At that time, Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying, The Scribes and the Pharisees have sat on the chair of Moses. All things, therefore, that they command you, observe and do. But do not act according to their works; for they talk but do nothing. And they bind together heavy and oppressive burdens, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but not with one finger of their own do they choose to move them. In fact, all their works they do in order to be seen by men; for they widen their phylacteries, and enlarge their tassels, and love the first places at suppers and the front seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the market place, and to be called by men ‘Rabbi.’ But do not you be called ‘Rabbi’; for one is your Master, and all you are brothers. And call no one on earth your father; for one is your Father, Who is in heaven. Neither be called masters; for one only is your Master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:1-12
What makes my vocation legitimate? What is it that makes what we do as Independent Catholics, as Autocephalous Catholics, as Eucharistic Catholics, legitimate?
The first question we have to ask ourselves is what measuring stick we are going to use to define legitimate. I believe that what makes us legitimate is what is in our hearts, how we profess what is in our hearts, and how we apply what is in our hearts as our vocation to further our knowledge. For me, what is in my heart has always been the calling to serve Christ. How I profess what is in my heart is done in what I do. I said to my Bishop this weekend that every day, I step into the world as a community support worker and a secret Franciscan friar, practicing love but without letting people know where that comes from or how. Thirdly, chasing my vocation to the ends of the world meant finding the congregation I am a part of, one that practices the Tridentine Rite, one that observes many of the old traditions, but with a zest for serving the least fortunate. It meant that I needed to study through my seminary program, it meant learning and relearning the Latin language, the rubrics of the Mass; all this while I learned what it meant to be a Catholic.
There are those in our circle of Catholics that worry that there are those among us who are like the Scribes and Pharisees, those who command but will not bear the burden. They have called in part for a way to legitimize our clergy, legitimize our position as Independents. While there is a part of me that is attracted to this, I can’t help but wonder–will they not recognize us by our works? Will those we help not recognize who we are, what we are, without naming ourselves “Franciscan” or “Bishop” or “Priest”?
Perfect description of the Christian vocation: you can’t judge others because you are too busy washing their feet. I suspect that for most of my life as a priest, I will feel a sense of being an imposter, of not being a part of the Roman church. It’s at those times that I need to wash the feet of those around me, remember that we are all part of the Church, and worry less about the trappings of the rite. The measure of who we are only belongs with Our Father who is in Heaven, our only master is the Christ, Jesus.
When you get too busy thinking, get busy sweating. Pour out soup. Greet someone on the street asking for change. Place yourself in the greatest of poverty, embrace it. That’s the only measure that matters.