I have a question about St. Francis our beloved saint and very possibly the most popular saint of all time.
St. Francis never became an ordained priest. WHY?
I understand he was ordained a deacon, and obviously he was the founder of his own religious order and even suffered with the stigmata, but does anyone know the reason(s) why he wasn’t ordained a priest?
I have never seen a specific reason why he didn’t become a priest, but I suspect it was because he wasn’t called. As I understand it he was ordained a deacon despite his protests. It is very possible that God called him to other tasks that being a priest would have impeded.
While I am a great supporter of the clergy and think more deference should be paid to them, I think we have to be careful in seeing this a the preferential calling for all holy men. In all I believe he lived out the calling God had for him and as such the priesthood was not part of God’s call.
All too often we look at the priesthood as the utmost of vocations for men, to the vast detriment of the other states of life in which men live. St. Francis was not a priest, but neither was St. Benedict or St. Paul, and no one doubts their significant role in the Church either.
It can perhaps be said that the priesthood, being conferred by a sacrament of character, is the most distinct of all callings, the calling to embody Christ in His specifically priestly and sacrificial character. However, Christ Himself was only truly manifested as Christ the Priest on the last day of His earthly life. We are all, however, called to embody the mystery of Christ in some way or another, and SS Francis, Benedict, and Paul did so by living as Christ lived.
Men’s religious life (and other forms of consecrated or quasi-religious life) and the priesthood are two different things. A priest specifically manifests the Passion to the faithful, while the consecrated man takes unto himself the fullness of Christ’s life and ministry by living and working as He did and as the Twelve did when He was among them. I’m of the belief that the latter is something that we all ought to be doing according to our grace and ability in some context or another, monastic and religious life merely being the most excellent way of doing so.
So perhaps the best way of putting this would be that, while religious life is the most excellent way of living that Christian perfection to which we are all called (and thus not so distinct or rare a call as we might think, the problem being that we too often misunderstand it or fail to follow it through circumstance or want of charity), the call to the priesthood is something rarer and yet more distinct.