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The Changing Face of Priesthood

priestslayhands2I was born after Vatican II, so I never experienced growing up with Latin Mass.However, my grandmother would always tell us some nice stories about her experiences with priests celebrating Mass in Latin. She said that the Mass was very holy, even if she did not understand most of the words that the priest said. People were very respectful with their priest, and always wear clothes proper for the Eucharistic celebration. Women covered their hair, and so on and so forth. She said that after Vatican II, things have changed. People have less respect for their priest and the Sacraments.

My grandma had good points about the changes that are happening after Vatican II. Though most of the things she said were accurate, she forgot to notice that there are lots of positive outcomes after the said Council. One of this is the changing face of priesthood.

Learning about ministerial priesthood at the seminary, we read an article written by Fr. Cozzens about the changing face of priesthood. Fr. Cozzens said that because of Vatican II, priests are now in the midst of discovering a deeper, more holistic identity as members of the People of God and as presbyters of the Church. From being a cultic leader, there is a shift to being a servant-leader. Before, priest was seen like someone with some mystical power, therefore treated special and separated from the people. I remembered when I was growing up, if a priest visited our home, we could not even eat with him at the same table. The priest had the best food, while we ate what was left over.

After Vatican II, there was a shift in model from pedestal to participation. Most of the priests no longer isolate themselves likes monks inside the comforts of their rectories and could only be seen during sacramental functions. As being part of the people of God, priests see themselves as leaders-companions. This kind of model creates collaborative ministry of which the priest works hand in hand with his parishioners. I remember when I was working at a parish in El Paso during my internship last year; we had tons of meetings in the evening because my pastor would like to know the diverse opinions of his trusted lay leaders regarding some major changes that he is doing for the parish. In this way, the people gradually understand that they too have important roles in building up the community as fellow believers. With this kind of model, the priests do more socializing with the people they serve and are willing to enter into honest dialogue with them.

I think with Vatican II, the changing face of priesthood really helps a lot in promoting some important reforms in the Church. For example, with the help of their priests, people are being more aware that through their baptism, they also share the priesthood of Jesus Christ, which means their role in the community is to be a collaborator of their pastor in building the kingdom of God. Recognizing this truth, the priest in return realizes that although he has a special role in the community, he will always remain a member of the faithful in need of ministry and community.

I would like to be a priest who knows the joys, pains, and suffering of his people. With my experiences during my internship year, I know it is easy to create some excuses not to leave my office or the rectory to visit my parishioners. However, I will try my best to be a priest who loves his people, by being present and working with them hand in hand. After all priesthood is not mine, it comes from God and it is a call to continue the healing mission of Jesus here on earth.

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