Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Be To Me a Father and a Priest

By Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Newman House Press, 300 pages.

"When people see a man in a Roman collar, then, they should immediately have their thoughts directed to that aspect of reality which transcends our present experience. That is what the Church intends when she asks her priests to serve as 'eschatological signs,'" writes American priest Father Peter Stravinskas in this collection of his past articles. Writing for 4 decades to an increasingly secular, skeptical culture, he has remained remarkably consistent in his attempts to dispel confusion and outright lies about the Church and the priesthood.

The author presents the priesthood from a deep understanding of its nature, as well as from his personally fulfilling journey, which began, he notes, at the time of Humanae vitae. He spent the late sixties and seventies in the seminary and then ministering and teaching in schools that had been profoundly affected by the confusion of the post-Vatican II era.

His answer to secularization and common misunderstandings about the priesthood is the Tradition itself: "Much of the terrible liturgical music and bizarre forms of experimentation arose from a lack of connectedness to the cultural achievements of two millennia."

Father Stravinskas therefore looks to the Church's deep-rooted wisdom to argue for priestly celibacy. Countering many authors, he writes that the Church's teaching on the priesthood never changed after Vatican II.

Like baptism and confirmation, ordination to the priesthood marks the soul. That is, it changes the very nature of the man's being. Priesthood is about being, not about doing. Father Stravinskas makes a good argument that the core of the priesthood is mediation – the priest mediates between God and humanity, and can do this because of ordination. While the once-and-for-all mediation took place at Calvary, God desires an ongoing dynamic relationship with humans, and does this through the priesthood and especially through the sacrifice of the Mass.

The priest is an "eschatological sign" because this mediation gives us a sense of our final destiny and life's ultimate meaning. We are going somewhere, with the priest mediating God's journey with us.

This strong cultic notion of the priesthood is the strength of Be To Me a Father and a Priest. Father Stravinskas never attempts to compete with the psychobabble surrounding ministry and its problems. Instead, he bluntly points out that other churches have had their share of pedophiles, and that many Protestant ministers privately admit the grave marital problems they experience because of the demands of churchwork.

The author also avoids trying to out-argue the feminist-lobby's pressure for female ordination, suggesting we respect the Tradition: "[T]he burden of proof rests on those seeking to change Tradition... The best argument against the ordination of women is really the simplest but also the most easily caricatured: It has never been done." Father Stravinskas offers other reasons, such as Jesus choosing only male apostles despite the fact that he never hesitated to challenge the prejudices of his day, but this straightforward answer can only come from someone who has a deep love of Tradition and a strong faith in Christ.

Father Stravinskas' obedience to Catholic Tradition results in a patient, bold, simple way of writing that is refreshing in this restless age.

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