From the Father’s Wife: A Perspective on Marriage and the Priesthood 

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The photo shows Andrea Erdman and Fr. Jonathan Erdman with one of their four  children.

From the Father’s Wife: A Perspective on Marriage and the Priesthood

By Andrea Erdman

I am married to a Roman Catholic priest.

I understand if you are confused. There are very few of us priest wives out there, and even fewer have small children. Most Catholics have no idea there are any married priests in the world at all. My husband and I have been married for 15 years. He was an ordained Episcopal priest for about 11 years before following a call to leave the Episcopal church and come home to the Catholic Church. We came into full communion with the Catholic Church last year through the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. We have four delightful children together, and one more on the way.

My husband and I are blessed in the life we have together, and are humbled by the mercy that the Church has granted him ordination and dispensation of canon law of priestly celibacy for the sake of bringing our new parish into the holy Catholic Church.  This ministry affords us the ability to reach souls in unique ways, and sharing the Good News through the lives we touch. We open our home to feed friends and strangers, comfort people in grief or trauma, and educate people about our Catholic faith. We have a unique ministry to married people, to parents, and especially to those who have experienced lost children in pregnancy. I am my husband’s comfort, his biggest fan, his toughest critic, his partner. When he lay prostrate at his ordination before God and his bishop, in many ways I also lay beside him, giving my whole self to God and His Holy Church. Our home is filled with light, life, and joy.

We are blessed to as members of the Ordinariate, where our bishop and his office work in harmony with our local Archbishop to provide for our spiritual, financial, and physical needs. Because our newly established parish is small, finances are woven together through multiple sources in our archdiocese. Utilities, housing, food, benefits, retirement, clothing, children’s school tuition are provided through the outpouring of generosity of the Church. Bishop Lopes, our bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, has given us a chaplain for clergy families who offers direct spiritual pastoral care and nurtures mutual support of other Catholic clergy wives in prayer retreats. I am humbled by graciousness I have never seen before in my years as a clergy wife. Though we will never be wealthy, our every need is answered, even anticipated.

That being said, some may be surprised that I am in favor of the Church’s current practice of the celibacy of the priesthood. There is no doubt in my mind that wives and children of Catholic and non-Catholic traditions alike are the first to be targeted by enemies of the church when a priest stands true to apostolic faith and tradition. We have received threats. We have received hate mail. We have been been mocked and conspired against. Other families have sunk into financial trouble, lost their homes and jobs, retirement, pension, benefits as they give themselves in service to the faith. Many of the wives I know are practiced at hiding their wounds, keeping a permanent facade of perfection, never showing illness or grief. They live in fear that weakness exposes a chink in their husbands’ armor. Though these experiences are not unlike those of laymen in other careers, few are prepared for these kinds of experiences to occur in a life of a priest or his family where the home is expected to be a sanctuary rather than a front in a battleground. I believe this is the reason my husband and our marriage were thoroughly vetted through both our Ordinariate office and the Vatican prior to my husband’s approval for ordination.

My husband and I have a beautiful marriage, and the strength of our family and faith has deepened through the trials. My husband and I are rare, however. We are the few who have thrived in hardship by the grace of God and the mercy of the Church. I have seen many ministries and families fail under this pressure.

I feel the current practice of the church of priestly celibacy to be a mercy, a protection of the ministry of the priest as well as the family. The ministry of the priesthood is a holy relationship, a marriage to the Church. Fatherhood is a ministry to a wife and family. To do both threatens the strength of both ministries. Married priesthood is for those men who are proven exceptional husbands and fathers who are needed to function as a priest by their community. Married priesthood is meant to be rare, performed only for the sake of unity of the Church under extraordinary circumstances.

If we wish to call more men to the priesthood, we must become enthusiastic evangelists, and deepen our Catechesis of the faithful. Let us create a culture of deep faith and discernment of the call of God and passionate commitment to sacrifice ourselves for Christ who sacrificed Himself for us.

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14 Responses to From the Father’s Wife: A Perspective on Marriage and the Priesthood 

  1. Rev22:17 says:

    Well, the norm of celibacy is changing gradually, but the present pope has indicated on multiple occasions that he is very open to further relaxation of the present discipline of the Roman Rite. Within the past week, an article in the National Catholic Register stated that the bishops of Brazil are considering a relaxation of the discipline to address a dire shortage of clergy in the Amazon River Valley.

    The fact that this story is even appearing in public is very unusual. In the Catholic Church, there normally is no official indication whatsoever that a legislator is considering a change of law until the legislator promulgates the document enacting it.

    Norm.

    Like

    • JBD says:

      Buddy, you’re way off and clearly ignorant. The Eastern Churches in Union worh Rome have married priests, and have always had them. And while they were suppressed in this country for several years, that has been changing over the past 30years.

      Kindly do your homework before posting.

      Like

      • William Tighe says:

        Rev22:17 was clearly speaking of the Roman Catholic/Latin Catholic Church – “the present discipline of the Roman Rite” – not one of the Eastern ecclesiae sui juris in communio with Rome. So, “Buddy,” get a grip yourself.

        Like

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Ah, what part of the phrase “… the present discipline of the Roman Rite…” don’t you comprehend?

        For the record, I’m well aware that the sui juris ritual churches of the various eastern rites never abandoned the original practice of ordaining married men to the order of presbyter. Clerical celibacy is one of several practices that began in Spain around the eighth century and gradually spread throughout western Europe, becoming normative in the Roman Rite by the twelfth century. It never infiltrated any of the ancient oriental churches or the churches of the Orthodox Communion.

        Norm.

        Like

  2. Alice Michniewicz says:

    Truly found your article not only educational but full of inspiring thoughts for our young men who will not feel they must choose between church and home and family Thank you for enlightening us

    Like

  3. Fred Dunwoody says:

    Allowing married priests would increase vocations tenfold. It hasn’t had a negative effect on churches of the Eastern Rite.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. LOTR says:

    So, what is going to happen with all the ordained Latin Rite priests once celibacy becomes optional? The universal discipline of the Church, Eastern and Western, has been that after ordination neither a deacon nor a priest may remarry if his wife dies. Is that to be discarded too? And what about the Eastern Church requirement that a bishop must be unmarried? If priests can marry freely, why not bishops?

    Like

  5. This is a very beautiful story and the best part is it is a true story, not a fictional one. God bless you, your priest husband and your wonderful and very blessed children.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s obvious that this can only work if they are greatly subsidized financially. And what if the wife doesn’t want to also participate in ministry? What if she wants to have a quiet home without constant visitors or wants a career of her own?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Magdalene P says:

    It cannot ever be easy to have a divided heart. Yes, I know of some wonderful married priests and they all say this same thing. Celibacy is a true gift where one can serve God and God’s people with a totalness that could not otherwise be found.

    Liked by 1 person

    • . BILL H.... says:

      WE have a married priest as our pastor to our Catholic parish. A few weeks ago he had a heart problem as he was going to the shower prior to coming to the parish church to celebrate our week day mass. THANK GOD he had a wife to witness the problem, give assistance, contact the medical people, settle him into hospital where a heart specialist dealt with the problem. Our priest is now back with us continuing to be our wonderful priest. Thank you dear wife. My mind reflects on how this would have ended up if the priest was celibrate in the presbytery alone!!!!!!!!! BILL H.

      Like

  8. Pingback: While we’re on the subject of married Catholic priests . . . | Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

  9. TLM says:

    This is a beautiful post from a beautiful self giving woman, not only to her family but to her priest husband and to his flock. Much care and much support must be given to those priests that are married in the Church, and especially those with large families for them to be successful in both their family life and in their ministry to the Church. I cannot imagine the overwhelming responsibility to be ‘married to two’ (Church and Family) both for the priest/husband and for his wife. It certainly takes special people to be able to fulfill this role. They need just as much prayer as our celibate priests if not more. I really hope that ‘married priests’ remain an exception to the rule instead of the norm!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: MONDAY ANGLICAN ORDINARIATE EDITION – Big Pulpit

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