Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Catholic Man, The Catholic Priest as Prophet

Prophet.  The etymological root of the word 'prophet', comes from the Greek 'prophetes', which means 'spokesman'.  The prophet spoke not his own words, but the words of he who sent him.  In the Old Testament and with St John the Baptist, the prophets were spokesmen for God.  Through these prophets, God sent words of comfort and warning, words of destruction and rebirth.  Through the prophets, the Messiah was foretold and pointed towards.  They made known the word of God regardless of the risk.

When we baptized, we were given a share in the prophetic role of Jesus Christ and His Church through our anointing with Sacred Chrism.  If we were baptized as infants, the ephphatha prayer (Greek for 'Be opened') was said over us as our lips and ears were touched, praying that our ears would be open His word and our mouth loosed to proclaim His word.To be a prophet though requires two things:

1) To be a prophet means we must have a relationship with Christ.  We cannot be the spokesman for someone we do not know.  Men, for far too long, have seen a relationship with Jesus as something not manly.  We have bought into a secular lie that such things (which we dismissively call 'religion') are the thing of women and young children.  Nothing so stills the prophetic tongue as a man who buys this weasel bit of deceit.  How can we be the spiritual head of our home without owning the prophetic role?  How can we be prophets when our relationship is far less than what it should be with God?  For us as men, this means we pray, we engage in the cultivation of virtue by which we are loosened from the deceit of this world.

2) To be a prophet means we must have a relationship with Christ's Body, the Church.  As Catholics we are not free agents.  We belong to a Body of Christ much larger than ourselves and are given the role of a shepherd when we step into the role of our vocation.  To have a relationship with Christ's Body means that we seek knowledge of what that Body teaches and stands for.  Otherwise, our tongues are reduced to compromising and deceitful babble.   The true prophet must have a relationship with the truth.

Furthermore, a man who wishes to live up to the challenge of being a prophet must make regular use of the sacraments.  A man who stays away from the Eucharist will be a prophet starved of grace who will fall into deceit and become a false prophet.  A man who stays away from the sacrament of Confession will be a man whose humility is so crushed that lacking self reflection and its attendant honesty, he will not be able to distinguish between truth and deceit.  His prophetic message will become and amalgamation of worldly wisdom with a Catholic facade...a very thin facade.   The prophet who severs himself from the company of Christ and His Church still remains a prophet, only he now becomes a false prophet.

The signs that a man is falling short of his prophetic role as a catholic man:

A) He is vain.  The vain man, the man who is worried about the way he is perceived, will still the prophet's tongue quickly.  The man who worries about appearances will retreat quickly; he will be driven by the prevailing winds of society.  The vain man has his reputation as his god.  Any teaching of the faith that is unpopular he will restrain from saying as he is more worried about how is perceived and the consequences following.

B) He is afraid.  Vanity births fear. Those who have reputation as a god, have an insatiable god who demands much lest his gifts be quickly taken away.  The vain man will allow fear to still his tongue to unpopular truth.  I have heard many times how a cleric stayed away from preaching unpopular because he would see a drop in his collection.  The slightest prick of even the likelihood of persecution will deter him away from being a true prophet.

C) He delegates away his responsibility.   How many men have delegated away being spiritual head of their home to their wives?  How many are content with her being the primary teacher while they do their own thing?  How many clerics delegate away key components of the prophetic office to a myriad of others while taking the one moment they cannot readily forfeit, the homily, and filling with insignificant fluff?  Despite the fact that in many places the cleric has actually had graduate level training in theology, he can barely bring himself to step into any teaching role, has no knowledge of what his delegates are teaching, and is safely ensconced in his lair where he can be Fr. Nice.  It is a safe place that protects the reputation he wants.  How many men are quite satisfied with allowing their wives go to things such as classes, prayer, retreats and anything else that bolsters their role so that the wife and not her husband can be built up in their identity?  In delegating away his responsibility, the Catholic man and priest shows he is ruled by fear.

Brothers, we cannot let these things rule us.  Our society grows darker and darker as we sit silent. The truth is, we are either pursuing darkness or light.  The devil owns the fence on which so many of us sit. A true man doesn't take the attitude of let the truth be damned, but takes the attitude of let the darkness be damned!  He stands like a warrior and professes the light.  His tongue is not silenced by the deceit of our secular world.  His manliness is not contingent upon his reputation.  His identity is not determined by worldly wisdom.

You can be very sure that speaking the truth will bring persecution.  It will be unpopular.  It always has been.  Every prophet knows that his words will comfort some and infuriate others, depending of what god they serve.  But the true Catholic man and Catholic priest is no coward.  He does what is necessary to be the prophet God has created and baptized him to be. He bears willingly, as did Jesus his own cross, what will come with being a prophet to the truth.  He is the St Thomas More,  the St Maximilian Kolbe,  the St John Paul II, the Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the man who stands up to the mightiest of tyrants and even into the face of the King of Tyrants, the devil himself, with an stern jaw, a steely look,  and a  determined stance and says, "You have no power to bring me to cower in fear, I will proclaim the truth!"

Brothers, let us take on the mantle of the prophet we were baptized into so that in our homes and churches we model for the young men and boys  placed in our care how to be the fearless and faithful prophet we are called to be!

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