Are you a ''Vatican II Priest''? Recently, a respected pastor I know, ordained about 35 years ago, complained that he was wary of accepting a newly ordained man in his diocese as his associate because he feared the young guy was not a ''Vatican II priest.'' It got me to thinking about what that term might mean, and examining myself as to whether I was or not.
If the appellation means that I rejoice in the teachings and challenges of that blessed council, fully accept the renewal that came from it, and am committed to the ongoing mandate of implementing its major exhortations and priorities, then, you bet, I'm a ''Vatican II priest.''
If that badge means that the interpretation of the teachings of that council is a closed and finished project, or that this inspired event taught that everything prior to it in the 19 centuries before 1962 had to be thrown out, I guess I'm not a ''Vatican II priest.''
What I hope is that I am indeed a ''priest of the Second Vatican Council,'' and, also, by the way, a priest of the First Vatican Council, of the Council of Trent, of the Lateran Councils, especially, and, for that matter, of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon. Hey, and let's not forget the Council of Jerusalem in Acts of the Apostles!
I would hope we would be a priest of all the councils, a priest of the Church.
So, when I was recently speaking about how the sacraments are effective in and by themselves, apart from the faith of the recipient and the reverence of the celebrant - however important such faith and reverence are - and was told by a listener that that view was so ''Council of Trent,'' I replied, ''Why, thank you!''
How about this one? Are you a ''John Paul II priest?'' Here we go again. I hope I am. I love him, consider him a saint, and believe his impact upon me to be profound. But I also have the portrait of Pope Paul VI prominent in my dining room, and consider the four years I was in Rome as a seminarian, 1972-76, all under his pontificate, to be some of the most normative years in my life. Then again, I have read Journal of a Soul by John XXIII three times, and recommend it to others as one of the best spiritual reading books around. For that matter, my study of Pope Pius VII has made an enormous impact on me. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I even act like an ''Alexander VI priest''! Come to think about it, I kind of hope I'm a ''Pope Peter priest.''
I would hope we would be a priest of all the popes, a priest of the Church.
Sure, I suppose we all have our favorite councils, pontiffs, theologians, saints. But our allegiance as priests is always first and foremost to Jesus and His Church.
So, to the pastor ordained in the 1960s who is leery about taking a newly ordained priest because he is not a ''Vatican II priest,'' I say, ''Loosen-up! If he wasn't committed to that council, he would not have been ordained. Maybe some of his ideas about how best to implement the council's directives differ a bit from yours, but, come on, aren't you the one always praising open-mindedness, diversity and welcoming newer points of view?''
And to the fellow who resists a brother-priest because he is not a ''John Paul II priest,'' I say, ''Give it a rest!'' There were 265 before him, and they all had something to say, too, as does his inspired successor, and John Paul II would be the first to exhort you to be a man of the Church, not a man of any one pontificate.
Seems like St. Paul had something to say about claiming, ''I belong to Cephas . . . or, I belong to Apollo.'' Not good for the unity of the Church. No - we belong to Christ . . . and His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. TP