Lent officially began last week, but today, Monday, March 14th, I embark on a personal (I don’t know what word to use) Lenten discipline to find out what it is like to be focused on an identity as a “sacramental priest.”
I’ve been talking to my spiritual director about what it means to be priest. When I finished seminary, I spent the next four years being a data analyst for a research project at the Church Pension Fund. It was a good job at a great place to work, but at the beginning of my priesthood my identity continued not as a sacramental presence within a community of people, but as a “company” man, a techno-geek, a secular person in the work-a-day world rather than the “God person” among people. My most productive time was spent playing with numbers in a cubical rather dealing with the cure and care of souls. Then, this past year I did work in ministry full-time, yet most of my time was taken up in the development of a new ministry – more organizational, more research oriented, and more financial than sacramental.
In addition, many of the models for “priest” lifted up in the Church have developed over the years to be more like a therapist-priest, or social-worker-priest, or political- or social-activist-priest, or corporate-manager-priest, but not a priest that is devoted to sacramental ministry – the Cure of Souls. What does it mean to be a priest that is more sacramental and focused on “God-work” than a corporate executive, a social activist, a therapist, or a social worker? I know that a priest in full-time ministry wears many hats, and I like that. Yet, too often it seems that the sacramental presence is overwhelmed.
My spiritual director talks about the priest as the “God-person” in a community, a neighborhood, within a society. People need to know that there is someone present who is connected with God and is dedicated to be a helpful presence, an encouragement, an identifiable representative of God available to people, so my spiritual director says. This really cuts at my Type-A, achievement compulsion. I don’t know if I know how to be this kind of person. I realize that my identity as a priest is not “what I do” or “how much I do” or “how well I do,” even though those things are important considerations, but to be the God-person being about what God-people do – pray, worship, study Scripture, dispense the sacraments, and be about the Christian formation of God’s people.
To that end, beginning today I am dedicating myself to a process that will lead to a deeper understanding of what it means to be the God-person, a sacramental priest, within a parish community and in my neighborhood community. At St. Paul’s Church (199 Carroll St., Brooklyn, NY) in the Red Hook and Carroll Gardens neighborhoods of Brooklyn, I will be a sacramental priest in the Anglo-Catholic tradition by engaging in:
+ Morning Prayer at 7:30 AM – Monday through Thursday (this is already an Office done at St. Paul’s)
+ Evening Prayer at 6:00 PM – Monday through Thursday
+ Low Mass – 6:30 PM – Monday through Thursday
+ Meeting with one person each day
+ Guiding/coaching the people involved in Imago Dei Initiative’s “Faith meets Art meets Space” project for artists
On Fridays, it is the custom at St. Paul’s to have morning Mass at 9:00 AM and during Lent Sheila Reed conducts Stations of the Cross at 6:00 PM. So, Fridays are already taken care of (this is also my weekly day off). Saturdays will be “management” stuff and for the doing of Good Works. Sundays, High Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM and the Imago Dei Evening Service at 5:00 PM.
I’m striving to live more fully into the Imago Dei Society’s Rule-of-Life: http://imagodeiinitiative.org/life/rule-of-life/
This is my Lenten Discipline. I’m not sure what will come of it, but I’m sure I will be changed. God always works in ways I just don’t understand and can rarely anticipate. I plan to blog the experience. We shall see, by the mercy of our Lord.