Proposing a new model of what it means to be “Priest”
For the past 2000-5000 years, priesthood (across religions) has meant one thing: a position of power and authority held by men acting as an intermediary between the undeserving flock and their god. These men have given themselves the power to interpret the word of their god and to dictate doctrine around their interpretation of that word. They have appointed themselves determiners of who is saved and who is not and have created rituals and practices to be observed by the undeserving so that they might earn the “love” of a jealous and fickle god and therefore their heavenly reward after death. These men have used the threat of eternal damnation to manipulate those they “serve” and have benefited from a culture based in fear. These men have been held as separate, more important and more powerful than the people they “serve” and have benefited from this separation, given places of honor and becoming rich on the backs of those who are expected to pay, pray and obey.
Whereas not every man who has followed the call to be “priest” (or woman who has taken on this kind of priesthood) has lived their priesthood in this way, all are complicit in a culture and a structure that places one in a position of power over those they are meant to serve. The current structure of the priesthood – especially as it is expressed in the Catholic Church in which I was raised, is a culture of (often white) privilege rooted in separation lived out through power and control. I can’t help but believe that this is not what Jesus had in mind. In fact, it seemed that Jesus spoke openly against those who placed themselves in positions of authority and who lauded their power over others. Instead, Jesus provided a completely different model of what priesthood might be which seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way.
In order to understand the kind of priesthood that Jesus lived and then modeled for those who spent time in his company, we don’t have to look very far. Scripture is quite clear about the priesthood that Jesus embodied – one of healing, comforting, teaching and empowering with Jesus hanging out, not at the top of the pyramid, but at the bottom of an inverted triangle upholding and uplifting those he sought to serve. In this, Jesus created a container in which those to whom he ministered might be supported in doing what Jesus did – coming to know themselves as One with God in love, and in this oneness coming to know their own unique giftedness and then supported and empowered in the development of and then sharing of these gifts – for the sake of their own fulfillment and in service to the betterment of the world.
This is the priesthood that Jesus embodied and the priesthood that Mary Magdalene was empowered to embrace. When we turn to those scriptures that didn’t make the cut of the emerging hierarchical/patriarchal institution that became Christianity, we clearly see Mary in this role: comforting, healing, teaching and empowering the other disciples to go forth and continue the work that Jesus empowered them to do. In this, Mary was living not as a priest within an institutional church, but as High Priest in the spirit of the ancient tradition of mystery schools which served to support women and men in achieving the fullness of their personal, psychological, emotional and spiritual development. In short, Mary, like Jesus, did the work to support what modern-day psychologists call self-actualization.
What would our world look like if we lived priesthood in this way – coming to know our own self-actualization and then empowering others to do the same?
If this model of priesthood speaks to you, check out the Magdalene Priestess Training by clicking on the image below:
The rosary is a traditional Catholic devotion and mantra meditation/prayer using a specific formation of (mala) beads. The intention of rosary prayer is to attune our hearts and minds to that of Mother Mary (who among other titles is called “Divine Mother” in the Catholic tradition), and to invite her intercession in our lives. If you were raised Catholic, you are familiar with this meditation/prayer practice.
Praying the rosary is a beautiful way to cultivate peace in our minds and in our hearts. Through rote repetition, meditation on the words and phrases and through the tactile sensation produced by moving our fingers from bead to bead, we are brought out of our restless minds and into the peace that dwells within our own Immaculate Hearts (another title for Mother Mary).
Since the time that Mother Mary imparted the rosary practice on St. Dominic (1214), millions, perhaps billions, of people have devoted themselves to its practice. In every Marian apparition since, Mary has implored her children to pray the rosary for the sake of peace in our world. What the recipients of the Marian apparitions didn’t realize was that it was their own inner peace Mary was referring to, with the larger vision that peace in our world is dependent on people finding peace in their own hearts first.
While the rosary continues to be honored as sacred among devout, practicing Catholics, for many who were raised Catholic but no longer consider themselves part of the Church, the rosary often falls into disuse. The reason many give is that they can no longer utter prayers that speak of the separation out of which the Catholic Church was born. Instead, they are looking for more inclusive images of the Divine, and for belief in a Divine whose love does not have to be earned, and one who loves without condition – the Divine about whom Jesus spoke.
It is for these people that Our Blessed Mother imparts a new rosary – a rosary that speaks of inclusion, that honors all images of the Divine as sacred, that recognizes the Divine that dwells within us and seeks to be known in the world through us. Mary asks that the new intention of the rosary be for the purposes of:
Cultivating our own inner peace.
Attuning our minds and hearts to the Divine (in whatever form we experience it).
That we offer ourselves to be vessels through which Divine love and the Divine purpose of love be made manifest in our world.
As we pray the new rosary, Mother Mary offers her loving guidance and support so that we might fulfill the purpose the Divine has set forth for us – as she was able to do in her own life. In addition, all those saints who went before us and who dedicated themselves to the Mother offer their support as well, including: Bernadette Soubirous, Catherine of Siena, Catherine Laboure, Joan of Arc, Hildegard of Bingen, Clare of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Therese Lisieux, Edith Stein, Dorothy Day, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Thank you for your dedication to this practice and through your intercession, changing our world from fear into love!
Mary, called Magdalene (a title meaning “Great Tower”), more than any of the other apostles, understood, embodied and then went on to live out the teachings of Jesus. “Healed of seven demons,” Mary learned, through Jesus’ guidance, how to transcend and then heal the perceived separation between herself and the Divine along with all the resulting fears of this perceived separation. In this, Mary achieved self-realization and became self-actualized – empowered to harness her own unique giftedness for the sake of her own fulfillment and then used these gifts in service to the betterment of the world. Because Jesus has accomplished this for himself, he was then able to show Mary the way. Jesus then empowered Mary, after his death, to continue this work in his stead. This is what Mary went on to do. Unfortunately, Mary’s story was left on the editing floor and no one knew the extent of the mission and ministry of the “church” Jesus founded through Mary Magdalene – until now.
Thanks to the discovery of Mary’s own gospel, and others that report of her prominence among the apostles and her role as the bearer of Jesus’ “secret” teachings, we now get a glimpse into the “church” that Jesus originally intended – a church that wasn’t a church at all, but was in fact, a mystery school – a place for higher level, esoteric learning, where participants are supported in knowing a deeply intimate relationship with the Divine of their understanding, then called into Oneness with that Divine so that they might realize the fullness of their human/Divine potential. Jesus, supported his followers in knowing what he had come to know within himself, and then empowered them to go out and do the same for others. It seems that Mary, called Magdalene, is the only one who got this and was the only one who succeeded in bringing Jesus’ initial vision to fruition.
The “Church” of the Magdalene (if we can even call it that), seeks to continue the work that Jesus began and was then continued through Mary Magdalene.
Become a priest or a priestess of the Magdalene. Learn moreHERE.
Today, July 22nd, has been designated The Feast of Mary Magdalene by the Catholic Church. Please join us in celebrating this amazing woman who became the fulfillment of Jesus’ message of love. Please join us for the FREE online service which you may participate in anytime between now and July 20th. Click on the image below to join:
Click on image to register
Please also enjoy this beautiful reflection on Mary Magdalene and her feast day from my friend and fellow-Magdalene, Kathy Walczyk:
Last month the pope uplifted Mary Magdalene. He officially elevated the day of her memorial to a full Feast Day in the Catholic Church. In making this change, the pope calls her an apostle to the apostles.
In a letter announcing the change, a Vatican secretary wrote, this decision means one “should reflect more deeply on the dignity of women, the New Evangelization, and the greatness of the mystery of Divine Mercy.”
We get a glimpse of Mary Magdalene through the male writers of the gospel. What would women writers have said about her? About Jesus? What would Mary say to us, today, if she could speak?
Mary Magdalene: She walked upright, with dignity when she was with him. She carried her own light as she walked alongside of Jesus. When she was with him she was included and worthy of discipleship. Like others treated as second-class citizens, Jesus uplifted those deemed unworthy by society and by religion. Was she ridiculed and judged? Was she allowed to speak, and did she ask questions?
She followed him to the cross and stayed, when the others had left. She watched him suffer for she knew what it was like to suffer. She watched eyes look upon him in judgment, for she knew the look of judgment herself.
Did she sleep that night, the night after Jesus died? Was she afraid, alone, or in shock? What gave her the courage to risk the journey to the tomb?
At the tomb, was it tears that clouded her vision or was it the heartache of loosing her teacher, her friend, her savior? What was it that made it difficult to recognize his face? Jesus called her by her name, Mary. What if, it were one of us there with Jesus after he had risen? If he called our name, what would awaken inside of us? Would we recognize him?
She went on her way to deliver his message and her testimony. Did the others believe her? Did she run with excitement or walk with trepidation? Did the soldiers try to stop her?
We do not know what became of Mary Magdalene. Without Jesus’s earthly presence, did the others include her, uplift her, and give her responsibility worthy of her calling? Did she continue to walk in dignity and with purpose?
Today we read of Jesus’ choice in Mary. He elevated her not by curing illness but by asking her to serve his people. She is today’s example. She is an inspiration to people called to go the extra mile, to stay when others leave, to go against the grain, to seek out what we cannot yet see and to believe despite our disbelief.
Kathy Walczyk’s specialty is challenging you to see your beauty and potential. She facilitates this discovery by supporting your spiritual growth through one-on-one mentoring and group classes. The tools she utilizes include Authentic Freedom and creative expression, including photography. Kathy is also an advocate for spiritual responses to trauma – specifically clergy sexual abuse. Her undergraduate is in Art and Photography and she hold a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies and Pastoral Ministry. She has completed extensive study in the areas of spirituality, sexuality, trauma, and healing. She lives and work in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Kathy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (920) 609-2657. Her website is www.spiritualmiddleground.com
Lauri Ann Lumby shares her story of being raised Catholic, receiving her vocational calling and training in the Church, ministering in the Church and then being abandoned by the Church. Her story is an “everywoman” story and reflective of the same trauma that has archetypally befallen Mary Magdalene in the history of the Church.
The File with My Name On It
This morning, I received in innocent inquiry from an online acquaintance about “the file with my name on it” that I have factiously mentioned several times in my writing. The file, I have come to understand is very real. While I have not seen the file, I know that the effect of the file is that I have been blackballed by the local diocese and anything associated with me or my name has been banned. After I explained the file to this acquaintance and tried to go on with my day, I found I could not. Instead, I found myself fighting off a panic attack and if it weren’t for a combination of yoga and tears, I know that would have been the consequence of sharing my truth.
For years I have tried to explain, make sense of, get over, my painful experiences with the Church. I have tried and tried and tried to do what the Church says to do which is to “forgive” and no matter how many layers of this I have processed, I find I am still heartbroken, hurt, angry, feeling betrayed, disappointed, and I guess, traumatized by the past experiences – which explains why I am not able to simply “let this go.” When we experience something as trauma, it lodges in the limbic portion of the brain, ever-vigilant for the next sign of potential or perceived danger. Having to share the story of the local self-appointed inquisition and the ways they have hassled me over the years and the way in which the Church failed to support me was enough to trigger my nervous system into a state of panic.
I know I am not the only person who has been wounded by the Church and who now suffers from what I will refer to here as Ecclesial Trauma. Ecclesial trauma is not listed as a disorder in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), but it should be. The challenge is that unraveling Ecclesial Trauma is like trying to untangle a slinky or unknot earbuds….and to those who have not experienced this kind of trauma….it makes no sense at all as there is nothing logical or rational about Ecclesial Trauma. Instead, the trauma occurs in a very deep, invisible place related to our Soul (as one friend recently observed) – the center of our being that defines who we are, our ground of being and the way in which we find our place in the world. To state it in mathematical terms:
The Church = God
The Church = Family
The Church is necessary for Survival
Your value is determined by the Church
The Church = Love
Rife with Inconsistencies
The problem is that more often than not, none of the above proves to be true. Instead, the Church is rife with inconsistencies:
Preaching a God who loves without condition, but then placing conditions on God’s love.
Proclaiming the equality of men and women and then depriving women of positions of equal status and pay as the men.
Claiming all people are God’s children, but saying it is only through the Church that one is able to enjoy salvation (also implying some/many will not be saved).
Saying they are doing the work of Jesus and are Jesus’ representatives on earth (serving the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc.) while living a life of luxury, excess, vanity, abuse of power.
Condemning “sinners” while sinning themselves.
Stating that “God desires mercy not sacrifice,” then asking for sacrifice – or more pointedly, placing Jesus in the position of the one being sacrificed (what kind of God sacrifices “his” own son????? And why was a sacrifice needed if we are loved without condition?????)
The list goes on and on and on.
The mildest form of ecclesial trauma arises in the face of these simple inconsistencies. What exactly is one supposed to believe? The cognitive dissonance alone is enough to drive one batty.
What Happens When It Becomes Personal?
But what happens when these inconsistencies are used against someone in a very personal way?
Like my aunt. She was raised Catholic and was married in the Church. After several years of marriage, her husband left her for another woman. He filed for divorce. When she went to the Church for counsel and support, she was told she was no longer welcome – at the communion table or even at mass – simply because she was divorced. Here:
The Church + God ≠ Love ≠ Family ≠ Value ≠ Survival
It was not God who didn’t’ love my aunt, it was the Church. But, in the eyes of the faithful, if one is rejected by the Church that must mean one is rejected by God. Even if one believes otherwise in their minds (the rational part of the mind that says, “The Church is NOT God”) the heart receives it otherwise. Here then is the source of the trauma. The mind says, “I believe in a loving God. I’m still loved by God,” but something deep in our heart/soul can only believe the actions of the Church, even when we KNOW Church and God are not one!
This is what happened to me. In spite of the inconsistencies, I grew up loving my Church. The Church was “god” and the “God” of the Church was my God (even if he was the “old man in the sky God,” at least I had a mother in Mary). I found my value in the Church (in fact, I found my vocational calling through the Church). I found belonging in the Church. Church was part of my ancestry and being Catholic became part of my being, part of my soul. I found my identity in the Church and I was encouraged, supported, mentored and then empowered to pursue this identity.
What Gets One in Trouble
That was……until I started to see the truth, question the inconsistencies and suggest that perhaps the Church and God were not one:
Why does Fr. (now Bishop) Doyle get to go to heaven before me just because he is a priest? What if he did something bad? Would he still get to go first????
Why couldn’t I raise my hand with my male classmates when asked about my call to ordained ministry?
Why was the God I was coming to know in contemplative prayer sooooooo different than the God the Church preached?
Why is it wrong for me to practice meditation with my Zen friends, but ok for me to practice Centering Prayer which is basically the same exact practice???
Why is it wrong to wonder if Jesus were married?
If Jesus treated women as equal to men, why were there no women among “the twelve?”
What ever happened to Mary Magdalene and why did Peter get all the glory when SHE was the one Jesus revealed himself to on Easter morning?
If we believe that God is without gender, then why is God portrayed as only male and why do we only use the word “Father” in reference to God?
Why is it wrong of me to teach the Lord’s prayer in Aramaic – the language Jesus spoke?
Why does it matter what ingredients are used to make the communion bread? Are we really supposed to deny the sacrament to those with a wheat allergy and what harm is there in adding a little honey?
Why is it not ok for Catholics to have sex before marriage but it is ok for priests and bishops to have mistresses (and even have it lauded in the local diocesan newspaper or have the Bishop suggest it was a better choice for a priest discerning marriage)?
Why is it wrong of me to do what Jesus told us to do – heal the sick? Why is it the “work of the devil” when I am doing it, but when a priest does it it’s a sacrament?!!!!!
These questions are clearly valid and I had/have a right to ask these questions. But in the end, it was not the questions or the Church’s response to these questions (which was ultimately no response – because there is no way to defend these inconsistencies except to say, “Because we told you so.”), that broke my heart. Instead, it was the ongoing pattern of the Church NOT supporting me when the fearful minority came after me with condemnation, came to my classes to confront and challenge me in front of students who were there to learn, wrote harmful and hurtful letters to the bishop and harassed me with “I’m praying for you to be released from Satan’s grip” emails. NOT ONCE did the Church support or defend me, neither did they create space to get to know me or “my side of the story.” NOT ONCE!
Ok, that’s not entirely true, the Chancellor did once make time for me to meet and discuss Reiki, but that was only after I reached out, and then he kept me waiting 45 minutes after the scheduled time and then only had 10 minutes to talk because he had to catch a flight to Rome. What is worse is that he promised me we would continue the conversation after his return, knowing full well that the prohibition order against Reiki had already been signed and would be released to the public the VERY NEXT DAY. In other words…..he lied to me…..he led me on…..he offered false promises….. In the words of modern psychology….this is ABUSE, plain and simple.
Then there was the local priest. Again….NOT ONCE did he try to get to know me or understand the work I was doing, even when I was under his roof running an urban retreat center sponsored by the very parish he was appointed to serve. I wrote letters, sent emails, made phone calls. Not once did he even try. Apparently the fearful minority had already bent his ear and he had already formed his judgment. Then the hammer fell and again, there was no Church there to support me.
The Only Choice Was to Leave
So I left. That was in 2007. Nine years later, I am still suffering the effects of Ecclesial trauma. The Church, as an “agent of God” was supposed to love me, support me, encourage me, protect me, comfort me, inspire me, provide a family for me and a place of belonging. But what I learned is that this is true only if you follow their rules, believe what they tell you to believe and do what you are told. If you question, or God-forbid, try to grow in your relationship to the REAL God (not the one they made up), you will be rejected, condemned, scorned and abandoned. When all of those things the Church professes to provide are taken away, one is left feeling alone, abandoned, rejected, without love, comfort, encouragement and support. The worst part of this trauma is that because of the way in which the Church has manipulated God and recreated God in their own image, not only does one feel abandoned by the Church (thereby losing one’s “family,” “Sense of belonging” and in my case, “my vocation and personal identity”) one feels abandoned by God.
How could God (the Church) abandon me in this way?
How could God (the Church) condemn the work I’m doing on “his” behalf?
How could God (the Church) betray me in this way?
How could God take away all that had previously been my source of support, belonging, love, vocation, ministry, even my identity?
Intellectually, I know how messed up this is and how God has nothing to do with the actions of the Church. In my mind, I know there is no rational reason I should equate the actions of the Church with the actions of God. BUT…..after 40+ years of Catholic indoctrination it is impossible to separate the two.
The Path to Healing Ecclesial Trauma
Impossible for me perhaps, but not impossible for God. This is where healing comes in (and a fair bit of reprogramming). The short answer to this LONG and (perhaps boring as hell) blog is that the remedy to Ecclesial trauma is to FIND A NEW GOD. Not a God that has been made in the image of the Church to fulfill their political agenda. Instead….THE REAL GOD. The God that seeks to be known within us. The God that Jesus knew and tried to help others to know. A God who is without gender, who isn’t human at all – but is beyond image or form, but who in its infinite nature can reveal itself to us in whatever way is helpful. All this time, this is the God who has been trying to reveal itself to me…and the God I know has been guiding and leading me all this time – guiding me to Love, leading me to my calling, leading me into and through the questions, supporting me when the Church refused to, loving me when I grew angry, encouraging me when I struggled with doubt, and who ultimately led my new acquaintance to ask about “the file” so that another layer of Ecclesial trauma could be brought forth for healing, transformation and release.