The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit : a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise.
This verse leapt out to me as I read this pearl of wisdom – A Place for the Damaged. It resonated within me as I have not always been the strong and compliant type institutional Churches like in the priesthood. Cardinal Siri of Genoa once said, in the matter of choosing ordinands, that he would prefer to make twenty mistakes than be unjust one single time.
Fr Blake’s article is poignant. There are some French nuns who have Down’s Syndrome, normally those one would never allow to join a community, have a job or even live. The longer I live, the more I wonder what is “normality” in mental terms and what is “madness” or “mental illness”. I noticed the priesthood becoming very “elitist”, and was even more taken aback when hearing the same reflections from priests ordained around the time of World War II or before.
Screening has become rigorous in the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, and the smallest questions on psychological assessments are enough to dash the hopes of an entire life.
It is true that a priest is ordained for others and not for himself. However, should he be excluded for the simple reason that he has no ministry in a parish?
Many souls offer themselves for the priesthood and religious life. I have just been to a diaconal ordination in my diocese of someone who has been with us for a long time, but who does suffer from poor health. He would certainly have been rejected in the Roman Catholic Church. Many have been damaged through the vicissitudes of life.
Fr Blake does make the point that many saints like Theresa of Avila or the Curé d’Ars would not have made it through the modern selection system.
This interesting article is worth reading, as are the links to some of the things Pope Francis has been saying. This theme is a part of my New Goliards idea.
…and just who was it that Jesus hung around with? What was the pool from which he drew His followers, even those who were to be His apostles? I’ve often been struck by the kind of relationship He had with conventional, respectable people, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, those models of what a well-adjusted Jew should look like, the “white-washed sepulchers, full of dead men’s bones,” as He described them. Is the Church called to be a resting-place for the respectable, or is it rather a fellowship of the broken? By the standards of the world, a serious Christian is already a bit crazy. The Russians have a pretty good idea in canonizing a whole category of Holy Fools, some of them quite bizarre, and , as has been pointed out, many of the Western saints are no less strange than they. When only “normal” people are admitted to ministry, it is simply impossible for the Church to do her whole job, Sure, it’s risky to do otherwise, but without risks nothing of value occurs. Thank God for the eccentrics that somehow do make in.
I would personally stand no chance at ordination in the Roman communion and the Church of England. The former because I am open enough about my homosexuality; and I am quite certain that trying to explain my views on the matter to a master of novices in a monastic community or to the monsignor in charge of the clerical screening process would be a colossal waste of my time. With the latter, even if I were so inclined, I’d probably not make it very far because of my diagnosis of Asperger syndrome.
It doesn’t leave much hope to someone with no job prospects and who doesn’t really know about much else besides religion…
I was a Pentecostal preacher for 25 years, openly testifying of the homosexuality from which I had been “healed”. After my wife died of cancer, it became clear to me that I had never ceased being gay, but that I was called to celibacy. I also found myself drawn to a very traditional Continuing Anglican Church. For a time I was in the program leading to ordination, but was suddenly dropped (at least partially because I admitted to being gay, and partially because I am, after all, an odd duck). That hurt, and it hurt even more a couple of years later when I was no longer allowed to be a layreader.. I don’t fit, and yet, here I am – in the place I’m called to be, still gay, still celibate, and still more than a little weird. People and systems don’t deal well with all that, but Our Lord most certainly does. The pain I still have is in His hands. I still feel it, but no longer own it. I am His, with all the baggage I carry, whatever those whose respect I crave may think of me.
Ed and Patrick I have taken some time before making this reply. I was not sure but today (25th).
I had to attend an Ophthalmology clinic at a Regional Hospital. This gave me time to consider whether to reply and what to include, both at the clinic and on the bus journeys involved.Thankfully my condition is curable!
It may help if I ‘come clean’ as the expression has it about being an Evangelical Assistant Pastor (non stipendiary) between 1984 and 1992. I have stood before congregations preaching the Holy Gospel and teaching Christian doctrine.
I came to the Catholic faith arising from study, prayer and talking to people especially Anglicans who held that belief. In fact in 1991 myself and other independent Evangelicals came to believe the Catholic Faith of the undivided church. Accordingly I started to attend Holy Mass in Anglo catholic circles.It seems to me that we have much in common. I am no alabaster saint. After coming to catholic truth I personally got into difficulty in obeying the Catholic Doctrine that sexual relations should only be within the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony between a man and a woman. To listen to the words and writings of some Christians one would think that only perfect and sinless people belong to the Catholic Church. I think that many of us know that is not the case.
My own heterosexual lapses came after a very long marriage when tragic and very difficult circumstances led to my wife and I living apart. We still do, but loving and supporting each other.
I have no doubt that there are those in some quarters of the church that look down on me about these marital arrangements. Ed I understand. I have been offered the gift of celibacy and I have been given great peace of mind from it. I give thanks for it.
I reached a point in a hotel room in the middle of the night when I was overwhelmed by what is hard to describe. It was a sense of utter despair, darkness, pointlessness and utter desolation.It was something so bad that I can’t really put it into words.
I knew then that I had to abandon hypocrisy, repent and seek to return to living as a Catholic Christian. I have been celibate for some years now. It is a blessing for those who are called to it.There is no reason whatsoever if you feel a clear call to the Apostolic Ministry why should not pursue it. The circumstances you describe about rejection you have experienced have no basis in scripture or catholic truth. You are living as a celibate and have received the same complete loving forgiveness that I have also received.The love of God towards penitent sinners knows no bounds! Let me add Glorious and Wonderful.
Patrick if I may and I am not being condescending here – I can see nothing on the same grounds which prevent you from exploring a call to the Apostolic Ministry if you have this before you.
Where is the judgement against you as a celibate man with same sex attraction obeying the Risen Christ and the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church? I can find nothing in Scripture, tradition or catholic teaching to say that you cannot have your vocation tested.My own vocation is clearly to the Holy Laity and I have the blessing to be under the authority and jurisdiction of an orthodox Old Catholic Bishop.