home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
Posted March 16, 2006

Book: The Risk of Discipleship
Author: Roderick Strange
Darton, Longman, and Todd, London, 2004, pp. 166

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

A dense haze of controversial issues lies over any honest discussion of the Catholic priesthood: the scandal of sexual abuse by priests; the sharp decline in vocations in Europe, North America, and Australia; the sexual orientation of seminarians; obligatory celibacy; the ordination of married men; the ordination of women.

The Risk of Discipleship does not ignore these questions, but it begins in a different place. Roderick Strange’s study is rooted in scripture, theology, and the experience of nearly two thousand years of Christian priesthood. Without minimizing the seriousness of the crisis or avoiding the need for renewal, it brings the essential nature of ministerial priesthood and its pastoral practice back into focus, and restores the priestly vocation to a place of honor.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The privilege of celebrating mass, however, is not to be grasped as a mark of distinctive, superior status, designed to set priests apart. There was indeed that long period when priests were seen as cultic figures. However, in his article on Christ in Hebrews, Timothy Radcliffe noticed an instructive coincidence. He pointed out that the typical New Testament word for “community’ was koinonia and that the connotation for words derived from it tended to be negative. Koinos means ‘common’ and by Jesus’ time had come to mean ‘impure.” Our own usage can still reflect that. When we call something common, we are often referring to something we hold dear, such as our common values or the common good. At the same time, when we say, for example, that a person’s clothes are common, we mean they look cheap and nasty. And since 1987, the coincidence has move on further. All the major church documents from about that time, especially those on the lay faithful (Christifideles Laici), on priesthly formation (Pastores Dabo Vobis), and on Religious Life (Vita Conserata), have turned to koinonia as supplying their principal way of speaking about the Church. The Church as communion has been recognized as the central and fundamental idea of the ecclesiology employed by the Second Vatican Council.

Within this Church Christ has transformed what it means to be a priest. As we have seen, he has turned it upside down. The priests of the New Testament are not like other priests. And those chosen by the laying on of hands are not separated from the people, but are consecrated for their service. The risk of discipleship is never far away. To be ordained is not a summons to grandeur, but an invitation to live with the tension between the precious and impure. Besides proclaiming the word and celebrating mysteries the ordained are called to be leaders as well. This community which is holy, is also in need of renewal, because its common life which is precious and which we cherish, is sometimes common in that other sense, cheap and nasty, sinful and in need of redemption. Its leaders cannot hold themselves aloof. They must be “immersed in the impure.”

Table of Contents:

1. Recovering lost ground
2. Jesus, master and friend
3. Risking the cross
4. Priests and presbyters
5. A human calling
6. Loving and celibate
7. Living and praying
8. Accounting for our hope
9. Servants of the Word
10. Celebrating mysteries
11. Servant and leader
12. Enduring commitment