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Last Tuesday was on the Sacrament of Holy Orders and the Sacrament of Marriage.

They actually went beyond Holy Orders, I think, as our lecturer discussed religious vocations in general. Still, the priesthood was the focus of the Catholic Update. There was a slight reference to behavioral problems in the priesthood (look how carefully I worded that!), but not much discussion in that area. Our leader’s comment was that there was no shortage of newspaper articles about such issues, but as they didn’t pertain directly to our topic for the night we were not going to get into them tonight. Instead she went into a very interesting but fast review of the different types and levels of serving (including types of priests, deacons, nuns, and regular parishioners who felt a call to more service). She was going too fast for me to take good notes, so I am currently trying to find a nice outline on the interwebs. Not having much luck yet, but I did find a few interesting sites (Catholic New World: The making of deacons, priests, and bishops, LifeTeen Types of Priests; and this long site that I haven’t even begun to read called Vocation.com). I think I’m just going to have to ask my leader if I can have a copy of her lecture notes.

A close friend’s brother went to seminary. I went along on one of her road trips to visit him, so on one occasion I got to look around a seminary and talk to a few priests-in-training about the school and their studies. None of the ones I spoke to actually took vows upon graduation. I can’t remember a time when people weren’t saying there was a shortage of priests, but apparently the problem has gotten worse. In class there was a brief but interesting discussion on how to handle this problem. For example, the role of the deacon has expanded as the numbers of priests have declined. One man suggested lowering the standards for acceptance (citing that’s how they do it in the Air Force!!). He also asked about allowing priests to marry. There was a flourish of outcries against standard lowering and marriage allowing by the sponsors and class leaders. There was also an interesting discussion of priests being mistreated by the military branches and how Catholics in uniform might soon not have priests on bases, so they will have to either go off-base or attend non-secular services. No real solutions were uncovered during this process, but we did learn a prayer for our clergy. In all religions we need good clergy, and sometimes it seems they are few and far between. I don't quite know how I feel about all of the class discussion. In mass Sunday they read the passage that talks about the value of not marrying, which I hadn't given much thought to as I'm all for marrying- but now I was looking at the passage in light of religious vocation as opposed to me personally, and it took on a different meaning to me when I separated myself from it. Prior to last Tuesday and Sunday I was all for priest and nuns being allowed to marry, but now I'm more ambivalent. I certainly respect them for being willing to give up so much and dedicate themselves so fully.

Our lecturers didn’t discuss the sacrament of marriage. Instead they showed another of Father Hine's videos in which he discussed both religious vocations and marriage. I continue to be impressed and inspired by him. He said there were three responsibilities that make a church a church. (My notes are in the car, but they correlated nicely with the principle roles of bishops, priests, and deacons, without dismissing the idea we and they all perform each role to a degree. I remember one was a responsibility to the word of God ((primary role of priests)), but can't remember the other two.) Anyway, over the history of the Catholic church various people (bishops, priests, deacons, parishioners) have fulfilled these roles to varying degrees. We are all called to service, but the priests embody these responsibilities and become living sacraments as reminders to us of these responsibilities. I especially liked what he said about marriage. He started with asking why marriage was listed as a sacrament because unlike the others (Confirmation, Baptism, Eucharist, Holy Orders, Reconciliation, Anointing the Sick), it can be and is done without involving the church. Furthermore, if it was chosen as a sacrament, then why not parenthood or other very important rites? He said, instead of asking how is marriage like the other sacraments, ask how are the other sacraments like marriage. In marriage you are giving yourself completely to someone else – physically, emotionally, monetarily, everythingly. This is the ultimate example sacrifice. Darn it, his words were much better than mine; I'm not doing it justice at all. Marriage can be shining example of how other relationships can be.

Even if I don't have clear views on Holy Orders and Marriage, I did get a firmer grasp on the idea of Sacraments in general. With each passing class I have found myself discovering and appreciating that there really are layers and layers to these things and that they can interrelate in many ways. Our instructors said that at the outset, but back then it was just words. Now I understand that they are truly deep, that I have learned an awful lot, and that there is so much more out there for me to know. I feel like I'm seeing the Sacraments from different angles and perspectives now. I have said absolutely nothing concrete in this paragraph, given no examples (sorry) but really there's an internal concreteness I just can't put into words right now.

Finally, they shared a cool story about Reverend Mother Delores Hart. She was an actress (Where the Boys Are, King Creole) who upon meeting Pope John XXIII while shooting Saint Francis of Assisi began a spiritual journey towards becoming a nun. She was engaged at the time, but her finance said he recognized her whole heart wasn’t in on the marriage, so apparently he not only encouraged her toward accepting the calling, he himself never married and helped her work on charitable and religious projects. Here’s her wiki page. She is still alive. She’s the only nun to be an Oscar-voting member!! (DID YOU KNOW????) ((I shouldn’t type that, because it makes it seem like the statement isn’t true when it is, but I couldn’t resist.))

I should have done a better job with this, but it is really cold outside and I'm in my pajamas, so I'm not going to fetch my notes from the car!!


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