THE OFFICE AND WORK OF A PRIEST
Father Darren Smith
I love the words of Saint Alphonsus from the Dignity and Duties of a Priest when he describes a priest as “The glory and the immovable columns of the Church, they are the doors of the Eternal City through them all reach Christ they are the vigilant guardians to whom the Lord has conferred the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Most probably as you read this then like me you would most probably respond that there is no way this could describe you, so the concept of priesthood is out of the question, and yet the reality is the Lord only ever chooses men made with feet of clay, for as one of our Eucharistic prayers so beautifully puts it “You choose the weak and make them strong in bearing witness to you”.
So don’t dismiss out of hand the possibility that you are being called to the office and work of a priest in the Church of England. But what is that work? Well I am afraid I need to shatter another illusion, not only are priests not perfect, neither do they work simply one day a week. The truth is there is only one day a week when a priest isn’t at work. It is not a 9-5 job and neither does it rank as one of the best paid professions in the Sunday Times list of top employers, but having said that for those of us ordained within the church most, if not all, would testify to feeling both humbled and privileged in the work that the Lord has chosen for us.
Priesthood is not about rights, it is not about power, I am afraid it has nothing to do with equality or justice, no to me priesthood is about submission to the will of God and it is about service to the Lord and his church. I love the words of the late Cardinal Basil Hume who said “It’s a life time spent washing the feet of others, being involved in the daily concerns of your parishioners, helping them when they turn to you in their needs, suffering with them when they suffer, rejoicing with them when they rejoice.”
The Ordination Service in the Church of England speaks of specific tasks when the candidate to be ordained stands before the Bishop he is reminded that priesthood is about becoming a servant and shepherd. It’s about proclaiming the Word of the Lord, proclaiming hearers to repentance and giving absolution. Baptising and preparing for Confirmation, celebrating the Eucharist and leading in prayer. Teaching and encouraging by word and example, ministering to the sick and the dying. Funny really there is no mention of cutting the church lawn, cleaning the church silver, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for restoration projects, chairing PCC meetings, school governors, community projects, arranging the flowers, cleaning the toilets, printing the newssheet and keeping the Facebook and Website up to date, yet these too are important tasks of every priestly ministry. But before we get too bogged down by the specifics remember priesthood is first and foremost about abandoning yourself into the hands of the Lord and fashioning your life and lives of your people after the example of Christ.
I love the words of Cardinal Newman which interestingly he said whilst he was still an Anglican “Christ has no priesthood but His, they are merely his shadows and organs, they are his outward signs and what they do, He does. When they baptise he is baptising, when they bless He is blessing”.
So is this you? Is God calling you to do something very beautiful for Him and His church? Why not respond Here-i-am and allow Him to do the rest.