We’ve had the obligatory homily about allowing women to be priests. This comes every year with the reading of the gospels about the women at the tomb and the women running to tell the apostles and the woman recognizing Jesus when he called her name. It’s always very subtle and is intended, I am sure, to be a positive nod to a chapel full of women. I usually just let it float over my head but this year I thought it’s not quite right.
I don’t doubt that some women could be very good priests in the present modal but I am wondering if the present modal is the best we have to offer the church. With the new mass we have pretty much a performance by the priest. I suppose some women would love this just as many men seem to revel in the show. And women are usually very good at relating to people and making them feel comfortable. And God knows we must have comfortable people in the pews. We certainly wouldn’t want to have anything remotely serious going on in church. Many of the videos from women’s ordination groups show that they are perfectly capable of entertaining an audience. All very touchy-feely and warm and cuddly.
I’m a women and if the church asked me to serve as a priest in the church today I couldn’t do it. Not because I am a woman and feel inferior to men. But because the modal of priesthood we now have in the Roman Catholic Church is quite pathetic. It makes me cringe to have arm-waving priests trying to make me feel comfortable in the faith when what I want to do is pray. I don’t like to be eyed by the priest during the consecration. So much do I hate this that I gave up looking at the altar and the elevation long ago for fear of the dreaded priestly eye contact.
What is missing from the homilies on women’s ordination is any understanding of what Mary and the other women were all about. They were looking for the Lord. Their Lord. They were intent on ministering to the Lord even in his death. And when they finally realized he was dead no more but alive they could not keep it to themselves. They told everyone. (And most women are good at talking – a lot.) Their priesthood, women’s priesthood was the fearless ministration to the one they loved. Their priesthood was the standing by the cross during the agony and suffering. (No sentimentality in their faith.) Their priesthood was the fearless proclamation to the men (mostly) that Jesus was not dead and was risen and their pestering the men to come out of hiding and, well, be men.
I think St. Therese, the Little Flower, was correct in her understanding of priesthood when she said she wanted to be a priest to the whole world. So do I. And I try to be one every minute of every day. I wish our ordained male clergy would do the same. Lead us in prayer – don’t conduct a user-friendly service. Be men of prayer – not the latest psycho-babble. Look like priests and act like priests. Give up the flash cars and the frequent foreign holidays and the clever ways of making more money. Be a priest of Pope Francis. Be a priest of Jesus.