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Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood: A Faith Perspectice on the Mystery and the Reality of the Pristhood.

Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood A faith perspectice on the mystery and the reality of the pristhood WRITTEN BY Father Thomas, O.S.B. Acklin PUBLISHED BY Emmaus Road Publishing, Steubenville, OH, 2006, ISBN: 1931018294, Softcover, pp. 228, $14.68 USD

Father Acklin has been president-rector of the seminary at the Archabbey of St. Vincent, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where he is a professor of theology and of psychology. He holds a doctorate in theology and is a faculty member of the Pittsburg Psychoanalytic Institute.

This book, which has been recommended by two bishops and a number of well-known Catholic writers, deals with several aspects of the priesthood, and especially with sexuality and celibacy. The book challenges some of the ideas of Father Donald Cozzens in his The Changing Face of the Priesthood (2000).

In the Old Testament there were two priesthoods, the more general one including all the Jews, and the more special one including only the Levite priests, who looked after the temple and the synagogues. Similarly, in the New Testament there is a more general priesthood including all Catholics, founded on their baptism, and a more special one, including only the clergy. The Second Vatican Council has taught that these two New Testament priesthoods are essentially different, but they are not in conflict with each other.

Only men are able to enter the special priesthood, we know, because of the will of God, who makes free decisions, as when he invited only Peter, James, and John to be witnesses at the Transfiguration. There is no room for men being vainglorious about this. They are called not for vainglory but for service, and are given tremendous responsibility and called to special holiness. When they are ordained they are changed ontologically, in their very being, which is not true of the common priesthood. Priests have special power, but it is not their own power; it is to be exercised in the name of Jesus. They are members of the Catholic community, not above it; and they are called to live for this community.

Like everyone else, priests have times of loneliness. Such a condition must be faced, not avoided by overwork or distractions. They should not try to escape from all loneliness; such an escape is impossible. They must accept solitude, which can be used to establish a right relationship with God and with other people. They must make themselves a gift to God and to others. They must stop looking for fulfillment in other objects or in another person. Only God can satisfy a celibate. Addiction to another object or person takes away the only possible human happiness, a happiness that comes not from a search for fulfillment in something other than God but only from emptying oneself and finding God alone.

The Church makes clear how a priest should live. There are "lower defection rates from celibacy and the priesthood for priests who celebrate Mass, pray the Divine Office, make a holy hour, do spiritual reading on a daily basis, and see a spiritual director regularly, the author states. As concerns celibacy, which is under attack today for priests even from within the Catholic community at times, ceasing to require it is not a good answer:

"As in society in general, the problem is a 'recreational' attitude toward sexuality. To lift the obligation of celibacy or to liberalize attitudes toward sexuality likewise would fail to solve the problems, as can be seen in the broader society. What is clear is that among married persons as well as those committed to celibacy those practices and attitudes labeled as 'traditional' and 'religious' strengthen and preserve marriage and priestly commitment.... Priests must integrate their sexuality within their relationship with their Lord. The most powerful means of integration is prayer.... You are committing psychic suicide if you think you can be genuinely celibate without a strong ongoing relationship with the Lord."

Highly recommended are being poor in spirit, clerical companionship, devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and consulting a spiritual director. "Spending time in intimate conversation with and adoration of the Good Shepherd, present in the most blessed Sacrament of the altar, is a pastoral priority far superior to any other."

The book also gives special attention to addiction and homosexuality, though I have not dealt with these aspects here.

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Author:Kennedy, Leonard
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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