Possessing no one or no thing
1) FYI: We have installed a hit meter which tracks the visits made to this site. As you may or may not have figured out by now, we receive (and reject) many attempted comments here that are inappropriate, to say the least. We have been installing devices to try to prevent this (word verification, comment moderation, etc.), but the comments keep coming. It’s gotten so bad that, on a few occasions, I have had to shut down comments altogether. While this is an unfortunate situation, you’ll be happy to know that since the hit meter has been installed, the unwelcome comments have pretty much come to a halt. I have no intention of pursuing the information of those who come to this site with pure motives; I am only looking to use the site meter when it’s necessary for those with less than pure motives.
Mindy asked, “A while ago, I was talking to Jim Boccabella, the summer seminarian, about some of the practical aspects of preparing for the priesthood. He mentioned that he sold his home. I’ve been wondering- why? I am of the understanding, although it may be incorrect, that priests are permitted but not encouraged to own property. Priests own cars and boats, which are kinds of property. From a financial perspective, wouldn’t it be better to maintain ownership of that kind of asset to be used for, if nothing else, retirement? And if they have sold their homes, where do priests live when they retire?”
I’ve been trying to find a document of the Church that addresses the issue of priests and personal possessions, but have been unable to do so today. But, I would say exactly what you said that parish priests are allowed but not encouraged to own property. Why? I think that one of the basic definitions for celibacy should serve as a reason: celibacy means you “possess no one or no thing”. Now, this isn’t referring to things of necessity. If it meant everything, I guess I should have sold items at the recent yard sale like my toothbrush. I think it’s referring more to things that you don’t need and to which you are more inclined to be attached.
When I re-entered the seminary one of the times (I lose track!), I sold the house I owned. Why? Initially, it was because I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of renting and maintaining it. But, it became more that I wanted to leave everything for Christ. I truly desired to sell everything I had and follow Him (see Mt 19:21). I really wanted to be as detached from the world as possible. What freedom this brings! One of the greatest experiences of freedom I’ve ever had occurred about a month before I returned to the seminary: I watched a local charity come to pick up all of my furniture and came back inside to an empty house. Ah, freedom!
To finish the story, I found out that a year after I sold the house, it was being sold again…for $100,000 MORE than I sold it. I don’t remember the first word that came to mind at that time, but it probably wasn’t very holy. It might have been, D’oh! I don’t know if the friend who told me that was exaggerating or not; it really didn’t matter. The freedom that selling the house and getting rid of almost all possessions was worth far more than $100,000.
I couldn’t imagine maintaining ownership of a house or major investment from now until I retire. I struggle to find time to change the oil in my car! I am planning for retirement already, but I am not at all worried about how well I will be living fifty years from now, pray God. God will provide. Most of the retired priests I’ve known have continued to live in rectories (some of them who are less healthy stay in a priests’ retirement home) and I hope to do the same. I love living simply and freely and hope that this continues until about three minutes after I have died.