Saturday, June 21, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Preisthood and Celibacy

Again, George Weigel has me thinking. In his book, The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church, he talks about the priesthood and celibacy. He quotes St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians:

For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Eph. 5:23-27

After reading Weigel and then these verses, it suddenly dawned on me why celibacy for priests is a "win/win" for everyone.

There are some people who think priests ought to have a choice to get married. Without delving into the assumption that married priests would not molest, the proposal may not be as attractive when viewed in full.

Seven years ago, when I was serving within my last ministry as a single pastor, I had a conversation with one of our ministry students. He related a story about a pastor friend of his. He said that during the 23 years this man served as a senior pastor, he never took his family on vacation.

I stopped him. "Never?" I asked. He sadly echoed, "Never."

We then went on to discuss how difficult this was for the pastor's family and the stress a pastorate can put on them. "PK" ("Pastor's Kid") has become a byword for out-of-wedlock pregnancies, drug abuse, homosexuality, and an assortment of woundedness that causes many a PK to turn away from the church.

Being a pastor is not a Monday through Friday, 9-5 type of job. Most people realize this. But how often do people think of the countless dinners without dad, the missed soccer games or plays because dad is needed elsewhere, or the lonely nights his wife endures because her husband is busy preparing for either a sermon or some committee meeting?

Now tell me who's being selfish. Is it selfish to deny a priest the married life or is it selfish to give it to him but yet deny a family their father?

I was lucky. My dad was a traveling salesman.

When I look at Catholic priests, I realize this is the heart of their calling. They are married to the Church. As Christ loved the Church and gave up His life for Her - so, too, does our priests give up their choice to have a family in order to devote their life to the Church. Being single definitely has its advantages. I know. For 18 years, I lived such a life. Could I have done it as a married woman? Not likely.

Pray for our priests, especially for the loneliness they often experience. And ask God for more vocations. Here's a few I found:

Most gracious Heavenly Father,

We thank you for our for our faithful priests and bishops, whose spiritual fatherhood and example of fidelity, self-sacrifice, and devotion is so vital to the faith of your people.

May our spiritual fathers be guided by the examples of Saints Peter and Paul, all the Apostles and their saintly successors. Give them valiant faith in the face of confusion and conflict, hope in time of trouble and sorrow, and steadfast love for you, for their families, and for all your people throughout the world. May the light of your Truth shine through their lives and their good works.

Assist all spiritual fathers, that through your Grace they may steadily grow in holiness and in knowledge and understanding of your Truth. May they generously impart this knowledge to those who rely on them.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen. (Women for Faith and Family)

O Jesus, our great High Priest,
Hear my humble prayers on behalf of your priest, Father [N].
Give him a deep faith

a bright and firm hope
and a burning love
which will ever increase
in the course of his priestly life.

In his loneliness, comfort him
In his sorrows, strengthen him
In his frustrations, point out to him

that it is through suffering that the soul is purified,
and show him that he is needed by the Church,
he is needed by souls,
he is needed for the work of redemption.

O loving Mother Mary, Mother of Priests,

take to your heart your son who is close to you
because of his priestly ordination,
and because of the power which he has received
to carry on the work of Christ
in a world which needs him so much.

Be his comfort, be his joy, be his strength,

and especially help him
to live and to defend the ideals of consecrated celibacy. Amen.

(+John Joseph, Cardinal Carberry (d.1998)
Archbishop of St. Louis 1968-1979

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