Father Peter Stravinskas has an interesting post at The Catholic World Report looking back at his four decades as a priest:
I will always be grateful to my then-non-practicing Catholic parents for committing me and my education to St. Rose of Lima School in Newark, where I received the Catholic Faith (which I subsequently shared with my parents) and my priestly vocation. Upon returning from the first day of kindergarten, I proudly informed my mother that I wanted to be a priest (actually, I said “a monsignor”!), from which desire I never wavered, thanks to supportive parents, loving and competent Sisters, and zealous priests. Interestingly, in fifth grade, Sister Regina Rose “prophesied” to my mother: “I can tell you three things about Peter’s future – he will be a priest, a teacher and a writer” – not bad for having more than sixty other kids in the class! It was also Sister Regina who had us keep a scrapbook of clippings on “the council” which was then in its preparatory stages because, she said, this would be a momentous occasion in the life of the Church and in our own personal lives. Again, a prophetess.
The Council closed during my sophomore year of high school. As a sign of the incipient confusion, we had four different religion textbook series in four years. The unraveling manifested itself powerfully at the end of my senior year as two nuns married two of the priests, and two other nuns “flew the coop,” both of them over the age of 65, who explained to me that they were leaving because “this isn’t what I signed up for.” Needless to say, this was not very affirming for a boy about to embark on his own priestly vocation, which I did three weeks after the promulgation of Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI – another watershed event. The non-enforcement of that encyclical unleashed an unprecedented cycle of dissent and disobedience.
The college seminary experience was not too bad; indeed, the academic formation was stellar, while the overall environment in the Church was harrowing, especially as defections from the priesthood reached epidemic proportions; I often say it is surprising that the suction didn’t take the rest of us with them.
The theology years were a nightmare at every level: outright heresy taught as Gospel truth; rife liturgical abuses on a daily basis; persecution of “retrograde” seminarians – with Yours Truly being told that he was “unsuited for ministry in the post-conciliar Church” and forced to find a benevolent bishop three months before diaconate. My seven years of supposed priestly formation were, bar none, the most unhappy years of my life, characterized by intense polarization and draconian imposition of aberrant viewpoints by those in authority. It must be noted that there were, to be sure, some good and faithful priests on the seminary faculty, but they were a distinct minority and largely reduced to window dressing. In short, my generation of priests had been robbed of our Catholic and priestly patrimony by a generation of angry rebels.
At any rate, by nothing short of a miracle of God’s grace, I was ordained a priest on May 27, 1977. The forty years since have been both fruitful and challenging. I have served in a variety of capacities (often wearing three and four hats at the same time): teacher and administrator in elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and seminaries for all four decades; pastor in three parishes for a total of thirteen years; author, editor and publisher; vocation director; secretary to a bishop; public relations officer; fund-raiser; host and guest of radio and television shows.
My first year as a priest coincided with Paul VI’s last year as Pope. Undoubtedly, he was a good man but constitutionally incapable of governance; it is one of the strongest evidences for the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church that Pope Paul issued Humanae Vitae, given his intense desire to avoid conflict at all costs. Ironically, that personality trait ensured constant conflict and unrelenting anxiety for us who, like him, believed and wished to teach the Catholic Faith as it had always been understood. Those who had seized control of the ecclesiastical apparatus dismissed our concerns and held us in contempt, assuring us that a new day had dawned in the Church and that we had better get on board with the program, lest we be left behind – or worse. Furthermore, we had no authoritative sources of support for our “traditional” orientation: the Council documents had been reinterpreted according to what Joseph Ratzinger would later dub a “hermeneutic of rupture”; the Code of Canon Law was being revised; there was no catechism, except for that of the Council of Trent which, we were instructed, was hopelessly out of date. Continue Reading