Four reformer priests

Patrick H. Daly

When inaugurating the Year for Priests in his diocese last June, Archbishop Bernard Longley urged his clergy to tell their vocation stories. This article considers the vocation stories and the day of ordination of four Catholic priests who were destined in the early 16th century to transform the face of the Christian Church and become midwives of the New Age.

Patrick H. Daly is parish priest of Caversham, Diocese of Birmingham.

The four Catholic priests in the vanguard of the Reformation
Four of the five towering figures of the Protestant Reformation were Catholic priests. Jean Calvin had received the tonsure aged twelve and a benefice in his native city of Noyon, but Desiderius Erasmus, Martin Bucer, Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli had all proceeded up the ladder of minor and major orders and were ordained to the priesthood. We know who ordained them, when and where, and we can establish what their feelings were and what their expectations of their future life in Holy Orders were on the day they became priests.

What these four priests were to become as agents of the Reformation and, in the cases of Bucer, Luther and Zwingli, the profile of ministry they themselves practiced and promoted in the various reformed church communities over which they presided subsequent to sundering their ties with the Roman Church was profoundly influenced by their own individual pathways to ordination.

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