Thursday, September 14, 2006

The joy of priestly celibacy (cont.)

Adoration, 7-8 pm, this Friday (9/15), SAA Church. All are invited, if even for a few minutes. It is awesome!!
Continuing my post from yesterday about the gift of priestly celibacy, I left off with the idea that celibacy allows me as a priest to give all of my time, effort, and energy to doing what I love: serving God and His people. So, it begs the question (which I have been asked by several of our school kids already), 'what do you do all day as a priest?' I usually make some joke to the kids like, "I just pray all know, I just sit in the rectory, and go (with my eyes closed, hands open, and pretending to speak in tongues), 'lalalalalalala'".

They laugh because it is a pretty goofy gesture, but this is probably not too far from what they (and so many others) might think priests do during the week. Then, I get serious, and tell them that I help people all day. I try to be Jesus and do his work all day. In order for that to ever happen, I need to be with Jesus first. I spend an hour in Church, in the Presence of Christ, early each morning. After that, Fr. Mike and I say morning prayer together in the rectory, and then I greet the students as they arrive at the school.

Then, the best part of my day: offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. After that amazing experience, I sit in the Confessional, offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation to anyone who is interested. Hearing Confessions is probably my most enjoyable part of priesthood so far! I return to the rectory, and my work day begins. What occurs between mid-morning and late at night is the work of God. In my opinion, it is the most compelling practical argument for priestly celibacy. In other words, celibacy frees me up so that I am able to do the following on a daily / weekly basis:

-writing my posts for the blog site, meeting with couples preparing for Marriage or Baptism for their children, counseling couples, planning youth group meetings, appointments for spiritual direction/counseling, visiting the sick in nursing homes/hospitals/homes, anointing the sick, celebrating Mass with the students in the school, celebrating funerals, talking to classes in the school, leading Bible Study, leading RCIA, attending various parish and school meetings, emails, phone calls, planning vocations events, attending sports practices, planning retreats, giving spiritual talks, playing with the students at recess and after school, etc., and somehow, working in prayer during the day, evening, and night as well as physical exercise (the playgorund works for me). This is a typical to-do list for a priest who lives out his celibacy in the Grace of God. This is what priests do all day!

Obviously, if I were married with children, I might be able to do only half of this. In fact, I would say that I would probably be able to give about 50% of the time, effort, and energy I am giving now. Another point to consider is that a priest is to love as God loves: love everyone in the same way. A married man loves no one on Earth the way he loves his wife and children. So, a married priest couldn't fully love as God loves because he couldn't love everyone in the same way.

Finally, the problem is not with priestly celibacy, but with living it out. We have seen too many examples of priests who don't live out their calling to celibate love (for example, the mass exodus of priests in the 60s and 70s, as someone mentioned). Just like the institution of marriage is not to blame for the high divorce rate, it is not the institution of celibacy that is to blame for the shortage of priests. It is about commitment to the life to which God is calling us, no matter what our vocation is. If we center our lives on Jesus in the Eucharist, we will live out our commitment, and with great joy and peace.

"I really believe that if we are a people who are centered on the Eucharistic sacrifice, there will be no shortage of those willing to give their lives to the Church". - Msgr. Thomas Wells

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