No, I’m Not A Priest 

I have a friend who is a Presbyterian minister. He’s the pastor of a large congregation and he’s always busy. Recently he travelled out of town for a ministry conference. The summer weather caused a flight delay and he spent several hours waiting at the airport. He was about to doze off when a gate agent roused him and said there was an emergency in another part of the concourse and they needed him to help out with it right away. Naturally he followed the agent and several several gates down the corridor, he saw a middle-aged man laying on the floor. A woman keeling over him looked up tearfully when my friend appeared and she pleaded, “Oh Father. Please help him.”

It’s not unusual for some protestant ministers to wear the Roman collar most often associated with Catholic priests. This is true for my friend, who has worn one for many years. It’s a personal choice for him and isn’t something his bishop requires. Over the years, there have been several occasions in which he’s been mistaken for a priest. But that day in the airport was different.  

The sick man was a heart patient and he was having chest pains and difficulty breathing. As they waited on the paramedics to arrive, he and his wife had asked for a priest to come to him. When the gate agent had spotted my friend wearing a collar, she thought she’d found one. The sick man wanted a priest because he thought he might be dying. He wanted to receive the confession, anointing, and Holy Eucharist of the Church which many people call “the last rites.”

My friend told the man and his wife that he was a Presbyterian minister and not a priest. The three of them prayed together in the minute or so until the medical team arrived and he was rushed to the hospital. The incident left my friend shaken. He told me that it wasn’t unusual for people to assume he was a Catholic priest, but that this was the first time someone in danger of death had come to him. He discussed the incident with some of his fellow ministers when he finally made it to the conference. Most of them had also experienced similar “mistaken identity” situations.  

He thought about what had happened at the airport for several weeks before making the decision to stop wearing the clerical collar. As we were talking about it, he summed the process up pretty nicely: “When I wear the collar, I’m advertising something I can’t deliver.” He can’t hear someone’s confession and offer them absolution. He can’t give them the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. And he can’t share the Holy Eucharist with them. He can’t be the Catholic priest that people think him to be.  

I know that my friend loves the Lord and treasures his vocation to the ministry. So I can imagine how he was affected by the man in the airport. It’s his devotion to Christ and his humility in serving Him that led him to stop wearing the collar. It’s humility for him to know that, while we share many beliefs and practices, a minister is not a priest. He’s not able to be a priest and it’s unfair to lead others to think that he’s a priest. This may seem like an insignificant point to many of my protestant friends. But, as a Catholic, I can assure you that it’s not. I pray each day that the Lord will allow me, in the last moments of my earthly life, to be accompanied by a priest of His Church and the Sacraments which Jesus has given to us. I carry a card in my wallet that says, “In case of an emergency, please call a priest and THEN call a doctor.” Those are my priorities. I’m sure the man in the airport was thinking much the same way. May his prayers have been answered. 

You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you….”

             —John 15:16 

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18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. SR
    Jul 23, 2017 @ 23:53:25

    Judy, I love this post. Can I reblog it one day next week? I cannot stress how much admiration I have for your friend. For us to accept things about ourselves which we cannot deliver, to me, is a very important virtue that is awfully hard to accept. As children of God we want and try to “save the world.” We have to recognize our own limitations. This post really made me recognize mine.

    The collar as always ben associated with the Catholic Church. I think all ministers need to understand this, as much responsibility comes with that collar. Especially when one is dying!

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. It will be one I will never forget. God Bless, SR

    Reply

    • tiberjudy
      Jul 23, 2017 @ 23:57:53

      I’m so thankful you liked it. He certainly taught me a lesson about humility and His great love of our Lord. Praying the Litany of Humility is one of the most difficult prayers for me. That’s a sure sign I need to pray it more often. You can use/post this any way you wish, my friend. I pray it touches others and leads them ever closer to Jesus. Hope you’re having a peaceful summer! God bless you always.

      Reply

  2. Brian H. Gill
    Jul 24, 2017 @ 00:15:48

    Excellent. Thank you for posting this.

    Reply

  3. SR
    Jul 24, 2017 @ 00:42:22

    Thank you. Will use it for my middle of the week post. It is so funny. I wait for your post every Sunday afternoon. They always give me peace and something to contemplate as the end of my day comes. God Bless, SR

    Reply

    • tiberjudy
      Jul 24, 2017 @ 00:45:50

      How sweet of you to say that. I’m a procrastinator of the first degree and these posts here are published in our local paper each week. I have a Monday morning deadline but I never seem to have them ready until Sunday evening! Aarrgghh. Ha!

      Reply

  4. JJC
    Jul 24, 2017 @ 01:26:08

    Judy what a great reflection on your friend. His concern for the other is so evident and his willingness to do what. he did a sign of a great humility.

    Obviously none of us knows either the day nor the hour- but if at that time a priest is summoned and your friend is the one who joins me ( a cradle catholic) and my family in prayer I will considered myself blessed and in good hands.

    Reply

    • tiberjudy
      Jul 24, 2017 @ 01:36:29

      He’s a wonderful minister and his prayers are gifts that I treasure beyond words. But in my dying hours, I still want a priest who can give me the Sacraments. Thank you for your reading and taking the time to comment. God bless you and your family!

      Reply

  5. The Catholic Cat
    Jul 24, 2017 @ 06:11:00

    A reflection on who we are in God! Your friend is very compassionate and caring. Not many of us can make this kind of decision. We get caught up in who we think we are! And you are right The Litany of Humility is a VERY hard prayer to pray! It bares our soul before God! God bless you.

    Reply

    • tiberjudy
      Jul 24, 2017 @ 07:57:21

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I struggle with humility and when I recognize it in others, I know that the Lord is offering me a way to grow. Thank you again. May God bless you and your family.

      Reply

  6. Diana Bizak
    Jul 24, 2017 @ 20:54:42

    Amen. Similar thoughts this week at my dad’s funeral Mass. My dad did his best to raise his six children in the Catholic Faith. Many grandchildren while having been baptized and received first communion can not validly claim to be practicing Catholics. My non-practicing Catholic children understood the priests statement that only those who share in our faith should go up to receive Communion. They like this minister understood what they were not. Some of their cousins were further from the faith and presumed to be Catholic enough to receive Communion. Knowing what you don’t know is more than total ignorance.

    Reply

    • tiberjudy
      Jul 24, 2017 @ 21:13:21

      My prayers for your dad and for you and your family in your grief. What a great lesson it is, as you say to “understand what they were not.” Humility and respect and reverence are the gifts God gives us to do this. Both my friend and your children have received this gift. Thank you for reading my post and commenting on it. May you father Rest In Peace.

      Reply

  7. Trackback: No, I’m Not A Priest  – sanctusdominusdeus
  8. ML Caron
    Jul 25, 2017 @ 00:23:30

    Despite the assumptions, the clerical collar is not and never was the sole possession of the Roman Catholic priesthood. Many traditions have worn a distinctive collar as a sign of the clerical office for hundreds of years: Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglicans – in fact, the full band collar is so common among Episcopalians it’s actually nick-named the ‘Anglican Collar’. There’s along tradition that it evolved in the Reformed branch of Protestantism, and was then adopted by other Prots and Romans. And, while some clergy have left off wearing it, or are now wearing colored shirts with clerical collars, many still prefer the shirt our forebears in ministry have worn for ages.

    The only thing this Presbyterian pastor is ‘advertising’ is that he is an ordained clergyman. He did what our calling compels us to do: abide the afflicted, pray with the dying, and comfort the living.

    Reply

    • tiberjudy
      Jul 25, 2017 @ 00:43:38

      Thank you for reading. I think my friend did exactly the right thing by praying with the couple in their time of need. The gate agent should have asked if he was a Catholic priest since that’s whom the couple were seeking. Most folks don’t know the Wikipedia history of clerical collars and might rightfully assume that a collar means a priest. My friend, in his humility, realized that he can’t share the Sacraments of the Catholic Church with those seeking him in their distress. I know he struggled with his decision but I believe he is doing the right thing. He’s not a priest and never will be. The great majority of protestant ministers don’t wear a clerical collar. Just the opposite is true for our priests. Thank you again.

      Reply

  9. Marie Briggs
    Jul 25, 2017 @ 01:33:54

    This man is a good Christian Servant and maybe someday might think of those sacraments which he’s missing! Prayers for him too!

    Reply

  10. SR
    Jul 26, 2017 @ 17:37:28

    Reblogged this on Be Strong and Very Courageous and commented:
    I reblogged this post, as I think we all need to read it. What this Minister did, really spoke to my heart. His humility and recognizing his own limitations and how he did it will forever stay in my heart. I think it will stay in yours also. God bless, SR

    Reply

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