Presbyterorum Ordinis 15: Readiness for Service

Among the virtues that priests must possess for their sacred ministry none is so important as a frame of mind and soul whereby they are always ready to know and do the will of him who sent them and not their own will.

A virtue any of us should strive for. PO 15 takes on a more devotional aspect, stressing humility, being attuned to God’s desire for universal salvation, and looking for the opportunity to serve in life’s most ordinary experiences. The value of obedience is recalled:

In a great spirit of faith, let them receive and execute whatever orders the holy father, their own bishop, or other superiors give or recommend.

Even the old prescription of dying with one’s boots on is given a nod:

With a willing heart let them spend and even exhaust themselves in whatever task they are given, even though it be menial and unrecognized.

Unity with other priests is stressed yet again, unity under the umbrella of obedience. But innovation is also supported:

This obedience is designed to promote the mature freedom of the children of God; by its very nature it postulates that in the carrying out of their work, spurred on by charity, they develop new approaches and methods for the greater good of the Church. With enthusiasm and courage, let priests propose new projects and strive to satisfy the needs of their flocks.

This is another of those “Spirit of Vatican II” passages that seem lost on the retrenchment community. Any reading of the Vatican II documents gains one the pragmatic sense of the Council. We live in extraordinary (beyond the ordinary) times, and often, new approaches will be needed to satisfy the underlying goal, namely the needs (primarily salvation) of the people. Naturally, a proper brake is put on this. The notion of innovation is carefully preceded by a reflection on obedience, and following it, we read a responsibility disclaimer:

Of course, they must be ready to submit to the decisions of those who rule the Church of God.

Coming into the final stretch of CS’s examination of Presybterorum Ordinis, we can easily identify important themes in this document: collaboration, the centrality of the Eucharist, the spiritual life–especially seeking God’s will. All this is rooted in more traditional understandings of the place of the priest in the hierarchy, and a call for a practical obedience. As this series approaches a conclusion, keep in mind your own assessment of Presybterorum Ordinis. And by all means, don’t be bashful about commenting.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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