The Priesthood by The Rev. Wilhelm Stockums, D.D. was very informative. As a former Roman Catholic and now a progressive Catholic I have had the great opportunity to explore, learn and examine the basic principals of the priesthood. While this book is written specifically for the male Roman Catholic, there is much wisdom in its pages, and anyone who is considering the priesthood in the ISM should certainly read it.
“What is the Catholic priesthood?” Stockums asks. He then answers his own question: The Catholic priesthood is that institution which is absolutely necessary for Christianity. The Catholic priesthood is absolutely necessary for the Church. Without it there would be no Christianity left on earth. Remove the priesthood and you remove the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist from the world. Without the priesthood you remove the sacrifice of the Mass, Holy Communion, the sacrament of anointing of the Sick, and the sacrament of reconciliation so needed by a sinful world. Remove the priesthood and you take away the divinely assured teaching of God’s revealed Truth from the universe. In a word, without the priesthood, Christianity would be a memory but no longer a reality. It would cease to exist on earth.
Rev. Stockums reveals how the priest has a special kind of service to the faithful as the preacher of the Word, as the one who celebrates the sacraments and also, perhaps in a more hidden way, in his day-to-day actions: the quiet way he lives his own Christian life, for example, by being kind, loving and charitable. In all this he serves the faithful, and so serves God and the Church by being a servant leader. We see that role of service clearly when we consider that priests in the Catholic Church are first ordained as deacons. The word deacon, as most of us know, comes from the Greek word diakonos, which means “servant.” Service is a key element of priesthood.
Becoming a Catholic priest is a serious decision. Rev. Stockums gives us a general background on preparation: Pray about your vocation. Take any feelings or advice that have led you to consider the priesthood and give them to God, then wait patiently and openly for a response. Realize that everyone has a vocation and if a person is truly open to theirs, God will reveal it to him or her.
As one of the most recently ordained members of the priesthood of the OCACNA, I feel humbled by the task of expressing my understanding of the priest today. I have thus far been privileged to work with and learn from other priests in my area. At the foundation and source of a priest’s life and ministry is his grounding in personal prayer. I remember a priest who once said to me, not long after my ordination, that you need two balancing factors in your life – prayer and close friends .He said that you could remain a priest without friends, but you might go insane. On the other hand though, without prayer you will not survive as a priest!
We are called upon to pray often, at various occasions, and usually with little or no time to prepare. Such ability should flow naturally, confidently and sincerely from a priest’s own prayer life. With a heartfelt desire to deepen in relationship with Christ through prayer, a priest is then better equipped to pray with and for people, particularly the sick and dying. I have found I am better equipped to celebrate the sacraments with passion and solemnity, guide people in their spiritual lives, and foster communities of faith, fellowship and fidelity. The priest’s prayer life must have at its centre the Scriptures and an intimacy with the Lord. All of which Rev. Stockums explains as the essential keystone to a priest’s life and work, he then is able to fulfil two other dimensions of his role. As a person of private prayer, the priest is then able to lead others in their lives of prayer and discernment. A priest is called to be open to the Spirit of God, and help others discern the movement of this Spirit in their lives.
So many people in our society are yearning for something deeper, something real and true, something authentic and transformative. Rev.Stockums touches on the fact that we are surrounded by a world that values what we can achieve and experience here and now, with greed and self-interest at its heart.
However his book allows me to understand what I as a priest represents and embodies a way of life and view of the world that is counter-cultural, Christ centered and a life-giving challenge to relativism, individualism, secularism and materialism. Not only does he lead others by the example of his life and the energy of his preaching, but he walks with them in their life’s journey, accompanying their highs and lows.
Ultimately though,we are one man not a messiah, with personal limitations, growing responsibilities and challenges. Sometimes amidst the stress and demands of ministry, a priest’s focus or energy for prayer or pastoring may waiver. Rev. Stockums engages us in his own experience, with a life that requires a conscientious balancing between the ‘doing’ and ‘being’ of pastoral ministry.
From the simple calling by God, through personal and spiritual development this book as outlined by Rev. Stockums, approaches the priesthood with a positive embrace. I found some of the antiquated Latin references to be somewhat of a struggle, but as I continued to read the definitions became clear. By all means write down these phrases and attempt to learn them in the modern sense. In closing the purpose of “The Priesthood” is to not only make us think of the priesthood, but to appreciate and love the journey we are taking as ministers of God. I think sharing ones thoughts on this book from different points of views can only shed light on our diverse community.