Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Memoir Musings Part Seven: Ordinations journey

How many ordinations does it take to make a priest? God knows!

In seeking an organizing structure for my personal/professional journey I have come up with the word-theme ordination and a new title, Ordinations:Becoming a Priest From the Inside Out.

When I play with words I look first at derivation, even before definition. There I often find clues to the word’s soul, where it was born and what its true meaning or vocation is. Ordination comes from the Latin root ordinatio, to put in order.

By definition, ordination means the act of making someone a member of the clergy, conferring on someone the authority of a sacred office, which can mean that the person has the status of the office but may not be clergy. In some traditions for example, lay people are “ordained” to serve for a time as an officer in the church.

Ordination also can mean the ceremony by which this ordering takes place.

By the traditional Anglican understanding of ordination (with a courteous bow to Luther's great idea of the priesthood of all believers conferred upon all Christians at baptism), you could analogize and say that ordination is to priesthood as authorization is to your credit card. Religious ordination is a sacrament of grace and it also means you have institutional sanction to do what priests do in an official capacity. You’re card-carrying.

I’ve come to see that I have had many ordinations in my life, significant occasions in which my personal life has aligned itself with my vocation as a priest before I became a priest in the Church. In all these ordinations I have felt authorized, ordained by the presence of the Spirit rising up from within me or conferred upon me by external means. My ordinations have always reset my course in some way, have always given me both new life and challenging tasks and have always authorized me to do something new.

They happen in prayer, in adversity, through significant relationships, in wilderness, wrestling with Church politics, rejection, compulsions and sins.

My book chapters weave personal themes with professional categories like a tapestry, following my ordinations path from the first one under the table when I was three to the official one by the Church when I was fifty.

It took a long time and much ordaining to get my spiritual ordination together with my religious ordination, but I’ve actually been an ordained priest for sixty-seven years not twenty-one.