The Priesthood of All Believers

The Descent of the Holy Spirit in a 15th centu...Pentecost has always been an hard Holy Day for me.  I grew up baptist in a family of ministers.  Like them, I felt the call to ministry early.

When I was 6, the Sunday school teacher gave the call to salvation, and I knew more clearly than I ever knew anything before or since that I had to accept Christ into my life.  The call to ministry was so strong.  I would grow up and be a Baptist minister like my grandfather and great-grandfather.

Divine Intervention

My plan never included my conversion to Catholicism.  When it happened, I assumed that I would take up Holy Orders and join the priesthood.

The longer I spent in the the Roman Church, the more alienated I felt from the hierarchy and the deeper the traditions, liturgy, and theology appealed to me.  I am not going to go into all of the details regarding why I left the Roman Church, but I will simply say that I have not been able to even contemplate entering a Roman church since the death of John Paul II, of blessed memory.

Now I am in a strange place:

The Wilderness

It is difficult to be a non-Roman but still Catholic on any given Sunday.  The Holidays are harder, and Pentecost is the most difficult.

  • My protestant upbringing tells me that I do not need a Priest or the Magisterium to celebrate Mass or the Sacraments.

  • My catholic side sees the importance of the ordained and consecrated priesthood.

Pentecost exacerbates the problem.

The Anointing of the Holy Spirit


And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, "Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?  And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?  Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God."

And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, "What does this mean?" (Acts 2:1-12)?

My protestant education taught me that this was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit for all believers.  My Roman Catholic instruction says that this is the chrism imparted on the Apostles passed through the priesthood.

Peter's sermon seems to validate the Protestant reading:

But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;

And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:  And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:  And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:16-21).

It is clear that this passage is about all believers.  Pentecost is for all of us.  The office of the Apostles was to shepherd the flock as guides on the journey.  The old priesthood died when the temple veil ripped at the Crucifixion.  But this leads me into a strange and interesting path:

What does lay lead Catholicism look like?

That is the the heart of the question.  In the last reformation, the protestants left behind most of the Catholicism, and replaced it with new traditions, practices and confessions.

Matthew Fox has called for a new reformation, and I hear that call loudly.  The challenge is for people like me, who hear the call for reformation this time, to keep what is best about the tradition, and build on that historical foundation a new home for those called to this path.

I am not sure what that will look like, but I am committed to seeking it out.  Hopefully, some of you will come along on the journey.


Come, Holy Spirit!  As we remember the day you broke into the world to fill the Church with your new life, guide us in the path of righteousness as we follow the path toward reformation.  Illuminate our minds and take up residence in our hearts as we seek to find our way through wilderness like the Israelites of old.  Lead us to the mountain where we might leave behind our golden calves and learn the ways of God.