In The End, It’s Not Perfection

20181215_122508 (1)By Rev. Dr. Victoria Marie 

*This is part of a series of posts from contributors all over North America each answering the question, “How would you define radical discipleship?” We will be posting responses regularly on Mondays during 2019.

When I think about the definition of “radical” discipleship, the first thing that comes to mind is there is only discipleship. In other words what has come to be known as “radical discipleship” is discipleship. All else is “nominal discipleship.” That is not to say that disciples are perfect, as Peter clearly demonstrates. Rather, it is aspirational and made concrete through actions in accordance with what Jesus taught. It is not enough to call oneself a Christian, a disciple. Nor is it enough to be able to quote scripture. Rather, the measure of our discipleship is our capacity to love as Jesus commanded, including our enemies. Discipleship calls us to love and seek justice for the poor and marginalized among us, especially the vulnerable, which in our time includes the very Earth and her endangered flora and fauna.

Two years ago, I took stock of what radical discipleship means for me personally as a priest in the Roman Catholic Women Priests movement. Priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church is reserved for men. My priesthood contravenes canon law yet I too am following Christ’s call.

Fifth Anniversary Reflection (2017)

They say a priest has a miraculous power
to turn bread and wind into Jesus
But the miracle is to cultivate
the seed of Jesus within, that feeds us.
It’s been five years
since my ordination.
Have I served well, progressed
or rested in stagnation?
Have I preached well,
broken open the Word
encouraged others,
listened, truly heard.
Provided space for others
to share their talents,
steered folks towards
inner/outer balance?
Do I hear their woes,
share in the lament,
as well as the joys
Divine Mystery has sent?
Have I shown by my own actions
that everything is sacred,
by loving Creator, my neighbour
and all God created.
Have I shown, like faith,
love is a verb?
Faith without love, love without action,
is empty, absurd.
Even if I’ve answered
these questions well
these are things at which
a priest can never excel.
Like everyone else, a priest
will never reach perfection.
Like everyone else, a priest
grows with self-examination, reflection.
Ministers must aim
for wholeness, ever reaching.
It’s in striving and living,
a pastor’s true teaching.
Celebrations, lamentations,
all part of the story
as a community strives for wholeness,
seeks to behold God’s glory.
In the end it’s not perfection
in ministry, our test.
It’s open hearts, open minds,
trying always to give our best.

Victoria Marie is co-founder of the Vancouver Catholic Worker, on unceded Coast Salish Territory. She is a priest, spiritual director, and pastor of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Community Society, a Roman Catholic Women Priests’ church community and author of Transforming Addiction: The role of spirituality in learning recovery from addiction (Scholars Press, 2014).

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