Br’er Abbot’s Briarpatch

A Fool for Christ but Not a Clown

“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.”

-1 Corinthians 4:10-13

This has been a time of joy and sadness, of beginnings and endings, of holy juxtaposition between the faithful and the absurd.

I spent much of the end of last week with friends and clerical colleagues in New York City and Reading Pennsylvania at a church gathering. We celebrated our individual callings, our shared ministry, and our familial bonds of love and friendship. We brought new folks into formal ministry, elevated a few within the ranks of the ordained, and did some learning and perhaps more importantly, some dreaming. We partied a little too much and definitely slept a little too little. All in all, my time there was a precious gift and a deep blessing in so very many ways.

Shortly after my journey home, while trying to return to my normal routine and make sense of the previous weekend, I learned of the death of one of our priests in Christ Catholic Church with whom I had worked for several years and admired greatly. Fr. Skip Koritzer, or Chaplain Skip as he preferred, suffered a heart attack while in the hospital and the medical staff was unable to revive him. Chaplain Skip was a good and faithful priest, devoted to his calling as a chaplain, and to Christ Catholic Church, as well as being a very dear friend to me personally.

Now anyone who knows me, knows that I am very critical of the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM) – a nebulous and sometimes nefarious group of folks of which I, and my dear friend Chaplain Skip, found ourselves a part of by virtue of our ordination outside of the mainstream sacramental churches. It is that connection which brought us together and it was a blessing.

When we met, Chaplain Skip was looking for a safe place from which to follow his calling and simply minister to the least and the lost. He had been used and abused along the way by several ISM “bishops” before reaching out to me and to Christ Catholic Church.

The Reverend Father Skip Koritzer, and I use his formal title here as he was ordained to the Holy Order of the Priesthood, was in many ways a simple man. Simple, not in a negative or diminutive way, but rather simple in a beautiful and faithful way – he loved Christ with all his heart and he loved his neighbor as himself. Fr. Skip never met a stranger and he never left anyone in need if he could help it. He had a huge heart and a friendly and willing spirit to go along with it and these were attributes that helped him to be a wonderful priest and a beautiful servant of God.

Fr. Skip never met a stranger. If you ever met him, you knew immediately you were in the presence of a talker. He loved to talk and he loved to talk about ministry – not in a bragging way but in a sharing and encouraging way. He loved to share his path with anyone who would listen and he loved for them to share their path with him. He took great delight in his priesthood and in his particular ministry of chaplaincy.

Fr. Skip had long since retired from a secular job but in his retirement kept himself on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for those who needed him. He was very active within his community in Baltimore Maryland often serving the citizens as a “chaplain at large” in their times of need. In spite of various physical limitations and health challenges, when God called, Chaplain Skip never said “no” but instead soldiered on like a good and faithful servant.

Fr. Skip was one of the good guys – one of the good and faithful shepherds of Christ’s flock. I was honored and humbled to know him and to serve with him. May he rest in peace and may light perpetual shine upon him. Perhaps through prayer and God’s help I will become as faithful a servant as Fr. Skip Koritzer.

Such good and faithful ministers and ministries are often overshadowed by the shenanigans of no small amount of egocentric clerical charlatans within the Independent Sacramental Movement. The ISM is full of “prima donna prelates” who simply like to wear lace, collect titles, lines of apostolic succession, and anything else that sparkles with religiosity to help bolster up their immature yet oversized egos. These would be clerics often spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on lavish ordination ceremonies, gold brocaded damask, and archaic lace vestments with which to adorn themselves, and lest they be barefoot upon holy ground, let us not forget the ruby red slippers with which to make holy their footsteps to the Heavenly Altar.

Fr. Skip was not one of these, he was a Franciscan at heart and in practice. He was a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek. His vestments, if and or when he wore them, were simple and respectful. He wasn’t afraid of the human condition and didn’t hide behind clerical trappings to set himself apart from those whom he served. Instead he embraced everyone he came into contact with, sinner and saint alike, and welcomed them to the table of Christ as they were, not as he hoped to remake them. He was a priest, a chaplain, who got dirty in the streets helping folks who had fallen by the wayside, tending to their wounds, healing their hearts, and mirroring Christ’s love in this broken world.

There’s a modern pop song that came to mind as I was thinking about the holy juxtaposition of Fr. Skip’s ministry and the lack there of from other self-styled clerics in the Independent Sacramental Movement. The song is entitled “Royals” and is a song by an artist by the name of Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor or “Lorde” here stage name.

The lyrics of the song talk primarily speak to the opulent life of those involved in the pop music scene and offer a contrast to the lives of those who simply love the music for the sake of the music and not necessarily the sparkle, prestige, and bling that popularity often affords because of the music.

The song was recently covered by a clown and his little band, Puddles Pity Party. Given the nature of some of the clowns in the ISM, I thought the video particularly appropriate to share here. My dear friend Fr. Skip may have been a holy fool for Christ but he was no clown, unlike some of our mutual colleagues in the Independent Sacramental Movement, he was the real deal, a good and faithful servant of Christ and he will be missed.

I leave you with words of wisdom from the artist Lorde as performed by Puddles Pity Party. How truly apropos given the circles in which I have found myself of late.