human resources, diplomacy, ecumenism and dialogue, pastoral leadership. There has been too much overlap, let’s clarify this a little.
- Lay ecclesial ministry needs to be formally and canonically acknowledged. Catechists, pastoral workers, pastoral associates, lay preachers, and other such offices ought to require incardination into a diocese and a relationship with the bishop, a common set of norms for formation, and perhaps inclusion into something like the minor orders – they are not ordained, but they are not following a lay vocation, either.
- Clerical compensation and the financial crises are closely linked. There is no clear line in many cases between the pastor’s funds and those of the parish, and no clear accountability. This is one reason for a deacon being assigned responsibility for administration, and answerable to the bishop directly, while a presbyter is responsible for sacraments and spirituality. Why not just make compensation the same for all ministers, whether presbyter, deacon, or lay ecclesial? A simple salary or stipend.
- Support for all candidates for ministry should be equitable, whether for presbyterate, diaconate, or lay eccleisal.
- Clerical clothing is for clerics, meaning:
- Deacons have a right to clerical clothing, even if married! Canon law does not allow a bishop to restrict this right, much less a local pastor
- Seminarians do not, and should not be dressing up as if they are ordained.
- If we do not just do away with clerical clothing altogether, some kind of distinctive garb could be considered for lay ecclesial ministers, as long as we have such a thing for clergy. Different colors if need be, but the same basic idea: easy identification of those in pastoral leadership and ministry. Not to be confused with those in training for such.
- Eliminate the last vestiges of the cursus honorem
- Eliminate the transitional diaconate outright. A transitional diaconate makes as much sense theologically as a transitional presbyterate for deacon candidates.
- Allow deacons to transition to the presbyterate (and vice versa) if and only if an office to which they are called requires it.
- Acolyte and Reader, as instituted ministries should be moved out of seminaries and into parishes/dioceses, as the actual lay ministries that execute these functions in the liturgy. No more stepping-stone for seminarians, but actual readers and servers at mass. Add ministers of communion and any others that seem appropriate. Extend them to women.
- However, the original idea has merit. Perhaps before ordination to either diaconate or presbyterate, candidates should have earned at least an STB or BA in theology and philosphy, and served five-seven years in pastoral ministry. The best way to discern which order you should be ordained into is in practice! Then, they could go back for the M.Div., STL, or JCL and move on to the appropriate track: diaconate or presbyterate.
- The age of ordination to the presbyterate should be raised to 35. It should make no difference whether celibate or married.
- Leave the diaconate age for ordination at 35 as well, and also make no difference if celibate or married.
- I prefer the Assyrian and Anglican practice of allowing clergy to marry before or after ordination, since it is much easier for some of us to discern a vocation to ministry than to discern a vocation to celibacy or marriage and it seems like time wasted in the interim. But, the Greek practice of marriage before ordination has been the compromise between the extremes of mandatory celibacy and the above since Nicaea, so it is certainly reasonable to retain. At least it should be seriously, and ecumenically, reconsidered, however.
- We need more married presbyters, and more celibate deacons. The diaconate is not defined by marriage and marriage is not essential to the diaconate, neither is the presbyterate defined by celibacy nor is celibacy essential to the presbyterate. We have some of each already, we just need greater balance.
- Church Reform Wishlist: Open Letter and Introduction
- Church Reform Wishlist: The Eastern Catholic Churches
- Church Reform Wishlist: The College of Bishops
- Church Reform Wishlist: The College of Cardinals
- Church Reform Wishlist: The Roman Curia
- Church Reform Wishlist: Ministry and Holy Orders
- Church Reform Wishlist: Precedence and Papal Honors
- Church Reform Wishlist: Catholic Education
- Church Reform Wishlist: Liturgy
I originally posted this a couple of years ago on a different blog. I came accross it recently, and given where i am now (that is, Rome), it still seems funny, and i hope you can appreciate the humor. [Disclaimer: No clerics were harmed in the making of this post.]
**Original Post: August 15, 2008**
At an ecumenical meeting not long ago, i found myself again trying to explain lay ecclesial ministry to a Lutheran pastor. While many non-Catholics (and even some Catholics) often think the only ministers in the Catholic Church are priests, at least this one had been ecumenically involved long enough to know different. He just was not sure how to address me.
“As a member of the Board,” he said, “you deserve to be addressed with appropriate formality in correspondence, and appropriate respect during meetings. So, what do we call you?”
I told him the name given me at my birth and baptism was Andrew, and that was fine – or A.J., as I have been known since birth: “No adornments necessary.”
Pressed, however, I shared how evangelical Christians i meet with invariably address me as “Pastor Boyd”, since anyone who does professional pastoral ministry is, ipso facto, a pastor, and therefore called “pastor”. I noted how, every time i got something from Hilel or the local synagogue, it was addressed to “Rev. Boyd”, because, again, the logic is, clergy are professional ministers, and I am a professional minister, so i must be clergy. Even when filling out legal forms, i often have to select “clergy” as my occupation, because for the uninitiated, clergy is defined by Webster, and not the Codex Iuris Canonicis, as “a group of church officials doing official church ministry”.
After all this, i was informed it just was not acceptable. We had to find something appropriate to my position as not-ordained but vocational, “professional” minister of the Church while respecting the internal distinction between clerical and lay ministers. So we began an exploration.
“Virtually Reverend”, “Not-Quite-Reverend”, and “Sort-of-Reverend” were all suggested before we alighted on “The Almost Reverend”.
After my colleague observed that a personal style was needed, too, I remembered a line from a great book and movie about a pope, Saving Grace, and we decided the only possible ecclesiastical style for someone of such standing as myself was “Your Mediocreness…”
Therefore I can now fit in at the next clerical cocktail party as “His Mediocreness, The Almost Reverend A. J. Boyd”.
I am thinking of petitioning the Pontifical Council for the Laity for making this a universal norm…
The Lay Centre has three major aspects to its ministry of hospitality and formation. The first is the one most familiar to anyone reading my blog or following my studies, which is the community of students and scholars who live in the house of formation throughout the academic year (Oct-June) and who eat, pray and learn together in an ongoing dialogue of life. The second is the ongoing adult formation offered (mostly) to the English-speaking population of Rome. Theology, spirituality, church history, liturgy, art, and architecture offered by faculty of the pontifical universities and visiting scholars every Thursday morning as part of the Vincent Pallotti Institute.
The third piece of the mission is the summer seminars and retreats offered by the lay centre. During June, July, and September groups come in from around the world to spend a week in Rome. Some have their own agenda and primarily enjoy the hospitality of the Lay Centre, while others are sponsored by the Centre directly and open to anyone from around the world.
A few years ago I remember hearing about Rome’s first-ever symposium on Lay Ecclesial Ministry, and recall thinking to myself, “First? This has been going on 50 years and they are only now talking about it???” Little did I know. (One can hear about how slowly time moves in the Eternal City, but you really have to be there to appreciate it, soak it in, and start wondering what all the fuss was about back when you cared about things like deadlines, traffic laws, and absolute concepts of any kind…)
One of the programs offered this summer was the latest in the series touching on lay ecclesial ministry, but with a timely twist. In honor of the Year of the Priest, and timed to coincide with the closing festivities of the year, the theme was taken from Pope Benedict’s address to the annual convention of the diocese of Rome (given at St. John Lateran on May 26, 2009) and again later to the presbytery of Rome at the beginning of the year: “Corresponsibility of Priests and Laity”.
The unique opportunities for a program like this in Rome include access to so much of the Church’s history within walking distance, access to curia officials, access to representatives of the Church from all over the world, and of course the hospitality of the Lay Centre.
The program progressed through the centuries day by day, with an examination of key saints and their experience of “corresponsibility”. We studied St. Paul and his collaborators with Abbot Edmund Power of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Paul Outside the Walls – guardians of the tomb of the great missionary and co-patron of Rome. St. Justin Martyr, a layman, buried at St. Lawrence Outside the Walls. Pope St. Gregory the Great, with his oratory of St. Andrew is literally just over the wall from my Roman home. St. Vincent Pallotti was an early modern pioneer of lay formation.
Contemporary organizations and developments we looked at included the Emmanuel Community, Sant’Egidio, the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and the Union of the Catholic Apostolate. Presenters included Dr. Marian Diaz, Fr. William Henn of the Gregorian, Ms. Ana Crisitina Villa-Betancourt of the PCL, Fr. Jean Baptiste Edart of the Emmanuel Community, and John Breen of the Beda College in Rome. The participants were mostly students and (both lay and ordained) ministers from the U.S., but included one Dutch pastoral life director.
[Further Reflection to Follow]
Today is the feast of one of the most popular saints around here, St. Catherine of Siena. Lay woman, Dominican tertiary, ecclesial reformer and gifted with a charism that allowed her to put popes and antipopes in their proper place and get away with it, she serves as the patron saint of the caribinieri, Italy, Europe, and was the first woman named a Doctor of the Church.
It was only at the end of my class day, just before 6pm, that I was able to run over to the church where she died, and where most of her remains remain, Chiesa Santa Maria Sopra Minerve, near the Pantheon. On her feast day every year they open the small doors under the high altar to allow devotees to access her marble tomb directly. After the liturgy, we were also able to get into the chapel built from the rooms in which St. Catherine lived her last years. (I ran into a couple friends at the church, one of whom, John Paul, took the photos I used for this blog. More can be found at his, Orbis Catholicvs Secvndvs)
Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the Brazilian Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy presided at a solemn vespers and Eucharist to commemorate the saint, with about forty Dominican friars, an equal number of sisters, and a handful of tertiaries, in attendance. It was an interesting liturgical experience in the fact that we started with the procession, went into the first half of vespers, after the psalms came the Gloria and the penitential rite followed by the rest of the Eucharist, only to return to the vespers canticle and the rest of that liturgy following the final blessing of the mass.
Cardinal Hummes presents a good example of the way lines are drawn differently in Rome than it often seems in the States, and a reminder not to judge a book by its cover, or too quickly, if at all. Vested in scarlet, lace and a heavily embroidered Baroque “fiddleback” chasuble he was the very image of the popular style of the Tridentine era and the “extraordinary form” movement of today. Dual deacons with matching Baroque dalmatics and vimpere donned in vimp veils embroidered with the cardinalatial coat of arms reinforced the image of a very Roman prince of the church.
Cardinal Hummes is not his predecessor, however. Ordained a presbyter before the Council, he finished a doctorate in philosophy, in Rome, just as Vatican II was getting interesting. A Franciscan, he continued studies at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey and has been known for his support of social justice, liberation theology, and being open about the theoretical possibility of doing away with mandatory clerical celibacy.
This is not the combination that comes easily to mind for most of my fellow North American Catholics, I think it is safe to say: “traditional” liturgical garb and “progressive” theological/ecclesiological tendencies!
The homily, I am sure, would be interesting… but I have not found a translation yet. In the mean time, blessed feast of Catherine to you!
Vatican Radio featured the Lay Centre today, after the celebration dedicating our new site yesterday evening. The twenty-minute interview features co-founder and director Dr. Donna Orsuto, assistant director Robert White, Dr. Aurelie Hagstrom of Providence College, and this humble scribe.
Click here to listen. (You may need RealPlayer)
Today is the feast of San Tommaso d’Aquino, patron of my current university, of academics and theologians everywhere. Unfortunately, as I was trying to beat a cold, I was unable to get to the celebration of our Patronal Feast at the Angelicum this morning, with Archbishop Agustin DiNoia, OP, but a friar friend has put some photos up on the university blog, so check them out!
I have never claimed to be a Thomist per se, for as one of my first university philosophy professors said, “If you are going to be a Thomist, you have to be a damn good one.” I am fascinated by the Angelic Doctor, but I see him as one (important) contributor to the Catholic, Christian theological tradition, rather than devoting all of my studies to him and his works, which is what it would take to be a “damn good” Thomist.
Truth be told, though, even that would not be enough – I am not convinced Thomas would approve of such narrowed focus! He was, after all, the Great Synthesizer, and did not hesitate to use a variety of Christian sources, as well as Jewish, Muslim and pagan ones.
When I was an undergraduate, I had a friend who was studying medieval philosophy, almost exclusively with the late Ralph McInerny – who is a Thomist. He and I would have many long debates some of which revolved around the maxim of the Papal Theologian: “Never mix philosophy and theology, because philosophy always wins!” My friend felt that, as a medieval philosophy with a particular focus, he was therefore an adept theologian. As a theologian with a much broader view of Tradition, I often had to remind him that this was not the case! No matter how profound and how great the tradition, no one theologian encompasses the whole of Catholic theology, much less the attendant pastoral, liturgical, historical and other issues that interact with theology in the lived experience of the Church.
As a theologian and student, his peers dubbed him the “Dumb Ox” – dumb as in mute – to which Albertus Magnus supposedly retorted, “That ‘dumb ox’ will one day fill the world with his bellowing!” Thomas was no quick wit. He would not have made it as official Catholic commentator on Fox News or CNN. He was big, slow to move and slow to speak, and as with any good introvert, would fix you with a stare in response to unexpected questions that probably left less astute contemporaries wondering if he really was all that bright. He is an inspiration to any systemitizing introvert who has been caught in the spotlight by “think out loud” extravert peers!
As a candidate for patron of “new” vocations, consider his story:
According to his father, the Count of Aquino, Thomas was going to be groomed as the Abbot of Montecassino, an old, established, and wealthy Benedictine Abbey not too far from Rome. This was the normal sort of ecclesial vocation of his era – monastic life. It was how you served the church successfully. It was expected. It was “just the way things were done”. You want to serve the church? Fine, join the monastery.
But he would have none of it. At 19 he ran off to join some newfangled wannabes who were kind of like monks, but not really monks – and I doubt the real monastics would have been too happy if you called these mendicant friars “monks”! They had only been around for 40 years. They did not spend their time at the monastery but wandered around the countryside preaching, teaching, and doing God-only-knows what else that was properly the ministry of monks and diocesan clergy.
This was not right!! How dare they? So, his family did the only respectable thing to do – they arranged for him to be rescued from this cult, threw him in a locked room and commenced a serious deprogramming effort.
A year later, he remained committed to his vocation. He was called to serve the church, clearly, just not in the way that his parents and grandparents generations took for granted. It looked a little different. The charism was a little different. New terminology had to be used to explain it. There were bishops who did not support it. People worried about the confusion of identity of traditional monastic life – of monks and nuns – with this itinerant innovation of mendicant life – these friars. Even a few years later, after being ordained in this “new order”, he spent time writing defense of the vocation he was living. Some critics argued that real ministers would be spending their time in prayer and sacramental service, not defending and defining a “new” vocation!
The parallels to the present age, to lay ecclesial ministry and even to the restoration of a real diaconate, are overwhelming! (Though, I admit I am not aware of any pastoral associate being kidnapped by family to consider the diocesan presbyterate or religious life instead.) We are 50 years into the present form of lay ecclesial ministry in the U.S., and it never ceases to amaze me how much suspicion, ignorance, misunderstanding and outright vitriol is out there. I completely understand this minister’s plea, “Don’t dis lay ecclesial ministry!”
St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of “new” vocations, pray for us!