Sunday, January 3, 2010

Alter Christus

Our Beloved Catholic Priests

Over at Freedom Through Truth, I posted much of the following, but here at Life in the Spirit, I wanted to make reference to some of the priests who have had an influence on me over the years, and particularly recently, as I journey on my faith walk.

I have been familiar with the term alter christus being used to describe Catholic priests.  The words mean "another Christ".  It is a very Catholic term, as opposed to a catholic term, and in particular refers to the priests charism to, through the grace of God, change water and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, during the holy sacrifice of the Mass.  I do not profess to fully comprehend it, nor to have an interest in debating it.  It is a matter of faith for me, and for those who live the Catholic faith.

In a recent posting here, I wrote of a prophecy for the Church and its priests that though it was probably originally 20 years old, is pertinent now.  In that prophecy I made note of some priest of my acquaintance, though acquaintance is too trite a word.  Each of these priests, and I made note of 7 of them, starting of course with Father Sam Johnston, whose blog this is, to Father John Pirt, and Father Francis Jeyaseelan of my own parish of St. George, in London, and Father Michael Prieur of St. Peter's Seminary here in London, Father Clement Agamba, who was our associate pastor in Tucson Arizona last winter, as well as priests I have encountered blogging, Fr. Tim Moyle in Mattawa, Ontario, and Fr. James Farfaglia in Corpus Christi Texas have served as spiritual guides for a minute, for a day, and/or forever to me, whether they knew it or not.  But, the fact is that many more priests have been my spiritual guide over the years whenever they consecrated the Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the holy sacrifice of the Mass, heard my confession, or went about their daily vocation within my view in some way or another.

Sometimes, we think they are not human like us, with joys and sorrows, trials and tribulations like ours.  Those that have fallen into areas of sexual sin are actually a little too much like us, and so we should condemn their actions, and hold them to account for the breach of trust that they have committed.  But, we should resist the urge to judge the man, or the condition of his soul, and above all the love that God has for him, while trying to bring healing to those he has wounded along the way, and to bring the wounded and him to a fullness of the knowledge of God's love for him.

Above all, we should resist any urge to condemn all priests for the actions of a sad few, and to condemn the Church for its actions in the past trying to protect some priests from the justice they deserved.  That is what the devil would like us to do, condemn others, because that is what he does. 

From the Sancta Sanctis blog here, I have copied this beautiful view of our often beloved, often misunderstood, and often all too human Catholic Priests.  It is worthy of reflection.

It can be easy to forget the quirky individual behind the Alter Christus. What Catholic hasn't, at one time or another, seen clerics as functionally identical pegs for filling the same hole reproduced all over the world? Yet as the Twelve Apostles themselves show us, Jesus seems to delight in selecting extremely unique pegs . . . for He never saw them as just pegs.

Every priest you meet was once a little boy who might have dreamed about being something else--like an astronaut or a professional athlete or a soldier. Like many little boys, he might have driven some older (female) relative crazy just by being himself.

He might have been one of the "bad" ones, one of the unusually saintly ones, or one who was just average.

He might have kissed a girl, crashed a car, worked on a farm, taught himself the guitar, failed his first Latin test, and just smoked his last cigarette. He might have a 'blog. He might not even know what a 'blog is.

He might have discerned his vocation during his well-to-do family's trip to Rome or on the day a missionary priest gave him his first pair of shoes. His family and friends might be proud of him, confused by him, furious at him, or even taking bets about how long he will last. He might have many close friends from childhood or not a single friend left from seminary.

Finally, one day he, too, will die: perhaps it will be on the bloody field of martyrdom, or in the clean bed of a retirement home, or in a random highway accident. Then he will need your prayers more than ever.

Every priest you meet is just like you . . . and yet . . . not like you at all. By the imposition of a bishop's hands, he is something else forever.

(Read the rest of my Year of the Priest posts in Index: Sacerdotal Sunday.)
I have known many priests over the years, covering the range that the writer of this very Catholic blog describes and more,since she was not trying to write a doctoral thesis, but a thought for meditation.  Some I have not liked because of things they said or did, or didn't say or do.

A particular priest who I have not really cared for over the years prays the consecration part of the Holy Mass with such reverence for Our Lord and Saviour that it is really hard to hold against him some imagined/ remembered flaw or fault or thing done or said, now so may years ago as to have morphed into a version that is not probably like the actual moment in time.

So, for all priests of today, yesterday and tomorrow I offer up the prayer I posted the other day.

1 comment:

Enbrethiliel said...


I am honoured to be quoted here, even though I've since retired Sancta Sanctis. Thank you very much! I hope my post and yours will add up to more prayers and support for priests from those who are reading.