Mary: the proto-priest
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MARY: THE PROTO-PRIEST                   

Brother Thomas P. Draney, CFC                             

That title will probably appear to many as unorthodox, challenging the conventional image of the Mother of God, but considering the multiplying of international days and years celebrating women’s contributions to society, the growth of the Women’s Ordination Conference and the number of women who belong to the Roman Catholic Women’s Priest Association, it may be worth hearing the case that can be made for Mary as the prototype of the our priesthood.

Mary was the first human to take food and drink and turn them into the body and blood of the Christ. She did this, not by her own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. She did this, not fort her own glory, but rather for the benefit of the larger community, the world. Her “Be it done unto me according to your will” is the very essence of what true sacrifice is. It is what God asks of all of us.

Those dimensions of the story, those qualities of the happening, I will argue, are what priesthood is all about.

Many sincere and wonderful Catholics find it difficult to imagine women priests, because in the back of their mind is always a parish priest like Bing Crosby in “The Bells of St. Mary’s” dispensing wisdom while puffing gently on his pipe. But the celibate parish priest is not, the only possibility we should imagine. (Let us remember that the Orthodox Catholic Church - also Apostolic and Holy - makes celibacy an option.) Priests are needed as chaplains, spiritual directors and confessors, teachers and missionaries. There are other communities besides parishes that could be apostolates for priests, and their ministry need not be full time. The feminine personality with its in-born nurturing posture of mothers, can supply some graces in particular situations better than the male personality. Let us not cast womanhood in the role of Eve, who Adam blamed for his bad decision in the Genesis story.

Like everything else, the concept and functions of priesthood have been evolving from the very beginning; there is no reason to think that ordaining women now is corruption of the priesthood, when it is more easily and truthfully seen as a development, a continuation of its evolution...

For those who might be interested in reading more about the history and evolution of priesthood, there are several articles on this website which may serve their purpose.
Two scholarly works I found to be both insightful and articulate are:

Priest and Bishop, by Fr. Raymond E Brown S. S. ISBN 1-57910-277-8 reprinted by Wipf and Stock publishers, 1999

A New Look at the Sacraments, by Rev. Wm. J Bausch, ISBN 0-89622-174-1 reprinted by the Twenty-Third Publications, 1983