A Priesthood Made Ready for the Future

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But to simply leave the Church is to leave its worst impulses unchallenged and its best ones unsupported. When the disillusioned depart, Catholic reactionaries are overjoyed. They look forward to a smaller, more rigidly orthodox institution. This shrinkage is the so-called Benedict option—named for the sixth-century founder of monasticism, not for Benedict XVI, although the pope emeritus probably approves. His April intervention described an imagined modern dystopia—pedophilia legitimated, pornography displayed on airplanes—against which the infallible Church must stand in opposition.

The renewal offered by Vatican II may have been thwarted, but a reformed, enlightened, and hopeful Catholic Church is essential in our world. On urgent problems ranging from climate change, to religious and ethnic conflict, to economic inequality, to catastrophic war, no nongovernmental organization has more power to promote change for the better, worldwide, than the Catholic Church.

So let me directly address Catholics, and make the case for another way to respond to the present crisis of faith than by walking away. The Church is the people of God. The Church is a community that transcends space and time. Catholics should not yield to clerical despots the final authority over our personal relationship to the Church. I refuse to let a predator priest or a complicit bishop rip my faith from me.

The Reformation, which erupted years ago, boiled down to a conflict over the power of the priest.

How to become a priest

Likewise, to introduce democratic structures into religious governance, elevating the role of the laity, was to overturn the hierarchy according to which every ordained person occupied a place of superiority. That is the stance I choose to take. If there are like-minded, anticlerical priests, and even an anticlerical pope, then we will make common cause with them.

Joyce was a self-described exile, and exile can characterize the position of many former Catholics, people who have sought refuge in another faith, or in no faith. But exile of this kind is not what I suggest. Rather, I propose a kind of internal exile. One imagines the inmates of internal exile as figures in the back of a church, where, in fact, some dissenting priests and many free-spirited nuns can be found as well.

We are not deserters. Replacing the diseased model of the Church with something healthy may involve, for a time, intentional absence from services or life on the margins—less in the pews than in the rearmost shadows. But it will always involve deliberate performance of the works of mercy: feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, visiting the sick, striving for justice. It will involve, for many, unauthorized expressions of prayer and worship—egalitarian, authentic, ecumenical; having nothing to do with diocesan borders, parish boundaries, or the sacrament of holy orders.

That may be especially true in so-called intentional communities that lift up the leadership of women. These already exist, everywhere. No matter who presides at whatever form the altar takes, such adaptations of Eucharistic observance return to the theological essence of the sacrament. Christ is experienced not through the officiant but through the faith of the whole community. In what way, one might ask, can such institutional detachment square with actual Catholic identity? Through devotions and prayers and rituals that perpetuate the Catholic tradition in diverse forms, undertaken by a wide range of commonsensical believers, all insisting on the Catholic character of what they are doing.

Their ranks would include ad hoc organizers of priestless parishes; parents who band together for the sake of the religious instruction of youngsters; social activists who take on injustice in the name of Jesus; and even social-media wizards launching, say, ChurchResist. The gradual ascendance of lay leaders in the Church is in any case becoming a fact of life, driven by shortages of personnel and expertise. Now is the time to make this ascendance intentional, and to accelerate it.

The pillars of Catholicism—gatherings around the book and the bread; traditional prayers and songs; retreats centered on the wisdom of the saints; an understanding of life as a form of discipleship—will be unshaken. The Vatican itself may take steps, belatedly, to catch up to where the Church goes without it. But in ways that cannot be predicted, have no central direction, and will unfold slowly over time, the exiles themselves will become the core, as exiles were the core at the time of Jesus. They will take on responsibility and ownership—and, as responsibility and ownership devolve into smaller units, the focus will shift from the earthbound institution to its transcendent meaning.

This is already happening, in front of our eyes. Tens of millions of moral decisions and personal actions are being informed by the choice to be Catholics on our own terms, untethered from a rotted ancient scaffolding. The choice comes with no asterisk. We will be Catholics, full stop. As anticlerical Catholics, we will simply refuse to accept that the business-as-usual attitudes of most priests and bishops should extend to us, as the walls of their temple collapse around them. The future will come at us invisibly, frame by frame, as it always does—comprehensible only when run together and projected retrospectively at some distant moment.

But it is coming. One hundred years from now, there will be a Catholic Church. Count on it. This may not be inevitable, but it is more than possible. The Church I foresee will be governed by laypeople, although the verb govern may apply less than serve.

There will be leaders who gather communities in worship, and because the tradition is rich, striking chords deep in human history, such sacramental enablers may well be known as priests. They will include women and married people. They will be ontologically equal to everyone else. They will not owe fealty to a feudal superior.

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Catholic schools and universities will continue to submit faith to reason—and vice versa. Catholic hospitals will be a crucial part of the global health-care infrastructure. Catholic religious orders of men and women, some voluntarily celibate, will continue to protect and enshrine the varieties of contemplative practice and the social Gospel. Jesuits and Dominicans, Benedictines and Franciscans, the Catholic Worker Movement and other communities of liberation theology—all of these will survive in as yet unimagined forms.

The Church will be fully alive at the local level, even if the faith is practiced more in living rooms than in basilicas. But that center will be protected from Catholic triumphalism by being openly engaged with other Christian denominations. This imagined Church of the future will have more in common with ancient tradition than the pope-idolizing Catholicism of modernity ever did. And as all of this implies, clericalism will be long dead. What remains of the connection to Jesus once the organizational apparatus disappears?

That is what I asked myself in the summer before I resigned from the priesthood all those years ago—a summer spent at a Benedictine monastery on a hill between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I came to realize that the question answers itself. The Church, whatever else it may be, is not the organizational apparatus. It is a community of memory, keeping alive the story of Jesus Christ. The Church is an in-the-flesh connection to him—or it is nothing.

For the first time, Deniss Metsavas tells his story of espionage and blackmail. Five years ago, the flight vanished into the Indian Ocean. Officials on land know more about why than they dare to say. At a. The designator for Malaysia Airlines is MH. The flight number was Fariq Hamid, the first officer, was flying the airplane.

He was 27 years old. This was a training flight for him, the last one; he would soon be fully certified. His trainer was the pilot in command, a man named Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who at 53 was one of the most senior captains at Malaysia Airlines. In Malaysian style, he was known by his first name, Zaharie. He was married and had three adult children. He lived in a gated development. He owned two houses. In his first house he had installed an elaborate Microsoft flight simulator. The Baby Boomers ruined America. American society is going through a strange set of shifts: Even as cultural values are in rapid flux, political institutions seem frozen in time.

The average U. We are in the third-longest period without a constitutional amendment in American history: The longest such period ended in the Civil War. One possibility is simply that Americans got older. The average American was 32 years old in , and 37 in The retiree share of the population is booming, while birth rates are plummeting.

When a society gets older, its politics change. Older voters have different interests than younger voters: Cuts to retiree-focused benefits are scarier, while long-term problems such as excessive student debt, climate change, and low birth rates are more easily ignored. These words came from an elderly woman sitting behind me on a late-night flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.

The plane was dark and quiet. To hear more feature stories, see our full list or get the Audm iPhone app. I listened with morbid fascination, forming an image of the man in my head as they talked. I imagined someone who had worked hard all his life in relative obscurity, someone with unfulfilled dreams—perhaps of the degree he never attained, the career he never pursued, the company he never started. I am a stumbling, doubting, failing, fearful Christian, so I fit right in with the rest of them.

I was raised by atheists who, for complicated reasons, sent me to a Catholic school when I was 11, assuming that I was too smart to believe any of the abracadabra and would just focus on the classes. But they had some other tricks up their sleeves, those Catholics. The first was prayer, which just about knocked me flat the first time I saw its practical application. She summed up the situation, and I sat there wondering what the action plan was, because that was the world I inhabited. And then she said that what we were going to do was pray about it.

Something terrible was happening and it would somehow improve if a classroom full of sixth graders closed their eyes and mumbled? They hit it off and spent the night flirting and dancing before retiring to a sauna in the early hours of the morning. Though saunas in much of Russia are bathhouses where men drink vodka and are flagellated with oak leaves, this one was a sex motel.

He and the woman slept together there, but feeling awkward about what was inevitably going to be a one-night stand, Metsavas went out to buy her flowers. Every spring, teenagers and grown-ups travel from around the country to enter the U. Memory Championship. In , Katherine He, then in high school, memorized a line poem in 15 minutes. He will limit it in such a way as to always remind them of the historic error and to remind us to walk before God rightly and in a priestly demeanor.

We cannot not allow any flesh in the holy place, or any misuse of the holy place for our ends however much we say "In the name of the Lord". Better that you had not used that phrase than you should use it so as to justify some activity of yours, in the flesh, for your self, but you think that somehow it is redeemed by invoking His name. No, by invoking His name you have deepened the profanity, you have deepened the desecration.

These are remarkable things for our instruction upon whom the end of the age has come. It is wonderful to look back to the past and the origin of priesthood and to gain some sense of what that meant. How else shall we walk out our own Melchizedec calling unless we understand the constituent elements that distinguish priesthood, a certain kind of mindset. Having served all that, before they could begin their service, they waited seven days at the door of the tent of meeting. As we have noted earlier; seven is the number of completion.

All Israel is being instructed by the example of the priesthood before them, which is exactly the purpose of priesthood. God did not think it elaborate that of the twelve tribes He took one and gave them a function of priesthood only. They were not to engage in merchandising or farming. Their sustenance came by those who brought their offerings.


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They had no inheritance in the land. God said: "I am your inheritance". And in the same way Israel itself as the nation of priests and light unto the world is to serve that same purpose for the nations. Israel is the center, by its example, to model for the nations what ought to be its attitude and conduct towards God as it is exhibited by this priestly nation in its midst. The levitical tribe, in the midst of the twelve tribes when they set up their tents, there was the tabernacle of God in the midst, the priesthood and the eleven tribes around it, as an example to the whole nation.

But the nation itself is intended by God to be an example to the nations. And, as I think I at one time suggested, there is a deep underlined cause of anti- Semitism that the nations intuit without any biblical knowledge and have a resentment for Jews who have failed to be to them what God had intended. Something organic is amiss and wanting in the divine provision of God for the nations, that a people called Israel would be a nation of priests and a light unto the world.

Your Priesthood Playbook

In the absence of that priestly service, the world languishes in darkness and its darkness is called light. It is suffering from every malady and everything is askew, because a priestly nation is not in its midst serving its function. There is a resentment for that failure. If that is a root cause of hatred of the Jew, out of resentment for failed priestly ministry, what then is the answer?

The answer is the Jew coming in to his destiny and calling and being to the nations what God intended that he should. Instead of resentment and hatred called anti-Semitism you will have Gentiles washing their feet, bearing their burdens, hewing their wood, drawing their water and being to them a supportive people appreciating and glorying in the grace of God that has come through a people restored to their calling of which they will be the beneficiaries.

The nations will be changed just by this ministration that teaches them the difference between the sacred and the profane. What does it take to maintain this difference in yourself as priest? How do you keep alive the sense of the holy? How do you recognize what is profane: that which contests against the holy and seeks to threaten it, if not eliminate it and parades as virtue, as rectitude and right, as being moral?

It is one thing to recognize apparent evil, but real discernment makes a divide between what is good and what is perfect. Anyone can understand blatant evil, but a priest is so acutely honed to appreciate and to maintain the holiness of God that he flinches and instantly recoils at anything that purports to be virtue, purports to be clever, purports to be right and to be desired as good, because he knows that that is the deepest threat to that which is holy.

Therefore, he will find himself in painful condition, sitting in a charismatic congregation where everyone is having a ball, where everybody is singing and laughing at the top of their voices and he is strangely churned up on the inside. Something is grievously amiss.

The worship is hollow, it is not being directed to God. It is serving human, religious purposes and he cannot go along. I am saying all that to say this: This is not a stamped out religious calling of a priest, flagging a title, dressed in proper attire. This is something to be nurtured, even jealously guarded, because evidently the Levites, who were called to this and who served a specified purpose, lost it so grievously that they allowed or participated with the uncircumcised and allowed them even to come into the holy place to perform their traffick in the very place that God had reserved for Himself as sanctuary, the place of his dwelling and the place of his presence.

Development of the priesthood

That is how far priests can fall. When they fall they fall grievously, if they do not maintain the sense of the holy and are able to discern the things that are profane that threatens it, things that parade as good. You will not be understood, you will be looked upon as something unreal. Everybody else is worshipping the Lord in this way. Why are you sullen? Why is your face downcast? We are not talking about some light thing but an ultimate thing, because if that is lost there is no hope.

As the priest, so also the people. God is ploughing deeply regarding this theme to insert something into our inner man, lest we pick this up as a nice thought and entertain it for a while and then succumb and fall back again into the lassitude that governs the many. We must maintain our distinction as a Melchizedec priesthood. If we do not maintain it, nothing else can be hoped for? If we suffer that loss, what can the Church be to Israel? How shall it move Israel to envy, to jealousy, by what means, if it itself has become profane? Verses ten and eleven.

The key element is the relationship with the Lord. They kept their title.

Future Priests Ready for Ministry

They seemed outwardly and externally to function, but they went away "from me". There is a place for them, but it is in the outer court. It has its focus in the maintenance of the buildings, in the cutting up of the sacrifice. They can hew and hack, but they cannot come up to me. They are O. They have forfeited that by their sacrilege. I am not completely abandoning them, I am giving them a function of a kind that is outward, in the outer court.

It is a necessary function, but the highest function will be denied them. Verse twelve. The wages of sin is death.

How to become a priest

There is a consequence. God may forgive, but there is a consequence that remains. Is this because our God is egocentric and jealous for his person? Or is it because He knows that if He is desecrated. The foundation they laid is God himself. They came, trailing clouds of glory with them. They bring the sense of God, because they come to the Church out from the holy place, from a place of communion in the knowledge of God. That is why one speaking from Paul is to leave men eternally without excuse. They did not need another occasion. One occasion with Paul was so much the testimony of God that not one of them who heard him was able to stand without excuse.

They all saw him and what he really represented. Yet they dared to move against him; "What shall this babbler say, this Hebrew, this guy in ordinary garb who seem so ordinary and undistinguished from a Greek philosophical perspective. He has not the elaborate grades and education of civilization. After all, he is just a Hebrew. No, they clave unto him because the man is the message; he is the thing in himself. This is the genius of what is apostolic, what is prophetic, what is priestly. It is something wrought by God in that one who is called, whose profoundest function is to communicate the sense of God as God.

That is the priestly call. For us to labor and to fight against profanity in the House of God, not in the world, to discern and to find the genius of God as God, the sense of Himself and not as we think Him to be and to retain that and so be imbued by that so as to effect everything that issues from us then whether we are speaking explicitly about the subject we are yet communicating the sense of God. That is why people were afraid of Paul.


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Though he says that "my presence is nothing impressive and my words actually are weak" , they were afraid when he came because he brought a sense of God. And again, not because He is a vain, egotistical God but because He knows that if the sense of Himself is lost as holy, what can be expected in the world? That is the plumb line that has come down from Heaven against which all things are to be aligned and measured. If that plumb line is snapped or distorted, misused or misappropriated what shall we hope for in the world? That is exactly why the world is in its lamentable condition.

It can behead men at will, it can exhibit body parts with glee. When the Israeli outposts were bombed by terrorists, who had dug a meter long tunnel underneath their outpost and blew it up, there were Palestinians rejoicing in Gaza at the news of the destruction. What we lament, a four year old child killed by a rocket which came out from Gaza, others celebrated. They love death, they hate God and love death. Verse thirteen, "They shall not come near unto me, to execute the office of priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things, unto the things that are most holy".

You know the architecture of the temple, modeled after the dimensions given to Moses on the mountain for the tabernacle that was carried in the wilderness for forty years. The parts of it, the poles, the coverings, the furniture were borne only by Levites. You remember what happened when David forgetting that, thought of moving the ark of God on an ox-chart.

A man, not qualified, touched it and perished, as it had to come not an ox-chart but on the shoulders of priests. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught us most effectively about the challenge to become something instead of just doing expected things or performing certain actions:. This process requires far more than acquiring knowledge. It is not even enough for us to be convinced of the gospel; we must act and think so that we are converted by it.

In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. Brethren, the challenge to become applies precisely and perfectly to missionary preparation.

Obviously, the process of becoming a missionary does not require a young man to wear a white shirt and tie to school every day or to follow the missionary guidelines for going to bed and getting up, although most parents certainly would support that idea. You can avoid the worldly influences that cause the Holy Ghost to withdraw, and you can grow in confidence in recognizing and responding to spiritual promptings. Line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, you can gradually become the missionary you hope to be and the missionary the Savior expects.

You will not suddenly or magically be transformed into a prepared and obedient missionary on the day you walk through the front door of the Missionary Training Center. What you have become in the days and months and years prior to your missionary service is what you will be in the MTC.

In fact, the nature of the transition through which you will pass in the MTC will be a strong indicator of your progress in becoming a missionary. As you enter the MTC, you obviously will miss your family, and many aspects of your daily schedule will be new and challenging. But for a young man well on his way to becoming a missionary, the basic adjustment to the rigors of missionary work and lifestyle will not be overwhelming, burdensome, or constraining. Thus, a key element of raising the bar includes working to become a missionary before going on a mission.

Fathers, do you understand your role in helping your son to become a missionary before he goes on a mission? You and your wife are key in the process of his becoming a missionary. Priesthood and auxiliary leaders, do you recognize your responsibility to assist parents and to help every young man become a missionary before he goes on a mission? The bar also has been raised for parents and for all members of the Church. Prayerful pondering of the principle of becoming will invite inspiration tailored to the specific needs of your son or to the young men whom you serve.

The preparation I am describing is not oriented only toward your missionary service as a or or year-old young man. Brethren, you are preparing for a lifetime of missionary work. As holders of the priesthood, we are missionaries always. A priesthood holder is a missionary at all times and in all places. A missionary is who and what we are as bearers of the priesthood and as the seed of Abraham.

These blessings are obtained only by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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