Who has more authority?
Does a priest have more authority than a Mother?
In the scriptures of the New Testament, what priest ever influences Jesus, or teaches Jesus a single thing?
And yet, how many women, mothers, open Jesus’s heart and help him create miracles?
The Catholic church gets kids, gets people, young, convincing them a priest has authority ordained by God. Priests even call themselves “Father,” though they have no children, and do not know what it is like to conceive.
Why not, if you worship the Christ Jesus, call yourself a son, and act according to Jesus’s righteousness of speaking up about corruption? Heal the sick and the wounded with your hands? Share loving abundance, and commune openly with friends and neighbors, and teach through artistry, parable, deeply human and felt connection?
Why have many Catholics been swayed to love and respect the priest instead of the savior, for so many years?
Because some of them (not all) love the world instead. They love power, what they call “respect.” They love domination, status, and the masculine paradigm, more than they love or know God.
The reason Catholicism has lasted is because of Mother Mary.
She is the true, and the holy, who stands in the shadows, offering respite and refuge.
Mother Mary is the one parishioners turn to for help, and they listen awkwardly to Jesus’s own teachings, confused about how to put the pieces together of their discordant faith.
In July 2019, when I felt a strong call toward the Catholic church, for reasons unknown to me, considering my own Quaker roots and practice, I spoke to a priest in Vezelay, France, at the Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene.
The confessional there was in the open. The priest sat in one chair, and the confessor was meant to sit in the other.
I sat down and noticed the man had kind eyes.
I asked him advice, not because I thought he knew God any better than I did, but because I wanted to connect with a fellow priest, or “chosen one,” who spent time with the Savior’s essence, language, spirit.
I said, “I am feeling called to teach the Word. I am feeling called to ministry. And yet I have three children, and I am not sure how to manage both.”
The man said, “In the Catholic church, the order of hierarchy is, Priest first, then mother.” He said this to show the importance of my status as mother.
I considered for a bit.
And even though I didn’t share my response, I recognized that he gave me an important message. My call was greatly significant, for I was both of those things.
Earlier that day, in the same Basilica, I met a young woman who was entering a convent to become a nun. I wanted to pray the rosary with her, and have her help me with what I felt was a burgeoning leading. She agreed to help and pray the rosary together, and we sat to watch a performance on the Basilica’s stage. As we sat, she told me I should go to confession. Had I done that before? It was vitally important, she said. I told her I hadn’t done that since I was a child….
She told me, “A priest is blessed by God, sanctified through the Church.” She believed this wholly, with her own being. Yet I thought that what she had to offer was just as significant as any man, and I intuited that our rosary prayer would have given me greater guidance.
I stayed silent and slipped off, left the Basilica and went to look over the green fields of Vezelay. I needed to determine what was best for me to do. I no longer felt I could get clear guidance from her, if she was so disillusioned about the truth of how God worked, even if she was sweet and kind.
When I returned home to America from my journey abroad and entered a Catholic prayer group a few months later, I met a beautiful young woman for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant.
We spoke about our spiritual paths, and prayed in gratitude for the warming food before us. As we shared our stories, she told me the Eucharist in Catholic church is blessed by God, and literally transformed into the body of Christ when a Catholic priest prays over it. This made Catholicism different, she said, and unique, and superior, even though she spoke with humility. Her whole manner suggested a deep understanding of her own degradation and sinfulness as a human being, and the Church as the only place she could be lifted out of it, even if only briefly.
I told her of my travels, and my experience trying the Eucharist in various churches, noting the difference in the way I felt when I received it, depending on the vessel (the priest) I received it from. With some priests, I said, the Eucharist was flat and un-alive. With others, the wafer went down smoothly. With one African priest, in Venice, Italy, the Eucharistic wafer felt like a drum beating inside my chest, and I felt openings and allure, a drawing toward Mother Mary, the Black Madonna.
This young woman insisted the Eucharist is transformed by God in the hands of the priest, so the wafer, or bread, is always holy in his hands.
I did not agree.
I did not agree.
I did not agree.
My experience of receiving those wafers proved otherwise, and I’d also had nudges, at times, that I should not take the Eucharist from certain men at the podiums, because I believed their unholiness would taint me and make me impure.
I trusted my own nudges much more than I trusted an unknown priest, who operated within a tradition that elevates secrecy, shrouding, absences of warmth and vitality, perpetuated cover-ups, abided within hierarchical structures that do not serve.
That young woman I ate with seemed depressed for many months when I knew her, and did not respond to future emails or texts as our prayer group progressed. I surmised it was because she struggled deeply with emotional issues, and believed so deeply in her own inferiority.
I think she decided to go to law school.
Here is the question I am left with, and which I pose to you, reader.
Who do you beckon toward in your time of need?
Is it a mother?
Is it a priest?
Who do you believe knows things?
And how do they know what they know?