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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In the life of a Priest: Back to reality

Back to the normal parish duties at Our Lady of Peace, Burnham. Typical days always include celebrating the parish Mass and praying the Divine Office (prayers of the Church priests promise to say over the course of each day, for the church and for the world).

On Tuesday morning I celebrated Mass in Our Lady of Peace Juniors for the staff, students and parents of the school. The readings spoke of the Light of Christ, so we prayed for the Lord’s gift of light over the coming school year, to not only help the students with their studies, but also to help everyone to live out the school’s Catholic ethos by treating one another with love and respect.

I usually take Wednesdays off but didn’t manage it this week as I needed to finish preparing a course that I was giving on the coming Saturday, for mostly teachers who are training for the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies (CCRS). The module that I teach over two Saturdays is about the Church. Firstly I go through the Catholic Church’s inspirational, and at times very controversial, two thousand year history – and I try to cover that in about two hours so it’s a rather whistle-stop tour!

We then take a look at Cardinal Avery Dulles’ book, “Models of the Church”, which explore some of the different aspects of what the Church is. The first model looks at the “institutional” elements of the church, such as the fact that we have a pope, bishops, priests and deacons, and how structure is important to keep good order, but must not be so rigid as to exclude the Holy Spirit. The second model looks at the importance of “communion” in the church, and how Christ’s Spirit makes us all one in a spiritual sense. The third model brings the first and second models together and shows us how the Church is a “sacrament”, in the sense that we use visible external things to bring about invisible spiritual things, such as in the Sacrament of Baptism, when God uses water to bring about a new spiritual birth of a person. The fourth model looks at how the Church should be “prophetic”, and speak into the issues of our day with the mind of Christ. Finally, the fifth model explores how the church should also be a “servant”, and follow Jesus’ example, of coming “not to be served but to serve” (see Mark’s Gospel, chapter 10, verse 45).

The point of exploring these models is to help us to see their strengths and limitations, how all these aspects of the church are necessary, and to help us to realise that the church community is called to be all these things and more.