Tag Archives: Eastern Christians

The shared priesthood in a family

stagon.JPGThe are differences in how the Christian churches view priesthood. Generally speaking the priests of the Latin Church are celibate. But there are exceptions made for those who were formerly members of the Anglican Communion as married ministers who come into full communion with the Church of Rome. Then in many of the Eastern Catholic churches there are both married and celibate priests. In the USA, more of the Eastern Catholic priests are celibate due to an implementation of a rule imposed upon because of a strife between a Latin bishop and Eastern Catholics.

Eastern Christianity has had a long and venerable tradition of a married priesthood. Peggy Fletcher of the RNS wrote a very fine story on a family with priests “doing God’s work with sincerity and earnestness” in “Like father like son(s): Boys follow their father’s calling,” (The Washington Post, July 1, 2013). I recommend reading the article.
I am not calling into question the valid spiritual discipline of a celibate priesthood in the Catholic Church; the celibate Catholic priesthood has a valuable spiritual tradition with good reasons for following in this manner. The point here is that among those in the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church a man can validly follow the Lord as being married and being a priest. We have a history of it. Eastern Catholic Christians in the USA have been told by the authorities in Rome that a married priesthood is not possible. Certain biases are evident. American Eastern Catholic bishops say a married priesthood is part of the long, lived theological tradition –and it is part of canonical tradition– and that they ought to be free to ordain married men without issue. There are practical matters that always need to be accounted for, but one can say that both vocations, being married and being a priest, is possible. The article is less about a political statement than it is about the beauty of two vocations cohering well.

Apostles’ Fast 2013

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Recently on the Sunday of All Saints (26 May 2013) –the Byzantine Church observes a different feast of All Saints than do the Latin Christians– the Eparch (the Greek word for bishop) of the Melkites in the in the USA, Bishop Nicholas James Samra wrote to his people about preparing for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29. Yes, some Catholics do make preparations for other feasts!

One of the reasons I am drawing our attention to this matter is two-fold: 1.) being Catholic is more than merely following the Latin Church’s disciple — we can learn from others; and 2.) the discipline of those who belong to Christ is more than merely praying, fasting, and almsgiving for selfish reasons, that is, these spiritual activities are to break open our spiritual capacities. Remember what John Paul taught: Christians breathe with two lungs.

The liturgical feast of Ss. Peter and Paul is traditionally preceded by a period of concerted prayer and fasting. These saints –indeed, all of the apostles– are the pillars of our Church. In times past the period of fasting was significant while today it is much modified. The controlling idea is that before an important feast of the Lord, the Mother of God and some saints, the faithful are encouraged to prepare themselves to receive God’s graces in a worthy manner. We prepare by getting rid of sin and living virtuously: corporal and spiritual works of mercy are good things to do.

Bishop Nicholas recalls for us that the Monday after Sunday of All Saints the Byzantine Church begins a time of prayer and fasting leading us to the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on 29 June.  But now the preparation is modified to 10 days by the Melkite Synod of Bishops. Fittingly, the bishop notes: “We are given this “Apostles Fast” in order to fan into flame the grace of the Holy Spirit within us and to reflect upon the hardships endured by the Apostles as they preached Divine grace and truth to the world.”

Faith needs to be connected with reality. This is the context in which God acts. Several things in our own lives can and ought to be connected with life. Bishop Nicholas indicates that one good way to extrovert our faith by having some sense human ecology on the spiritual level is remember those suffering the effects of the war in Syria. Certainly, we pray for all but special attention to be paid to the Catholics and Orthodox peoples.

Hence, the proposal is to begin our spiritual discipline on June 19. I recommend that you make a confession of sin and receive Holy Communion, pray for the Pope’s intention for June, and name the intentions. Select a charitable organization to to make a donation of funds.

Perhaps we can also use the Apostles’ Fast to pray for those living with cancer. I am thinking of my friend Jesuit Father Edward Oakes who is in need of a miracle due to his recent diagnosis of Type 4 pancreatic and liver cancer.

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

Eastern Catholic Churches by the numbers, 2011

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Just to give a sense of numbers of faithful who are members of the various Eastern Churches. While these stats are of 2011, they are basically correct. The churches that see growth are the Ukrainians, Malabars and Malakars.

The unexpected grace of Matushka Magdalena

We need witnesses. This is an idea that I am echoing from the teaching of Paul VI. Who are the witnesses that lead you to a deeper relationship with the Other, with friends, and with oneself?

A friend sent me the story of Matushka Magdalena who faced persecution wreaked by the Khruschev’s regime. What this story gets at, I think, is that nothing is given to us by happenstance. That is, in some strange yet beautiful way we ought to attribute the circumstances of our life to Divine Providence. Nothing is by accident. At least that’s what I think the article “An Amazing Story of Betrayal and Repentance” gets at.
Eastern Christians need our support through prayer and friendship. Let’s pray for the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in lands of the Rus.

Christians face being insipid


One of the things I like about Pope Francis is the common imagery used in his homilies. No long ago he warned of becoming a babysitter church. Today’s Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae with members of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches the Holy Father used the biblical –and common– metaphor of salt to speak about faith, hope and charity. Mark’s gospel for Mass today provides a good amount of grist for the mill. Salt helps to savor the faith as much as it opens taste buds to share this faith with others.

I think one of the reasons the Holy Father latched onto the use of the image of salt is basic encouragement of Eastern Christians to resist becoming “Museum-piece Christians.” So often the Eastern Christians are treated pretty poorly by Western Christians that it is too shameful to speak about; however, Eastern Christians also love the ghetto mentality. Isolation is a value for them, it seems. Frequently, you hear them complain and criticize the Roman Church for negligence when in reality they seem to prefer being someone’s door mat. If you read between the lines the Pope is giving a personal witness to Eastern Christians in living differently. Later in his homily, the Pope talks about Christianity’s originality. For me, I think the pope is criticizing those who want a uniform theological and liturgical tradition, which is not what it means to be Catholic. Francis, said,


Salt makes sense when you [use] it in order to make things more tasty. I also consider that salt stored in the bottle, with moisture, loses strength and is rendered useless. The salt that we have received is to be given out, to be given away, [in order] to spice things up: otherwise, it becomes bland and useless. We must ask the Lord not to [let us] become Christians with flavor-less salt, with salt that stays closed in the bottle. Salt also has another special feature: when salt is used well, one does not notice the taste of salt. The savor of salt – it cannot be perceived! What one tastes is the flavor of the food: salt helps improve the flavor of the meal.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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