Priest as Midwife of Mystery

As all experienced priests, spiritual directors, prayer guides, teachers and parents instinctively know, they do not heal people; they do not give to their visitors, children, pupils, something they already lack; they do not pour out from their own fullness something to fill the empty spaces of those around them: rather do they draw out from the hearts and souls of those they are privileged to serve, the innate wisdom and beauty and healing already waiting to be released.  . . .

The priest is the midwife of mystery. Mystery has nothing to do with problems. Problems are there to be solved. Mystery is the backdrop to all our searching for knowledge and wisdom. This is so strikingly expressed in the first chapter of Ephesians. In it, mystery is the womb of the epiphany. It reveals Gods’ plan for each one of us, and for the whole of creation, as a poem of love. The mystery in the heart of the eternal Creator is now made known; what the prophets longed to see, what the universe has waited for, what has been revealed to mere children . . .

Everyone is a bearer of this mystery, carrying the holy seeds of wisdom. Because of our birth and baptism, we are gifted from the beginning with the promise of this divine wisdom. The work of the priest, like the gardener, is to nourish these seeds into blossom. Like the artist who looks at the marble and sees the hidden lion or angel, like the farmer who looks at his winter field and sees a waving harvest, like Jesus who looked into the hearts of sinners and saw the face of his God, so to the priest looks at his people and sees the damaged but restorable handiwork of the Divine Artist.

Like the poet, the priest sees infinity in an hour, heaven in a pebble, eternity in a smile and divine power in a forgiving word. His vocation is to enable others to see everything that way too. This vision of the really real, this insight into the mystery of things, does not come easily to eyes that are forever clouded by the scales of original sin. There is a discipline to discipleship. The priest is called to educate and purify the flawed perceptions and attitudes of his people, so as to see the agony and ecstasy, the boredom and excitement, the failures and successes of their lives with the eyes of Jesus. He can only hope to achieve this miracle of grace if he, first, in his own life experiences, travels this difficult but fascinating journey.

Only then can he provide a window onto the landscapes and horizons of the life of his parishioners, so that the patterns and motivations, the gifts and the shadows of their days and nights, can emerge with a clarity that enables them to make a choice for light or darkness.

People today are hostages to consumerism, racism, sexism and all kinds of elitism. We are tempted by the hidden persuaders of materialism and trapped by the empty logic of instant gratification. Where is truth? Who is the prophet with the compass to guide us? Here, too, the priest is like the spiritual sleuth in search of life-giving clues in a place of confusion; the holy scout with eyes skinned for God’s footsteps in a territory of misleading signs and ambiguous symbols; the ordained guide whose job it is to point out the safest way for pilgrims through the hills and valleys of their daily lives; a kind of miner who probes the packed soil of our complex existence for the gold that reveals the true source and destiny of our human condition. This is amazing work- to be God’s spy infiltrating the government of false gods until the true and hidden self of each human being is brought to light .

Out of his infinite glory may he give you the path through his spirit for your hidden self to grow strong , said that Christ may live in your hearts through faith , and then, planted in love and built on love, you will come up with all the Saints, have the strength to grasp the breadth and length, the height and depth until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)


(New Hearts for New Models pp 56-58)

In ‘New Hearts for New Models’, Daniel uses images to help us understand the kind of priestly service needed in our time. Each of us is called, through baptism, to be priest, prophet and servant-king to one another. Although written primarily for priests, hopefully these images will help us all.