Why Priests

Garry Wills has always been a thoughtful and intelligent writer. His OpEd pieces in the 60s were always worth reading. [Side note: I stopped reading editorials and OpEd pieces in the Dayton Daily News almost 30 years ago. Give me the name of a writer, the topic, and I could tell you what they said. Can you say, boring? Now, I don’t even buy the paper anymore. Get my news from Web sources.]

Wills studied to be a priest. Not only just a priest, but a Jesuit. But he dropped out before ordination. The reason I mention that is that I picked up his latest book while browsing the local bookstore, “Why Priests?: A Failed Tradition”. I’ve only just begun the book, but when I sit in the morning to meditate the past two days, his opening  background has captured my mind.

I’m born and raised protestant–a Methodist. So, I have always been taught that when Jesus said, “This is my body,” the definition of the word “is” means “represents”. However, if you are of other traditions, you were taught that the word “is” means “literally the same thing”.

Wills is taking us down the logical path of what it means in the life of the church and as a true reflection of the early church when somehow it became common to vest in a group of men the power (magical? mystical?) to turn ordinary bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Jesus. This led to all manner of “mental gymnastics” and logical leaps.

I don’t know if I’ll write any more on this, since to me it’s just an intellectual exercise. To some people it’s the foundation of their faith. Read with care.

It’s June 12, 2014. Two auspicious events of the day. The World Cup football (soccer) championship playoffs begin. Oh, and it’s the anniversary of my wedding. I’d have to say that my parents were greatly relieved when I called them some 44 years ago and said I was getting married–to a normal middle-class girl. I was about to enter graduate school studying philosophy and publishing poetry. Not the goals of normal, middle-class parents. I caved. Went back to my technology roots and became middle class. It’s all worked out for the best, even though Bev is still working on making me dress and act like a normal middle-class, Midwestern person.

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4 Responses to “Why Priests”

  1. Eoin Ó Riain (@ReadoutSignpost) Says:

    The Eucharist (and thus the priesthood) is frequently misunderstood. Catholic, Orthodox & some other Christian communities believe in the Eucharist as “the source and summit of the Christian life.” A lot of the theology is contained in the words used by the priest in the Eucharistic celebration in the Roman/Latin rite and probably in other rites as well. In this supper we see and understand the words of the Lord when he said “My flesh is food indeed and my blood is food indeed.” in John’s Gospel, which interestingly does not contain the actual story of its institution.

    “Of course The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
    The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will you also go away?” – the Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has “the words of eternal life” and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.”

    I praise your careful choice of words and admonition “read with care.” I hope my words are as careful too.

    The teaching of the Catholic Church is available on-line in the Catechism for those who wish to understand our belief. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm

    • Gary Mintchell Says:

      Thanks Eoin. My personality is that I want to understand everything. But there are things I’ll never understand. I guess that’s life in the Spirit.

  2. ben Says:

    When it comes to this topic, I always turn to the Old Testament first.
    The Levitical priesthood, their role, their failings and their example to the physical nation of Israel (that God brought out of captivity so He could teach them His ways to be an example to the nations around) is key to understanding this role.
    I totally agree, ‘read with care’. Well put.

    Oh, and congratulations on the wedding anniversary. We are coming up to 25 years in a few months.

    • Gary Mintchell Says:

      Thanks Ben. And congratulations on 25. That is quite a milestone these days. I hope I can out to Temecula this year and check in on everyone.

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