So, I’m an Episcopal priest.
So, Sarah Condon of Mockingbird, who is also an Episcopal priest and is a dang fine writer, wrote this recently, criticizing the tendency of male Protestant clergy to sit around and bemoan the fact that the Reformation forced the Western church into schism when they don’t recognize that it also paved the way for the ordination of female clergy.
And my husband, who is a Roman Catholic layman, wrote this, explaining the ways historically in which the Reformation closed down many avenues for women instead of opening them up. (I wrote an article on the same thing for Christian History a while ago, so I can’t fault his history. The Reformation may have accidentally created female pastors, for which I do indeed bless it, but what it actually intended to create was female pastors’ wives.) To be clear, Edwin supports my vocation, to the point that he has made irregular arrangements with the folks in charge to continue considering me a priest. But he is not the average Roman Catholic.
And I got into a discussion on Facebook about all of this where people were pointing out the opportunities for women to follow lives of sanctity in traditions that don’t ordain women and all I could think of was one of my favorite Éowyn quotes from The Lord of the Rings:
“A time may come soon,” said he, “when none will return. Then there will be need of valour without renown, for none shall remember the deeds that are done in the last defence of your homes. Yet the deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.” She answered: “All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more.”
And I wished that my Protestant friends would understand that I can’t simply ignore Catholicism. As someone raised up among work-up-your-feelings-about-Jesus Protestants, I have always been attracted to the idea of a faith which gives you things to say, and things to do, and reassures you that if you say and do them God’s grace will slowly transform you though you may not realize it. This is one of the things that has made Anglicanism so appealing to me. Being an Episcopalian is most helpful for me when it is most like that.
And I wish my Catholic friends would understand that my priestly vocation goes down deep into the marrow bone, in ways that one of them, Mary Pezzulo, explains so eloquently here, Ironically, to me, she was able to express why I do what I do better than I ever have myself.
Christ, hidden in the priest, raised His hand on the other side of that black screen and forgave my sins.
“Go in peace,” said Christ.
“Thank you,” I nearly shouted…….
The priests’s gift of being in persona Christi when he administers the sacraments, is a gift more wondrous than human tongue can tell. It can be turned to unspeakably damaging effect if that’s what the priest wants to do.
But when a priest really tries to be kind as Christ is kind, while he is standing in persona Christi— what a brilliant and wondrous gift.
And I wish that somewhere, someone understood both those things.
And I thought back to Éowyn, who both slays the King of the Nazgul and gets told that her calling to the battlefield was wrongly heard. As much as I love Tolkien, those things can’t both be true, can they?
And I thought about how she ends her statement:
But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.
And then I cried, and drank a cup of hot cocoa, and went to bed.