One of the suggestions someone had given me for a deeper experience of praying the Liturgy of the Hours was to become more specific and purposeful with my intentions. As I worked with that idea approaching Lent, I was sharing with a good friend of mine who is facing some medical uncertainty that I would be including her in my intentions. She looked at me with a "whaddumean" expression. (I have many family and friends - umm... most, actually, who aren't Catholic.) It occurred to me that many of those who I desire to pray with and for might have the same blank stare, so I tried to write something that described my understanding of an intention.
To make sure that I wasn't being inaccurate, I sent it to a priest friend of mine. I'm certainly no authority, and don't intend to publish in his or anyone else's name - but I wanted to make sure it was at least without any glaring error or inappropriateness. In his response, Father shared the following comment:
"..you attempt to configure your life after Christ and one day, if God calls you to be a priest, then you are offering your [prayers] for the world to Jesus Christ who has ascended to our Father in heaven..."
Those words have stayed with me - they still resound in my heart and my mind. They are powerful words. It seems that each day, as I've walked this journey with purpose, some new aspect of what it would mean to be "priest" dawns or develops in my heart. They all evoke a similar response in me.
Configuring my life after Christ. I know this intellectually. And deep within, this is my desire - wherever God leads my life - ordained or not. But when my heart opens to this idea that I so desire to pursue, my heart is always pierced somewhat. Pierced by the coexistence of my desire to do so, and the knowledge that my ability to do so is limited by my humanity.
Offering my prayer for the world to Jesus Christ who has ascended to the Father. Christ is our perfect and Holy "vicar". (from the Latin, "vicarius", meaning representative, or agent, or substitute.) Christ, in His human life, undertook the ultimate act of a vicar. Taking human form, He became man - allowing us to glimpse with human eyes the person of God. (I'm not a theologian - this is probably inaccurate in many ways. But I know there's truth in this idea - and I hope my inability to express it accurately does not hinder how profound it is.) He became our Vicar on the cross - substituting Himself for us.
Ascending into heaven, He continues to act as Vicar - OUR Vicar. Pleading at the right hand of the Father on our behalf. Some days I just know He's there, "Father, Alan loves You. He's trying. I offer you My Body, Blood, Soul, and Devinity in atonement for his sins, and for those of the whole world." I know it, because how else could I know God's love. How else could I know his Grace. How else could I receive an invitation to follow Him at all?
What is really ringing my bell this last couple of days is becoming more and more present to the idea that, if called to ordination, part of what that means is I would become a vicar, a representative, an agent for all of humanity. Standing, by way of some divine mystery, alongside Christ. Pleading to the Father, by way of Christ Himself, "Father, we love You. We try. We're only able to try by Your grace. I offer you the Body, Blood, Soul, and Devinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonemeny for our sins, and for those of the whole world."
United with Christ in praise, intercession, and in some small way, in sacrafice.
That's what's humbling. That God would invite us to participate in some small way in this mystery. We. Humans. Born in sin. Who's best is to try, and even that flowing only from His grace. What a loving, caring, amazing God we serve.
My humility often leads to questions of competence. Am I competent to participate in such a mystery? Would even years of formation in the Seminary cultivate such competence? Me - a sinner - born of a woman. Me, for whom "try" is the best I can do. Fr. Frank (one of the priests of my parish) encouraged me months ago in this way: "God doesn't call those who are qualified. He qualifies those He calls." Grace. It's all grace. A gift freely given, one that we could never hope to deserve or earn. Grace. (I'm reminded of the thought I had, in the moment Fr. Frank shared that with me: "The grace of that comment in my life arrived from Christ Himself, by way of his priest here before me." It was a result of Christ's Priesthood in the heavens, united with Fr. Frank's priesthood here and now.)
And - what's amazing me even now as I write this... everything I've said above applies to us all in some way. I don't know how it works out theologically, but I do know this. All Christians share in some way in Christ's priesthood. As recipients of, and participators in it. (Isnt' this right?)
As I begin the Lenten journey this year, I'm finding the suggestion to be more purposeful and specific with my intentions IS enhancing my liturgical prayer. Sometimes, even if just for a moment, I can sense my humble prayer here, with and for those I love, joined with the prayer of the whole Church, united with Christ at the right hand of the Father.