Praying for departed clergy

There is a custom in Anglo-catholic circles (and probably RC ones as well), when the names of the departed are mentioned in the intercessions, of adding the words 'priest' or 'bishop' if the departed is a clergy person. It's a custom I have inherited in most parishes, and mostly have (reluctantly) conformed to. But I wonder if anyone here can justify this practice. It seems like clericalism to me; surely we are all equal in the eyes of God and do not deserve special status. As for being 'a priest for ever', sacraments have no meaning beyond this life.

Comments

  • MargaretMargaret Shipmate
    I've often wondered about that too, and I'm glad to know I'm not the only one. (We also had a Sir Someone mentioned among the recently departed on Sunday, and that seems equally irrelevant in the place where we hope he is now.) I'd be interested to know how this practice started and how widespread it is.
  • OblatusOblatus Shipmate
    edited November 6
    I've heard this practice explained as actually a step down from the ordained person's (or member of a religious order) standard form of address while they were alive. "Father John Doe" becomes "John Doe, priest." "Sister Mary Catherine" becomes "Mary Catherine Smith, religious." Other than that, I've mainly heard it as a confirmation that yes, this is the priest (or religious) by this name, for those who heard the name and wondered if it's the priest John Doe or another. Not an honor or bit of added specialness.
  • Perhaps it is more of a UK practice? It certainly is news to me, and I came to TEC in a very Anglo-Cath parish, and now live and serve in slightly-above-the-middle-of-the-candle diocese. In each the deceased are mentioned by baptismal name only, or perhaps with last name included if they are recently deceased and the prayer mention also serves as a sort of announcement of the death. The practice does indeed smack of clericalism.
  • Oblatus wrote: »
    ... I've mainly heard it as a confirmation that yes, this is the priest (or religious) by this name, for those who heard the name and wondered if it's the priest John Doe or another. Not an honor or bit of added specialness.
    But is it Jim Smith the plumber or Jim Smith the school teacher? We don't do this for other professions.
  • Yes, it's clericalism.

    If I'm leading prayers, and names of the departed are mentioned (e.g. on or about the anniversary of their promotions to glory), their ranks or titles aren't.
  • BroJamesBroJames Shipmate
    Perhaps it’s because priests, bishops and religious have extra need of our prayers 😱
  • In some cases I have a distinct feeling that they will feel uncomfortably declasse in the hereafter....
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    We do it - I suppose it expresses a belief about the indelibility of orders. (And not wishing to annoy clergy widows at this time of year).
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    I was very annoyed to hear a woman priest prayed for but with the ‘priest’ left out after a long list of names with the word included.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited November 6
    Well, that says more (perhaps) about the mindset of the person praying the prayers....
    :frowning:

    Fortunately, God knows Her own....
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    edited November 6
    Leo wrote: »
    I was very annoyed to hear a woman priest prayed for but with the ‘priest’ left out after a long list of names with the word included.
    That would annoy me too. I particularly hope it wasn't somebody I knew (or, particularly at this season, know) who was being named.

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Pigwidgeon wrote: »
    Oblatus wrote: »
    ... I've mainly heard it as a confirmation that yes, this is the priest (or religious) by this name, for those who heard the name and wondered if it's the priest John Doe or another. Not an honor or bit of added specialness.
    But is it Jim Smith the plumber or Jim Smith the school teacher? We don't do this for other professions.
    I agree. Unless this is being done just so that congregation can identify who is being prayed for, which is laudable but probably doesn't fit the particular ethos of those doing it, either one should give the occupations for everyone or nobody.

  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    Glad to see so many people agree with me! About gender discrimination: I was at an All Souls day mass in a well known London shrine last week, and there was a long (almost interminable) list of names with several tagged as 'priest'. I strained my ears to catch a woman's name amongst the latter; I didn't, but there may well have been. Of course, if you go back over the years there will be far more male than female clergy among the departed.
  • LaudableLaudable Shipmate
    We insert priest/bishop where appropriate in the weekly lists of the faithful departed. No doubt we are unregenerate sacerdotalists.
  • angloid wrote: »
    As for being 'a priest for ever', sacraments have no meaning beyond this life.

    Surely some do? Do we not affirm that the sacrament of Holy Communion will be given its "full meaning" in the Kingdom?
  • Leo wrote: »
    We do it - I suppose it expresses a belief about the indelibility of orders. (And not wishing to annoy clergy widows at this time of year).

    Do "orders" matter after someone is dead? We are the same then and should be treated as the same now.

    Not only does it smack of clericalism, it reeks of elitism.

    In some churches if you mentioned (name) priest, it would annoy the other widows. Why do clergy widows have special pleading?

    It seems like a nice thing to do in some ways but it has the effect of perpetuating division.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    angloid wrote: »
    As for being 'a priest for ever', sacraments have no meaning beyond this life.


    Surely some do? Do we not affirm that the sacrament of Holy Communion will be given its "full meaning" in the Kingdom?

    I agree with @angloid. At the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, Jesus will be the celebrant. There will be no need for anyone else to preside.

    I suspect though that "well known London shrine" where no women were commemorated as priests might have been the sort of place which believes that although a woman might have hands laid upon her by a bishop, because of her lack of a particular body part, nothing would have been transmitted.
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    Clergy also have their coffins turned round - is this part of the same game?
  • BroJamesBroJames Shipmate
    I was told by a funeral director that most people are buried east facing in the direction of the second coming of Christ. Priests, however, may be buried facing in the direction of ‘their’ people.
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »

    I suspect though that "well known London shrine" where no women were commemorated as priests might have been the sort of place which believes that although a woman might have hands laid upon her by a bishop, because of her lack of a particular body part, nothing would have been transmitted.

    At the risk of identifying it, AFAIK the parish in question is purposely ambivalent over this dead horse. The clergy at least, and a large proportion of the congregation, are in favour of OoW but they prefer not to stir up controversy. And as I said, I couldn't be sure that there were women priests -identified or otherwise - in the list.
  • BroJames wrote: »
    I was told by a funeral director that most people are buried east facing in the direction of the second coming of Christ. Priests, however, may be buried facing in the direction of ‘their’ people.

    I do know a Baptist chapel where people are buried north/south just to say that they'll have no truck with this Establishment superstition!
  • Leo wrote: »
    We do it - I suppose it expresses a belief about the indelibility of orders. (And not wishing to annoy clergy widows at this time of year).

    Based on the same reservations of the OP, I was all set just to read out the 'ordinary' name of a priest who was to be remembered in our little memorial service. But his widow turned up, and when she had given his name to me, earlier that day, she had markedly emphasised 'priest'. So I really felt I couldn't insult her by omitting it!

    It has to be said that in some congregations, the Priest being remembered was a much loved father-in-God, to either the whole church or the community in that locality, so the memorialising of his name as "Fred Bloggs, Priest" has something of the connotation of a public acknowledgement by the whole group gathered there. I suppose, too, it depends on what you think of the idea of 'one of our own'. If a hospital were to hold a memorial for those who had died, in connection, with its work, over the past year, would they say: Freda Bloggs, Doctor, Joe Smith, Nurse..., along with the names of deceased patients, not designated? Or the local fire-station, or police-station doing a similar thing? Don't know.

    Ultimately, it could seem to be basically against the whole idea of how we stand before God in that one human state which is common to each and every one of us, regardless of how the world regards us, even spiritually. Which is probably where my heart mainly lies; but I do understand the other side, too.
  • AlbertusAlbertus Shipmate
    BroJames wrote: »
    I was told by a funeral director that most people are buried east facing in the direction of the second coming of Christ. Priests, however, may be buried facing in the direction of ‘their’ people.

    Sound and loyal CofE clergy should, of course, be buried at the north end of the grave... ;)
  • IereusIereus Shipmate
    In the Orthodox Church, clergy are always commemorated as n. the hierarch, or n. the presbyter, or n. the deacon. The Holy Spirit is what set the man aside forever as a priest, not some sort of ‘clericalism’, so of course he will be remembered by his name and rank in the priesthood.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Albertus wrote: »
    BroJames wrote: »
    I was told by a funeral director that most people are buried east facing in the direction of the second coming of Christ. Priests, however, may be buried facing in the direction of ‘their’ people.

    Sound and loyal CofE clergy should, of course, be buried at the north end of the grave... ;)

    Always remembering that since the earliest Christian times, if not even longer, the Mediterranean world viewed the north as the place of cold, ice and evil.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    well where I was living previously it was the place of crocodiles, so, yeah
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited November 8
    :lol:

    Yes, if the dead priest was one much loved (and still remembered) by the current community of faith, Fairy Nuff.

    Whether or not said priest was male, female, gay, transgender, LGBTQ, or whatever....

    A few at Our Place still remember Father P, who left us back in the 1960s, and died in retirement several years ago, but whose widow gave us a beautiful chalice to use on High Days and Holy Days in his memory.

    Which we do, and he is always referred to as Father P, and the said chalice is always referred to as the P chalice.

    The memory of the just is blessed, and all that....
  • :lol:

    Yes, if the dead priest was one much loved (and still remembered) by the current community of faith, Fairy Nuff.

    But what about dear Mrs. Smith, who was on the Altar Guild for 40 years, who faithfully ironed the linens and arranged the flowers each week, of course without pay? Is her contribution (and her memory) worth less because she wasn't ordained?
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited November 8
    No, indeed it isn't, and that's why, when I'm leading prayers, I make no distinctions whatsoever.

    In all fairness, I haven't noticed that any of our other prayer-leaders (Intercessors? Interceders/Intercedors?) do, either. It was our former Father F***wit - he of the ostensibly Great Holiness - who tended to do so, presumably in the hope that we would treat him as being Greatly Holy.

    Nah. Ain't gonna happen.

  • Can we take a deeper dive into the theology that motivates some denominations or forms of churchmanship to talk about bring a priest forever, not just in terms of being named so, but ontologically (does this permanence in this sense to permanent deacons as well? and are bishops in a subcategory for eternity within priests?). Just what does being a priest (in a way that other baptized Christians are not) mean in the context of (beyond this world) Eternal Life?

    What would be pre- vs. post-Vatican II interpretations of a priest being a priest forever? How might an Orthodox interpretation be different? I'm more interested in official teaching than I am in devotional belief. I am sure many people have thought having deceased clergy (or people in religious orders) in the family means having more powerful prayers being said for you in Heaven - but I'm not sure that this comes from official teaching.

    I ask this partly because Christian teaching of most denominations is pretty unclear about exactly how time, space (as in location), human free will, and human action (or human prayers, for that matter) function in Heaven. I know that the RCC teaches that people will have individuality, bodies, and gender in Heaven, but that's about all I know. Not sure if there is anything different in terms of what the Orthodox believe.
  • IereusIereus Shipmate
    I apologize if I came across as exclusionary to other denominations.

    In the Orthodox Church, ordination is an indelible change to the person...you are made a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. However, we don’t usually use the Catholic term of ontological change.

    Priesthood can never be removed. Those who are defrocked, voluntarily or involuntarily, have their authority to administer the sacraments and preach/teach taken away, and are forbidden to dress or act as a priest. If they are ever returned to priestly ministry, there is no ordination or reactivating ceremony.

    We Orthodox believe that at the Second Coming, all of the souls and bodies will be reunited at the Final Judgment. In the meantime, we pray for the souls of the righteous and our loved ones. We also ask continually for the intercession of the saints and the Mother of God with Christ.
  • Radical Baptist belief: all believers (confessing and professing Jesus as Lord and Saviour) are ordained by God (set aside for his purpose). Therefore all are "priests" ministering to serve God and others. Doesn't matter then if you live or die, you are as you are and there can be (not just aren't) no distinctions between so called lay and clergy.
  • I hear what you say - and agree with it! - but even Baptists describe their accredited ministers as 'Reverend' or 'Pastor', no?

    (BTW, and FWIW, I rather like the term 'Pastor'. It seems to encapsulate in one word the whole job of the ordained/licensed/accredited person with a position of leadership. Subject for another thread, maybe?)
  • (BTW, and FWIW, I rather like the term 'Pastor'. It seems to encapsulate in one word the whole job of the ordained/licensed/accredited person with a position of leadership. Subject for another thread, maybe?)
    How very Lutheran of you. :wink:

    There's more I could say, but yes, maybe better for another thread.

  • O, I'm sure I'm a closet Lutheran.....
  • I hear what you say - and agree with it! - but even Baptists describe their accredited ministers as 'Reverend' or 'Pastor', no?
    Some Baptists would not wish to use "Reverend". As for "Pastor", it's a role descriptor more than anything else, so we can also talk of Kevin the youth leader, Sonia the church secretary or Freda the caretaker. The idea of "holy orders" is foreign to us - unless we're phoning up to get some Communion wine delivered.

  • As for "Pastor", it's a role descriptor more than anything else, so we can also talk of Kevin the youth leader, Sonia the church secretary or Freda the caretaker.
    Well, that was part of the "more I could say" that I referred to. In the usage of my tribe, "pastor" refers to a particular position—the minister who leads the congregation and moderates the Session. "Pastor" for us would be comparable to "vicar" or "rector" in Anglican or Episcopal usage. I believe RCs (at least American RCs) use "pastor" the same way we do.

  • Pigwidgeon wrote: »
    :lol:

    Yes, if the dead priest was one much loved (and still remembered) by the current community of faith, Fairy Nuff.

    But what about dear Mrs. Smith, who was on the Altar Guild for 40 years, who faithfully ironed the linens and arranged the flowers each week, of course without pay? Is her contribution (and her memory) worth less because she wasn't ordained?

    Indeed - what about Mrs Smith? No doubt anyone who knew her and remembering her in the service when her name is read out will be appropriately grateful to God for her generous contribution, with or without some kind of qualification - although prayers in the service usually advert to some kind of example of the departed.

    But even more than that. We name the people who simply have had their names added to the list, often without any idea who they are, or who put them there. They may have been believers or not, they may have been serial rapists, or murderers, child-abusers, embezzlers, misers, swines and bastards of the first water. But they also can have their names read out at a commemoration, along with the saintly Mrs Smith, and Septimus Grungewater (Priest).

    I'm not convinced that saying the word 'priest' after a name, makes anyone, or their contribution to church life, sound more worthy. In some cases, it might even be an indictment! Which of course may call into question why say it at all; or, by the same token, why object to it being said.
  • Unfortunately, the free church belief in the priesthood of all believers is widely shared by our more Catholic friends. I have heard more sermons on the Priesthood of all believers in my current worshipping place (high Anglican) than in my former (URC). Note my take on it is that it is wrong to imply that we are all individually priests. Rather only Christ is Priest and through being part of the Church we all share in the Priesthood of Christ. Therefore our priestly function acts communally and not individually. However regardless of which way we square that circle we need to stop seeing this as something peculiar to Dissenters.

    The problem is they have a double translation of Greek terms onto the English term Priest. There is the term which is uncomplicatedly translated as priest ἱερεύς (iereus) but they also translate the Greek word πρεσβύτερος (presbuteros) as 'a priest' which dissenters translate as 'an elder'. Therefore as far as the first, they are in agreement with us and the priesthood of all believers it is the second that they differ. Hint: Presbyterianism can be translated as rule by priests or rule by elders.

    Now I know of no tradition where there are not those who take responsibility for worship and spiritual well-being of the community. Even Quakers have people whose responsibility it is to start and close the meeting. The Churches of Christ whose stipendiary role was actually evangelists still had locally trained members whose role was much that of a traditional minister.

    The difference is therefore not the existence of such people who fulfil this sort of role but the nature of what being such a person entails. Are people who fulfil the role just an individual who has the necessary qualification* for such a responsibility or are they people who have a calling that means that they are enabled to take a specific role in worship. Equally, what do we do when we ask someone to fulfil such a role, do we ask them to take up a specific role within the community or does it go deeper than that. If it goes deeper does that happen in a permanent or temporary way? Is being a presbyter something that becomes part of those individuals essential being or is it a service suited to some within the local congregation.

    If you ask me where I stand I do not know. I know that for many ordained presbyters their ordination runs very deep indeed. I also know despite others often suggesting I should do, that I feel totally inadequate and pretty sure I would last all of six months if I tried to fulfil that role. It is simply a burden that I would find too heavy to lift. I am sorry but my perfectionism and self doubt would make it an impossible role for me. That to me seems enough for me at the present time.

    *I am not primarily thinking of educational qualification but things like being in the community for a while, having a recognised maturity of faith and being known to be respectful around those things the community holds as sacred.

  • Iereus wrote: »
    I apologize if I came across as exclusionary to other denominations.

    In the Orthodox Church, ordination is an indelible change to the person...you are made a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. However, we don’t usually use the Catholic term of ontological change.

    Priesthood can never be removed. Those who are defrocked, voluntarily or involuntarily, have their authority to administer the sacraments and preach/teach taken away, and are forbidden to dress or act as a priest. If they are ever returned to priestly ministry, there is no ordination or reactivating ceremony.

    We Orthodox believe that at the Second Coming, all of the souls and bodies will be reunited at the Final Judgment. In the meantime, we pray for the souls of the righteous and our loved ones. We also ask continually for the intercession of the saints and the Mother of God with Christ.

    Iereus,

    In your system of beliefs, what does the difference between being a priest and not being a priest mean in Heaven? Do they do something different than other people? Do they perform any of the priestly functions they did in this life? Do they have a different position or location than others? Do they have some kind of different level of honor? Are their prayers any more effective?

    If the nature of Heaven makes these questions not really applicable, I do not understand the meaning of being a priest forever other than as a matter of categorizing what someone "is". It seems like just a matter of language.
  • IereusIereus Shipmate
    If anything, it is much, much harder for a priest to get to heaven than for those of his flock. At our ordination as a presbyter, we are given the Body of Christ to hold until the fraction of the Gifts and told by the bishop that we will personally be held accountable on the Day of Judgment for those that we have led astray from the Church, or scandalized, or for any disrespect/dishonor to the Sacred Mysteries.

    A very high standard that only a few priests will ever attain. Although ordination is essential for your salvation, if you are called, the burdens of priesthood and pastoring the People of God are immeasurable.
  • stonespringstonespring Shipmate
    edited November 9
    Iereus wrote: »
    If anything, it is much, much harder for a priest to get to heaven than for those of his flock. At our ordination as a presbyter, we are given the Body of Christ to hold until the fraction of the Gifts and told by the bishop that we will personally be held accountable on the Day of Judgment for those that we have led astray from the Church, or scandalized, or for any disrespect/dishonor to the Sacred Mysteries.

    A very high standard that only a few priests will ever attain. Although ordination is essential for your salvation, if you are called, the burdens of priesthood and pastoring the People of God are immeasurable.

    But once a priest is in Heaven, what does it mean to be a priest there? Do priests do anything priestly in Heaven that is different than what laypeople in Heaven do?
  • IereusIereus Shipmate

    But once a priest is in Heaven, what does it mean to be a priest there? Do priests do anything priestly in Heaven that is different than what laypeople in Heaven do?

    I don’t know, I haven’t made it to heaven to bear witness to what priests, or waitresses, or CEOs “do” there.

    It’s actually a thought process I’ve never heard anyone discuss! Most of us seem more worried about living good lives, following Christ, practicing love in the Church Militant, to ponder what will priests do for eternity in the heavens.
  • I think, @Iereus, it’s not so much pondering what priests, waitresses or CEOs do in heaven as it is trying to explore and understand the implications of what it actually means to say that one is a priest “forever.”
  • IereusIereus Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I think, @Iereus, it’s not so much pondering what priests, waitresses or CEOs do in heaven as it is trying to explore and understand the implications of what it actually means to say that one is a priest “forever.”

    It seems we’ve travelled quite a distance from the original subject of prayers for departed clergy!

    So, back to the subject. The ordination to the Orthodox priesthood of deacons, presbyters and bishops is indelible, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It can never be removed, as the Holy Spirit changes and sets aside the person. In Paradise, the body and the soul, which was indelibly changed, dwell in all eternity, continuing the existence, the relations, the events, we have here currently in the Church Militant. Our history continues in the Light of God, nothing is erased or ignored.

    To the Orthodox, praying for “John the presbyter” is no different than praying for “Susan, beloved wife of Alex”. Will we get in trouble if we don’t remind God in our prayers who was a priest? Or what someone’s last name was? Not in the Orthodox Church certainly.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    Leo wrote: »
    I was very annoyed to hear a woman priest prayed for but with the ‘priest’ left out after a long list of names with the word included.
    That would annoy me too. I particularly hope it wasn't somebody I knew (or, particularly at this season, know) who was being named.
    Leo wrote: »
    I was very annoyed to hear a woman priest prayed for but with the ‘priest’ left out after a long list of names with the word included.

    The inclusion or exclusion of 'Priest' ought to be consistently the same, according to local custom, regardless of gender.
  • Iereus wrote: »
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I think, @Iereus, it’s not so much pondering what priests, waitresses or CEOs do in heaven as it is trying to explore and understand the implications of what it actually means to say that one is a priest “forever.”
    It seems we’ve travelled quite a distance from the original subject of prayers for departed clergy!
    I’m not so sure we have. The original subject was not prayers for departed clergy, but rather identifying one person as clergy in prayers for the departed generally. While I think that @Bishops Finger is right that this could veer into territory that might be better served with another thread, it seems to me the OP clearly present the question of why a person’s status as priest (or presbyter) should be noted in prayers for the departed when no other statuses are noted. It also seems to me that an understanding that ordination in some way changes the one ordained could be a relevant consideration into why priests should be singled out in commemorations in a way that others are not.

  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited November 11
    FWIW (not a lot), I keep reading this thread's title as 'Praying For The Clergy To Depart'......
    :flushed:

    As in 'Aroint thee*, and begone, O foul and feckless Father Fu**wit! Thy day is over!'

    I'll get me coat...

    (*Shakespeare. The phrase 'Aroint thee' occurs in the Scottish Play)
Sign In or Register to comment.