Reflection: My Mother Was a Priest
by Father Don Thomas
"Nothing surprises me any more" is a remark that is frequently heard in our ever-changing society nowadays. Nor should the title of this reflection surprise or shock anyone who is familiar with the text we find in the bible: In Peter 2:9—we read: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light". However, it is not unusual to find some who are still surprised at any reference at all to the possibility of women priests. I recall vividly that a few years ago, in a parish where I was ministering, I introduced three visiting women as "priests" and I asked the congregation to welcome them after Mass. Deliberately I scanned the audience and took great delight in observing the surprise on their faces and the curiosity of many "rubber-necks" straining to get a look at the three women. I then proceeded to explain in my homily the purpose of my introduction, and now I would like to explain my I entitled this reflection "My Mother was a Priest".
In our catholic faith, we speak of two priesthoods. One is called the ministerial priesthood and the other is called "the royal priesthood". The former is composed of men who are ordained by a bishop, and we are not talking about this group in this reflection. As we well know, only men share in this ministerial priesthood, to the chagrin, disappointment and even anger on the part of some people.
The royal priesthood, on the other hand, is made up of all men, women and children who are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.This includes Catholics and non-Catholics alike, all the baptized. We really do not talk enough about the royal priesthood, and we really should because of what the essence of the priesthood is all about.
The essence or the nature of the priesthood is all about sacrifice. The ministerial priesthood centers its importance and beauty on the sacrifice of the Mass. It is through the sacrifice of the Mass that the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ and offered to His Eternal Father. The royal priesthood is all about sacrifice also. The word sacrifice comes from the Latin sacrum facere (to make sacred or to make holy). Through sacred scripture and the teachings of the church for the past two thousand years, every Christian has been encouraged to sanctify each day. This is done by offering every thought, word and good deed to God each day. Make your thoughts holy; make your words holy; and make your deeds holy. (For further information on this matter, check the reflection entitled "Morning Offering". It is listed under Reflections).
Before turning attention to my mother, I would like to refer to Jesus Christ who is called the one true Priest. So it is. How consistent it is to mention sacrifice in his case. He died on the cross for man's salvation. He was both the victim and the priest. What a sacrifice!
Now, my mother, the priest! Your own stories of family members or friends may be even more captivating and of greater interest, but as a very young boy I saw my mother, as a member of the royal priesthood, offer sacrifice after sacrifice to God. She has been dead for years now, but I can still see her kneeling next to a chair in the kitchen, saying her prayers and offering her entire day up to God for his honor and glory. She made many sacrifices in bringing ten children into the world, and she was so good about teaching all of us the importance of prayer, especially the morning offering. That was a prayer that made it easy to sanctify and offer up your whole day to God. Sacrifices by the thousands did she make in loving and caring for all of us under circumstances of true poverty. Washing clothes, baking bread, cooking meals, caring for us when we were sick, getting us ready for school involved many sacrifices, especially when she herself felt low or sick or tired.
Then, she made extraordinary sacrifices in being resigned to God's Will when Romayne died at the age of 3 months, and when Frank died at the age of 18, and when Mariclare died at the age of 19 and Raymond at the age of 42. It is diffiicult for all parents to lose children in death, and she suffered with resignation through all of them. At times she questioned the will of God, but always ended up accepting it, difficult as it was. Then giving up three sons to serve in the military, and allowing her 13 year old son to leave home to see if he wanted to become a Missionary of LaSalette.
Yes, this was all about sacrifice and she was exercising her royal priesthood over the years with great pride and success. On her 77th birthday, she had the tragic misfortune of falling backward down twelve steps, puncturing a lung, breaking her back and ending up paralyzed for the four months she survived. She told me personally in the hospital that she was offering up her suffering as a sacrifice to God. Her strong motivation came from a crucifix that hung in that hospital room. It was the source of her strength. The crucifix helped her exercise her priesthood to the end. In dying, she went to meet her Savior, Jesus Christ, the one true Priest after whom she patterned her life. May all who read this be as fortunate, and may we exercise our royal priesthood to the best of our ability. The reward awaiting us makes it all worthwhile.
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