Recent Posts

Friday, 23 November 2012

On the Various Types of Priests

Clarification on a simple point.

Many Catholics do not understand the difference between a priest who is a member of an order and a secular or diocesan priest. The vocation is very different. I hope for those who do know the difference, this is not too pedestrian.

An order, such as the Benedictines, Dominicans, Franciscans, Fraternity of St. Peter, or the Institute of Christ the King have various things in common. I shall list those: first, an order has a spirituality unique to that group of men. Second, most are missionary in scope and call. Third, the members make unique vows to the order.

By the way, even some Benedictine orders are missionary, having a vow of stability to the order and not to a monastery, such as the Tyburn nuns. Fourth, the members of an order live in community, unless they are Jesuits in certain areas, or have at least one other priest with them in their work.

A secular or diocesan priest is under obedience to his bishop and works in a diocese, usually. The call to be a diocesan priest is not a missionary call, although a bishop may send a secular to Rome to teach, for example, or to a capital to work in the archdiocesan or national offices.

The spirituality of such men varies greatly according to the order, or the diocese. Some diocesan priests would be more Ignatian in their spirituality, as St. Ignatius wrote a rule for the active life. However, the spirituality of a secular priest is that of the apostle working in the world under authority, but without a specific rule. The secular must say daily Mass and his breviary, but he is under no obligation to sing the hours, or to have the type of strict obedience which a monk owes his abbot, for example. A secular priest has the right to say no to something and discuss possibilities with his bishop. The fraternity of secular priests is built up by friendships and groups in the deaneries.

Most diocesan priests wear blacks, though not all, and few wear soutanes (cassocks). Their life is very active, and these priests need great care from their parishes, which sadly in most places is lacking. The live alone, mostly, except in large urban areas, and are overworked. But, their call is that of the original twelve apostles. Their community is that which they make, and not ready made, as in the great orders. Also, secular priests do not make a vow of poverty. Living in the world can be expensive and harsh. Many dioceses give a minimum to their priests, and I know some countries where families help out the priests in their families out of necessity.

God's call to a young man is specific. One either has a religious vocation in addition to a priestly one or not. This is determined with spiritual directors, or vocations directors, or even abbots. One can discern through self-knowledge where one's talents and temperament fit into the Church.

It is very hard to be a diocesan priest in these days. Pray for your priests. Do not judge them too harshly. Pray for the seminarians. Pray for more vocations. I know many parents who would not want their boys to be priests. I personally believe this is sinful-to stand in the way of God's call to a son is a serious thing.

There are not a lot of canonized saints who are diocesan priests. One reason is that the established orders have had more means, such as influence and monies, in Rome, in order to push the process. This is not a cynical statement, but simply a matter of process and ease. St. Jose Maria Escriva, who I consider a great saint, had a relatively easy time becoming canonized as his order was organized. This is the same reason why there are so few lay saints formally canonized. One needs, as it were, sponsorship in Rome. St. John Vianney is the patron saint of diocesan priests.

Many trad young men become diocesan priests as that is their call from God. They want to bring the Latin Mass into the community. The blogging priests are mostly secular, such as Rev. Timothy Finigan , Rev. Ray Blake, and Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, but not all. Some monasteries do not allow the Internet at all for the community. Some do.

I hope this helps those who were wondering about this question.