The priest celebrating Mass was struggling. A man was assisting him by holding both his hands so he could slowly rise from his chair and scuffle to the altar for Offertory.
As he spoke the words for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, he frequently lost his place. The deacon standing to his right, gently used his finger to bring Father back to the words he missed so he could begin again. We participating at Mass that day patiently waited; many of us praying silently for Father, because we know the Offertory prayers must be spoken exactly as written through the priest to bring about the miracle of ordinary bread and wine being transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, (CCC 1411-1413).
Seeking to Understand
One of the reasons I left the Catholic faith decades ago and one of the areas I struggled with when I returned was the principle of authority. Especially, the authority of the priesthood. But instead of simply disagreeing with it, I poured through the Catechism of the Catholic Church to seek for myself why the Catholic Church teaches what she does.
In doing so, I discovered my unique and unrepeatable place in God’s plan.
For instance, the Catholic Church professes that in the Sacrament of Baptism, every person is anointed as priest, prophet and king. How we are to live that out depends on the vocation we are called to and freely choose. A priest is given authority as a ministerial priesthood by means of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. As a lay woman, wife and mother, I have been given authority under the common priesthood anointed by the Holy Spirit at my Sacrament of Baptism, (CCC 1546-1547).
What does that mean?
It means through the Sacrament of Marriage, we both become one, making sacrifices for each other. We both act in equal authority over each other. At our wedding, we spoke the words that married him to me and me to him. The presiding priest, in persona Christi, was our witness and the Holy Spirit sealed our Covenant. (CCC 1624).
We became parents; anointed in authority through our Sacrament of Marriage, to two sons. Many may have a type of authority over my sons, for instance teachers and coaches, but only with our parental permission either verbalized or through our actions, (CCC 2221-2223).
This is a privilege and it is a great responsibility.
To help us make the best choices, lay people should consider the following hierarchy of responsibility:
- Extended Family
When we choose accordingly, we are given the grace to act through the authority God grants us. When we put these priorities in their proper order, harmony reigns. If we, for instance, put our career ahead of parenting or decide to replace our spouse, we renege on the graces granted us by authority of God in our vocations and Sacraments. We are acting on our own without authority. Our lives become chaotic and often, misery is the fruit. This explains the wisdom of the Church in why she teaches divorce is immoral because it introduces disorder into the family and into society, (CCC 2385).
Living in God’s Grace
Understanding authority as God has planned is important if we want to live our lives truly as His disciples and in peace with each other. Scripture speaks of how best to understand God’s plan in Matthew 8: 5-8:
When he entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.”
Seeing Vocation as a Gift
Knowing that graces are especially granted in a specific vocation and through the Sacraments authored by Christ should help us to discern how to act; either in subject to or as authority over; and rise to the challenge God asks of us whether we are a centurion, a priest, a wife, a husband or a parent.
To discover more what it means to live the vocation of manhood and womanhood, consider participating at an upcoming Catholic Men’s Conference or Catholic Women’s Conference produced by the Pilgrim Center of Hope.