Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I have spent the last few days in New York City. My good friend was ordained a presbyter on Friday.
I am asked about my vocation a lot these days--a recurring theme in my journey with God. "Get him ordained." "When will you become a priest?" and so forth. Sometimes I wonder what it might mean to pastor a parish, to preside over the Holy Communion. I, after all, deal with our liturgies all the time in so many ways. As someone growing into being a public theologian, I am quite lovingly protective of our Prayer Book. Sometimes I wonder if I should not consider entering the process again.
And then I hear again the stories of trauma that our call process induces. Many leave with scars even as they pass through. The process does not always seem concerned with raising up prayerful, pastoral priests. Misused power, arbitrariness, personalities, and egos seem to drive processes that should be about discernment. When I was considering entering the process, I remember the priest of my parish say to me, "Once you're in the process, you're mine--we own you." I was appalled by such a misuse of authority. On the other hand, too many come through the process who have no particular care for a personal prayer life much less a love of those things I consider primary to the presbyteral calling: prayer, sacraments, pastoral care. Do priests even make visitations to all of their parishioners anymore anywhere? How many parishes insist upon reform to a regular round of the Office? If I were to change one thing, I would want our discernment processes taken out of the hands of the powerful and placed into the hands of the prayerful. Discernment processes in each diocese should be done by wise councils of contemplatives with such gifts as discernment. Be that process as it is, I have no desire to enter such a process as currently structured.
Again seeing one called to be a presbyter, I get a better glimpse of my own calling.
While flying, I am reading Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. It is a life of prayer according to my station in life--essentially monastic or contemplative in the world. Perhaps a spiritual director or theologian in its richest sense. I am struck in the book, for example, by the way Br. Philip leads and advises and cares for others. This is the type of person I want to become.
I sat with my friend in meditation for twenty minutes before he had to leave to prepare for the Holy Communion. I inwardly prayed for him to be surrounded by Christ's love and filled with Christ's peace as he led us in the Holy Communion. This is his work. Mine, at least in part, is to sit with others in prayer. In the same way that I catch glimpses as I preside over the Board of Directors of my community, I saw what I might be sitting in prayer with my friend. That prayerful, centering, advisory, discerning presence is what is my deepest longing. It is not to powerlessness, but to prayerfulness.
Prayerfulness is its own authority, I am discovering.