Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The joy of priestly celibacy

We have had many bloggers commenting recently about celibacy for priests, and I appreciate them all. When we dive into the topic of priestly celibacy, we need to keep in mind that this is not a doctrine of the Church; it is a discipline. Doctrine cannot change because it is the Truth as revealed by God. Disciplines can change; celibacy was not a requirement for Roman Catholic priests until about the 11th century. Guided by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, the Church deemed that celibacy was necessary for Her priests to live as "other Christs" in the world.

Now, people can look at the lower number of priests today and point to the celibacy requirement as the main reason. I'm sure there are many men who say they would be priests if celibacy was not a requirement; I have worked with dozens of them over the years, from teenagers to young adults. So, it would seem that there is a large amount of laborers ready to work in the vineyard, if only the rules for being a laborer would change.

I take a different view. I have thought for many years now that if Catholic priests could get married, I wouldn't want to be a priest. I have been very attracted to the Church's discipline of priestly celibacy since I was in my early twenties. Why? Because it calls for a 100% commitment. The celibate priest is called to give himself completely to God's people. In this way, he imitates Christ (who himself was celibate). "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11).

People are correct when they say that celibacy is not natural; it is a supernatural gift. God calls some men to the life of priestly celibacy and gives them the Grace to live it out. The man who lives as a celibate priest in God's Grace is a man who has found his fulfillment and joy in life. He is truly satisfied in giving his life to the Church, the people of God. He is at peace, knowing that his sacrifices (of marriage, family, career, etc.) represent the greatest love of "laying down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15:13).

Someone wrote about my own struggles with answering the call to priestly celibacy. Yes, it did take me many years to fully understand and appreciate that celibacy is a gift, and that God is offering it to me. But, since that epiphany, my heart has grown in peace and joy every single day. I cannot describe how happy I am to be a celibate priest! Marriage would have been great; but, priesthood fulfills me. On top of that, I get to spend all of my time, efforts, and energy doing what I love: serving God and His people....

(to be continued)


At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your own journey and the joy of celibacy. I have immense respect for the priesthood due to the celibacy requirement. You are so right that you could not commit to celibacy without living by the grace of God!
On a slightly different note, aren't all single Christians called to be celibate? As someone wrote in another post, living as a celibate single seems like an oddity today. It seems like most unmarrieds live together. My own parents (who were married in the Catholic Church), civilly divorced, and my father lived with his girlfriend and thought nothing of it.
Most people complain that celibacy is impossible. NO way. Anything is possible when you live in God's Grace. Amen, Father Greg!

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question that is unrelated to the celibacy discussion. Sorry to change the subject but I am a novice blogger and could not figure out how to introduce a new discussion. Here it is: Is faith really available to everyone? I have a long history of psychological problems, including chronic depression and and very disrupted thinking. I try to make myself open to God and the development of faith in a Catholic environment. I participate in the sacraments, go to Mass, and pray. But I'm left empty and I feel ultimately that my emotional problems make connecting with this impossible. There are tons of people with problems like mine, and much worse. How do we get in?

At 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father Greg, I appreciate your explaination about priestly celibacy. If God call me to the priesthood or a religious life, I wouldn't want to be distracted by marriage, spouse, and children. I don't think anybody can do both jobs perfectly.

At 4:38 PM, Blogger Tenderfoot said...

This is for anonymous 2. Please don't give up being open to God. He knows what you are going through and will not abadon you.

At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In life we all have our crosses to bear. How can we embrace these crosses instead of resenting them? It is a bit difficult to say "Thank you Lord for my becaming paralyzed and not being able to live the way I used to."

Sorry if I sound sarcastic.

At 6:43 PM, Anonymous pete said...

It is the view of many prominent psychologists and such that our lives revolve mostly around survival and sex. The theory of natural selection backs this up. However, priests take the sex half of the entire instinct of their life, and say it does not matter compared to what they can do for God. This is more than making a sacrifice, this is reaching out into a whole new plane of purpose.

I once read something about a Catholic priest who visited several Muslim madrasas in the middle east. He expected to be met with hostility, but rather was introduced to the students by the teacher, who said, "This man is a Catholic priest. Catholic priests make their lives a gift to God." I find that this ties in very nicely with the sacrifice they make by deciding to never partake in one of their basic instincts.

At 1:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anonymous # 2:

Keep praying and reach out to HIM. Do not be passive in trying to find faith. Confession is powerful. Love is powerful; love, love, love. Seek out people around you that need you and help them and the most difficult thing of all is to forgive those who hurt you. It seems to me you have faith, otherwise, you would not pray to HIM. Instead, I think you may not feel HIM, HE may not make HIS presence known in big ways. But, God does not always makes HIS presence known in drastic ways. He is sometimes quietly present. Mother Theresa used to say that if you want to find God you do not search for HIM outside of yourself because HE is already inside you. You may not be aware of his presence inside you and what your soul is telling you. Listen to your soul, not your thoughts, your soul. And, take your time, trust in your search for God and in his healing power. God works slowly but powerfully.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Searching For Holiness said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:48 PM, Blogger bryan jeric de leon said...

what is the historical background of celibacy? and can you give me some defense why maintain ceibacy in priesthood?


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