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Priesthood: A Life Open to ChristProduct Review (submitted on 9 September 2009):
Given the diversity of the priestly background of the contributors, it is not surprising that one should detect within these personal reflections different models of priesthood. We live in a Church where the predominant model is that of the diocesan priest, with the Sunday liturgy, the communal celebration of Christ’s paschal mystery, the defining moment in the life of the priest and his people. So it is good that this collection includes on the one hand the testimony of a Carthusian, a ‘solitary’ called ‘to witness visibly in his life, to the absolute priority of God over any created thing’ (p.35), and on the other that of Jesuit Fr Gerry O’Collins who underlines the priestly aspect of Christ’s public ministry, as well as the priestly apostolic dimension of the ministry of St. Paul – facets of priestly life central to some models of religious priesthood. As O’Collins puts it: ‘Proclaiming the Kingdom, healing the sick, forgiving sinners, feeding the hungry and the other activities that filled the years of Jesus’ public life belonged to his priestly ministry as much as his institution of the Eucharist during the celebration of the Last Supper’ (p. 144).
These essays are not mini theological treatises, and it is often when the language of theological distinctions is replaced by that of personal experience that fresh insight is offered to the reader. To be a priest is to be someone who helps ‘to fit the story of [another] person’s life within the Great Story’ (Fr. Vivian Boland OP, p.22); a priest is ‘a midwife of the sacredness already within the parishioners in the ordinariness of their days’ (Fr. Daniel O’Leary, p.150); a priest is someone ‘whose presence will remind people that no matter what their difficulties might be, God really loves them and cares for them’ (Bishop Thomas McMahon, quoting Cardinal Bernadin, p.123). Nothing complicated here, but expressions that capture the loving attentiveness of men seeking to be the presence of Christ to others.
The relating of such personal experiences, for me at least, provides the highlights of this collection, and I have to say I would have welcomed more!
For Fr Power's complete review, available on tthe "Thinking Faith" website, see http://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/BOOK_20090907_1.htm