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Dr Philippa Martyr: Live your Baptismal priesthood

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Mistakes for beginners: too many Catholics think that only priests are priests. But if you’re baptised, then you’re a priest as well. PHOTO: CNS, BOB ROLLER

Did you know that you are a priest? No, seriously – a real priest?

Priests are people who can offer sacrifices to God. They form a bridge between heaven and earth by interceding for people with God.

Every single baptised Christian in the world can do this. You can do it right now.
I went to an interesting talk recently on what baptism does to us as Christians. Baptism is powerful, permanent, and divinising.

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If we had the faintest idea of what it really did in us, we’d be gobsmacked. It draws us into the priesthood, prophetic office, and kingship of Christ, all at once.

I think that the push for women’s ordination wouldn’t exist if ordinary Catholics knew about their own priesthood. It’s immensely powerful and very real. You can exercise it every day of your life if you want. It involves living your life as a sacrifice of praise to God. You offer your sufferings, your prayers, your works – everything that’s included in a standard ‘Morning Offering’. (If you’re not already saying a morning offering prayer, I can strongly recommend it).

This sacrifice is genuine. It goes straight into the heart of God and the inner life of the Trinity. It transfigures your boring everyday life into a torrent of grace and hope in a world that desperately needs it.

None of this is new or radical. Everything we do can be offered to God to make the world a better place and the Church a holier place.

This happens through individual conversion of hearts. You can exercise your priesthood to win this for yourself and other people. I think that’s a pretty noble ambition.

The ministerial priesthood is different. Not everyone is eligible for it or suited to it. This includes unbaptised men, women, and baptised men whose age, disabilities, or life choices make it unlikely that they’d thrive in that role.

I have met and listened to both men and women who feel called to the ministerial priesthood but can’t do it. But they shouldn’t despair. There are practical steps they can take to identify more fully with ministerial priests, even if they can’t be ordained.

1. Start saying the full Divine Office daily. It’s easy if you have an app on your phone. Pick up that breviary or device at the scheduled times and pray those psalms.
By saying it every day with our ministerial priests, you’ll be joining them in solidarity. Do this every day, without fail.

This is a core obligation that you’d have fulfill if you were ordained. If you can’t or won’t say the full Divine Office daily, then maybe God is showing you that you have a different vocation?

2. If you haven’t already, then embrace a life of chaste celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom. (I’m sorry if you’re married!)

Roman Catholic ministerial priests embrace chaste celibacy when they’re ordained to the diaconate. Chaste celibacy isn’t essential to the ministerial priesthood, but it’s a really good start.

In a Church riddled with sexual abuse caused by human perversion and abuse of power, chaste celibacy offers a relationship of trust and healing to people who desperately need it.
In a world soaked with increasingly degrading porn, where we are also having less sex than ever, chaste celibacy offers a way out of the mess and into freedom and peace.

3. If you really want to live the life of a ministerial priest, reduce your income to around $30,000 a year before tax. Roman Catholic priests live on a very small annual income, but of course they do have a roof over their heads.

People who currently feel excluded from the priesthood tend to be older, and I’d guess they mostly own their own homes. With no mortgage to hold you back, could you manage?

I think many people who feel called to the ministerial priesthood want it to be the icing on the cake in their lives, rather than the cake itself. They’d like to remain married, or at least solvent, and not have to give up too much middle-class comfort.

Living out the ministerial priesthood in the Catholic Church isn’t all vestments and preaching and ‘power’ and ‘decision making’. It’s actually quite tough.

However, the common priesthood of all the baptised is something that you can do right now. If you really do feel called to priesthood in the Catholic Church, then maybe do it this way.

No one is stopping you. You’ll be doing yourself and the Church an amazing amount of good.

Related:

Dr Philippa Martyr: The Spirit’s tough, but not a disruptor

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