Ministers of Christ

Recovering the Roles of Clergy and Laity in an Age of Confusion

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In this bold and powerful book, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski marshals an irrefutable defense of the Church’s historical teaching that her liturgical ministries — including those of lector and altar server — should be performed exclusively by men.

God created the two sexes for profound reasons, explains Dr. Kwasniewski, and we diminish human beings when we lose sight of those reasons. He asserts that the interdependence of the two sexes strengthens both men and women and that the complementary characteristics of masculinity and femininity are indispensable to human development. The manifest differences between the sexes have informed the Church’s vision on the roles of men and women in the liturgy for centuries, and they are now under attack not only from outside the Catholic Church but also within it, threatening the very order and coherence of civilization itself. 

Dr. Kwasniewski thoughtfully reflects on Scripture, Church teachings, and human nature to determine the proper callings of the laity and clergy as well as their diverse but integral modes of participation in the liturgy. He connects the male priesthood to the Incarnation of Our Lord, and he explains the Old Testament background and New Testament roots of the diaconate, subdiaconate, and minor orders. He then stunningly reveals how these roles are designed to reflect and radiate the priesthood of Jesus Christ. 

Finally, Dr. Kwasniewski charts a path to a healthier church life, one that replaces the “heresy of activism” with the primacy of prayer and the power of contemplation. He argues that we should set aside the push to “update” everything and return to the serene embrace of the essential changelessness of the Christian religion. Only then can we adequately worship the immutable God in His eternal truth, which is reflected in the liturgical rites of Catholic tradition and the stable forms of life they call forth and bless.

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Pater Edmund photo

"The relation of man and woman is a profound and beautiful sign of the relation of Christ and His Church. In this challenging and brilliant book Peter Kwasniewski explores the depths of this sign, and shows the consequences that follow for the liturgical life of the Church."

Pater Edmund
The Most Reverend Thomas E. Gullickson, JCD photo

"In his latest book, Ministers of Christ, Peter Kwasniewski remains true to form and takes on squarely what amounts to nearly a half century of cultural drift in the Catholic Church."

The Most Reverend Thomas E. Gullickson, JCD
tit. Archbishop of Bomarzo
Thomas Kocik photo

"Readers will be enlightened as to the sacramental and liturgical significance of sexual differences, which grounds a proper understanding of the roles of the clergy and laity. At stake is the nuptial relation that forms the very order of the New Covenant of salvation."

Thomas Kocik
Fr. Armand de Malleray, FSSP photo

"These timely reflections on Holy Orders will encourage the laity to pray for priests and will help clerics in their configuration to Christ the Sovereign High Priest."

Fr. Armand de Malleray, FSSP
Author, X-Ray of the Priest in a Field Hospital, Arouca Press, 2020
  • Pages: 336
  • Format(s): Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-64413-536-5
  • Product Code: 5365
  • Availability: In Stock
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This book brings needed clarity to our understanding of the sacrament of holy orders to our realization of who the priest is and what function God has given him in the mystical body of Christ it also gives a deeper understanding of John Paul the II theology of the body clarifying even more the distinct roles of men and women both his sons and children of God and his clergy and laity Marian Bacik, Marian Catechist
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Fountain of Wisdom
As always in his rich texts, Dr. Kwasniewski provides a comprehensive explanation of why the roles of clergy and other minor orders are reserved exclusively for men. Every book of Kwasniewski's proves to be an ever deepening fount of wisdom with this book being no exception.
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A Salve for the Church Militant
In Ministers of Christ, Dr Kwasniewski has written an impressive and enjoyable book which seeks to scrutinize and arrest the feminist violation of the roles of men and women in the Church -- and its consequent blurring of the relationship between clergy and laity. Through penetrating and theologically-sound arguments, he provides the faithful with an intellectual inoculation against that which has infected and confused the minds of all. There is a richness and profundity to Dr Kwasniewski's writing which is sorely lacking in most contemporary books on Catholicism. One of the many things that I particularly enjoy about this book is his ability to anticipate the arguments against him and then render them impotent through the simple statement of Truth. As one example among many, I can cite his Thomistic dismantling of the issue of female lectors at Mass and his refusal to use the word "gender" in place of the word "sex". It is refreshing (even delightful) to have Truth used as the weapon of assertion, rather than the base and infantile bickering that is so common in our day. I have read several of Dr Kwasniewski's books and I am a great admirer of his writing and his insight. I actually smiled while reading many passages of Ministers of Christ, as he correctly identified and refuted many of the same modernist arguments that I have railed against for years. Naturally, he did so in a way that was especially eloquent, intelligent, and readable. I highly recommend this book.
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Truths sorely needed in the Church today
“Ministers of Christ” is another triumph of scholarship and reasoned persuasion by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski and Bishop Athanasius Schneider. In this examination and expansion of Pope Francis’ motu proprio Spiritus Domini, which modifies “canon law so that the ‘ministries’ of lector and acolyte are now to be conferred on women” (Preface xxvii) and its underlying framework, the authors argue against the current cultural zeitgeist that there are no ontological differences between men and women, as well as commenting on what seems to be Francis’ ongoing dismantling of Catholicism as we know it. Two basic premises are intertwined: that of the necessity of hierarchy and that of receptivity. As an Oblate of Saint Benedict, Kwasniewski is well acquainted with the Rule, specifically Chapter 6 on silence, in which is contained the following maxim: “For speaking and teaching belong to the master; the disciple’s part is to be silent and to listen.” This is a precept both hierarchical and receptive. To express that same idea in a modern colloquialism, today we have more people who want to be chiefs rather than Indians. (I hope this doesn’t get me in trouble with the thought police.) I would like to confine the primary focus of my review to examining the diminishment of the traditional roles of women as wives and mothers, an idea that is so forcefully argued in Leila Marie Lawler’s masterful forward that sets the tone for the book by setting forth the observation that the genuine role of women has been so degraded both in the world and in the church—there is talk now, because of gender confusion and the lack of true femininity as opposed to feminism, of women being “erased”—that the very idea of receptivity has been almost entirely obliterated. It is my conviction that the blame for this obliteration—this erasure—can be placed squarely on the feminist women themselves. By suppressing the receptive nature of the feminine, feminists have created a world in which the only things worth doing are the things that men do. Dr. Kwasniewski and Bishop Schneider then, in the first two parts: “Foundations” and “Deviations,” through “all the resources necessary in history, Tradition, Scripture, the Magisterium, and common sense (Forward xxv)” present the arguments for understanding the true nature of the body and sexuality, confining ordination to males only, restoring the forgotten significance of the minor ministries, separation of the role of the laity from that of the clergy, exclusion of women from the sanctuary, and the falsity of “active participation” called for by Vatican II. Part III, entitled “Restoration” sets out a plan to do just that by a return to Tradition and its ways, including the Latin Mass and all the sacraments and sacramentals, devotions and piety. Woven together brilliantly is a call to restore the minor orders, their relationship to the subdiaconate, a return to women veiling themselves, the importance of prayer over activism, a new old approach to fostering vocations and an appeal to promoting changelessness both in doctrine and worship. Included for private devotions are several litanies: for the clergy, of subdeacon, sacristan, lector, acolyte and exorcist saints, as well as a chapter on a delightful poem by St. Therese to her sacristans and bakers extolling the hidden delights of preparing altar bread, “The bread and the wine of the Sacrifice, Which brings to earth—‘Heaven!’” It is unfortunate that this important study has now been overshadowed by Pope Francis’ latest motu proprio Traditiones Custodes restricting the Latin Mass as he continues on his unimpeded path of the destruction of the Roman Catholic Church as it has been passed down to us through two millennia. But perhaps if the faithful remnant, receptive to the arguments contained in this book, internalize and follow its prescriptions to preserve the faith, Spiritus Domini and Traditiones Custodes will be just a distant bitter memory in contrast to the immanent joyful triumph of Tradition as anticipated in the pages of “Ministers of Christ.”
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Ties together Catholic anthropology, theology, and liturgy
In his latest book, Peter Kwasniewski once again, in the bold and thought-provoking manner that has become his characteristic, challenges views about ecclesiology, liturgy, and discipline that have become prevalent in the Catholic Church today, including in what many would consider are orthodox or "conservative" circles. His goal in the book is to give a defense of the Church’s historical practice of having liturgical ministries – including those of lector and altar server ― performed exclusively by men. It is to be expected that an orthodox Catholic would believe in the Church's teaching on the reservation of holy orders exclusively to men; but in my own experience, few Catholics who say they hold to all the Church's teachings give too much thought to questioning the practice of females serving in various liturgical ministries (even if some might be on board with all-male altar serving). Kwasniewski challenges this, and shows that this is no secondary or inconsequential matter, along with the deep anthropological and theological reasoning behind the Church's traditional discipline – and the consequences for setting it aside. In the first section of the book, "Foundations," he sets the stage for the rest of his book and his overall purpose of defending exclusive male liturgical service by starting with the creation of humanity in God's image and likeness as male and female. He explains that the external reality of maleness and femaleness visibly manifested by the body and the union of man and woman in marriage is, in St. Paul's words, "a great mystery [sacrament/sign]" of Christ's love for the Church. Our sexual reality is meant to mirror the union God wants to have with mankind. The world – indeed, all of reality – exists in hierarchy and distinction, and this matters. To respect the distinct roles in creation is to respect the dignity of each respective part of creation. Kwasniewski does not denigrate – and calls us not to – the legitimate role of women in the Church, and in the world ... as well as that of men! Moving on from the anthropological consideration of the distinction between men and women, he then goes on to show how this deepest reality in the human person has ecclesiological and liturgical consequences. Men, women, clergy, religious, and laity all have distinct but complementary roles to play in the mission and life of the Church. Kwasniewski makes the case for rediscovering the reasons behind the Church's traditional liturgical disciplines and implementing them once more as a crucial way to move forward past the confusion and mess the Church finds herself in today. I have long been in favor of the Traditional Latin Mass as well as recovering the Roman Rite's liturgical patrimony, and male-only service at the altar. I have also long had an interest in the Church's sexual/anthropological theology. I've read many articles and books and consumed a lot of information about these topics, but reading this book has greatly enlightened me by tying together all of these things. Kwasniewski is very thorough in this book. If you find Theology of the Body/the Church's teaching on human anthropology and sexuality and/or the liturgy/the Traditional Latin Mass interesting, definitely give this a read!
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