Yesterday, I began the discussion on charisms by asking the question, “What is your magic?” In the next several posts, we will be exploring spiritual gifts (as they are defined by the Catholic faith in which I was raised), ultimately with the hope of giving you some tools to assist you in your own discernment. What is your magic? Today, I am going to press pause on that exploration to share a bit about my own discernment around this question and the answer that keeps showing up – and one I most often believe I can do nothing about. With the assistance of today’s blog, I hope to change that!
So…here it is. I am called to be a priest and have been given every charism to fulfill this vocation. I am a fantastic presider (I just officiated my brother’s wedding and was confirmed in this gift). It has been reflected to me that when proclaiming the Word, people are moved and that I’m an adequate preacher. I have been given the gift of healing through the ministry of hands-on-healing and spiritual direction. I have been given the gifts of faith, leadership, pastoring, teaching, knowledge, and wisdom. I have even learned to accept voluntary poverty and celibacy(ahem…not by my choice!). I know that I have been a source of encouragement and many have reflected on my most obvious charism which is discernment of spirits. Oh yeah, and I seem to know how to write and am rarely without inspiration in this regard. So……God gave me all the gifts to be not just an adequate priest, but an amazing one! Unfortunately, God put me in a place where I have been unable to respond to this call. In the Catholic Church in which I was raised and where my heart still remains, there is no place for women called to the priesthood. So, the question is, how is one supposed to respond to that call to be priest when the Church they love cannot accept their gifts (even if I am no longer worshipping there….and that is a whole other story)?
Sure, I could change teams and seek ordination through another faith, but that does not resonate with my truth because even bigger than my issues with Catholicism are my issues with patriarchal, hierarchical institutions. No, I’m not some rabid, militant feminist who hates men. In fact, I adore men. However, I am deeply troubled by the separation, power, control and manipulation through fear that has been promulgated by many (if not most) patriarchal, hierarchical institutions. And, I don’t believe there is one church, corporation, educational institution, medical, government institution that is not guilty of using their hierarchical, patriarchal power to uplift themselves while keeping others small. It is primarily for this reason that I do not bargain away my Roman Catholic upbringing for another hierarchical, patriarchal institution, none of which have anything to do with what, I believe, Jesus had in mind.
So, how does one respond to their call to be priest when the faith they grew up in won’t take them and when they can’t support any other institution founded on the same hierarchical, patriarchal sin as the one they came from? Ultimately, this strikes me as a post-modern question. The old guard is dying and the new is yet to be revealed. This is a time ripe with opportunity, but fraught with danger and anxiety. How will we tend to the grieving in the face of the death of the old? What will the new world look like? How will we tend to the spiritual, pastoral, religious and communal needs of a culture beyond hierarchy and patriarchy? What will this look like? In the meantime, what do we do? For me, the answer can only be this:
- Continue to preach (through this blog and other opportunities).
- Continue to heal (through spiritual direction and hands-on-healing).
- Continue to preside (through weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals, etc).
- Continue to teach, counsel and lead.
- Continue to use my gifts of discernment to help guide myself and others.
- Continue to be open to sharing the gifts of prophecy when they emerge.
- Continue being priest in all the ways that I know how and in all the ways in which I am free to do so.
Now, let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God!