Yes, and

On a chilly December night in 2014 I sat in a cozy bar across the table from my dear friend, Melody, a Methodist deacon. I had just resigned from my first job out of college after two exhausting, exhilarating and deeply formative years trying desperately and failing miserably to simultaneously be a social worker, organic farmer, volunteer director, nutritionist, public health practitioner and teacher, none of which I was qualified to do and all of which I felt profoundly  unprepared to do. Evidently this wasn’t my vocation. But I didn’t know what was.

“Are you called to be a priest?”

Melody asked me, point blank, knowing full well I was Catholic and couldn’t be a priest. The answer that arose seemed to bypass my thinking brain all together and emerge fully formed and glowing on my tongue. “Yes.” 

Who said that? I said that? What does this mean? How can this be? 

That night I went home and googled something like “Catholic women called to priesthood?” For the next several hours I explored a strange new corner of the Catholic church, wide-eyed and mouth gaping as I took it all in – Women’s Ordination Conference, Roman Catholic Women Priests, Call To Action. My heart throbbed with deep recognition and ached with the realization that people had been working on ordination justice for decades and still the institutional church refused to acknowledge the priestly call of people other than cis-men. Over the next several years the “Yes.” that appeared on my tongue as a hot coal at times scorched me to tears and at others flickered and faded, leaving me with a mouthful of bitter ash and a parched throat. 

The questions “what does this mean?” and “how can this be?” have been constant companions, beckoning me ever deeper down the winding way of this mysterious call.

In the past year my “Yes” has kindled a whole host of “and”s.

I am called to be a priest and I’m called to incarnate a new kind of priesthood.

I am called to be a priest and I’m called to dismantle the heteropatriarchal, hierarchical, clerical priesthood of the institutional Catholic church.

I am called to be a priest and I’m called to live out my priestly vocation through rooting out white supremacy within myself, the church and the world.

I am called to be a priest and I’m called to embody sacramental healing and healing sacrament in my relationship to my body and my belonging to the earth. 

I am called to a life of reverence for what is holy within and among and beyond each of us. Because I love the places where heaven and earth meet in each of us, the places of revelation and incarnation. Because I come alive when I am with people who can be wholly and holy human together – in all our brokenness and brilliance and raw, resilient radiance. I am called to tend the inner and outer world of spirit within myself, within those who cross the threshold of my life, and within every concentric circle of community to which I belong. 

So how to put flesh on this call? How to move away from abstractions into the messy, complicated, imperfection of my actual life with all the limitations – internal and external, imagined and real – that keep me from just doing the damn thing? In some ways I am doing this already – leading communities in ritual and song, accompanying fellow Jesus-followers and justice-seekers in their inner and outer work of liberation, organizing Catholic change-makers to call to account the institutional Catholic church for all its sins. In other ways I know that I am not yet fully living into my priestly call.

I pray that this intentional time of discerning, dreaming and scheming will reveal new and deeper ways to to say “Yes.” with my whole life.

3 thoughts on “Yes, and

  1. Claire, I got goosebumps reading your call story and I just love your lists of “and”s. So grateful I had the chance to connect with you during our first meeting and I’m looking forward to intentionally discerning, dreaming, and scheming with you as we move through this process! <3

  2. Claire, I delight in the boldness of your “yes, and…” articulations. As one who is blessed to have known you and walked with you for several years, let me offer what I see through my eyes: I affirm the ways you are “doing this already” in your organizing, your song-leading, your prayer-hosting, your space-holding, your community-building, your ongoing deep inner work to be open to grace and called to deeper conversion. If I am reading you correctly, there is perhaps a certain urgency or impatience around “I am not yet fully living into my priestly call.” Perhaps this “not fullness” is a function of two realities: the brokenness of the institution of the Roman Catholic Church which cannot see and affirm and welcome and nurture your gifts, AND the reality that there is never a “there” to get to, and there will always be new horizons opening before you/us. In praying with the post-resurrection appearances, I think of the words that “I will go ahead of you into Galilee” (Matthew 26:32) – there is a paradox that Jesus is WITH you in the eternal now, and at the same time “going ahead of you into Galilee” (I believe this is an insight also articulated by Virgilio Elizondo, though I can’t footnote it off the top of my head). In this way, there is ongoing becoming, ongoing living into, ongoing emergence, ongoing horizons opening unto new horizons. Deeply grateful for ongoing “yes” and leaning into “how can this be?”

  3. Claire- I hear a deep and honest grappling in your words- you clearly hear a call and yet also realize this call has not yet come to complete fruition. “What does this mean” and “How can this be” remind me of the questions Mary asked when she too, received a mysterious call. Each time you said “yes” it brought with it a new way of seeing.You have a yearning to “incarnate a new kind of priesthood” which is yet undefined making it difficult to completely live out your priestly call. I find it exciting that you are willing to sit with these mysterious questions and continue to say “yes” to what may unfold in your life.

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