Who Wants to be Celibate?
Many folks have strong opinions when it comes to celibacy. It might be considered inspiring, virtuous, weird, unnatural, or even disturbing. Every seminarian must devote serious prayer and thought to discerning celibacy as part of his vocation. He will be aided in his consideration with constant questions from others like, “Are you sure you can handle celibacy?” “Will you be happy as a celibate?” “Wouldn’t you rather wait until priests can marry?” “Can’t you just be a deacon?”
These are important questions for reflection, but they do not quite press hard enough on the real issue. These questions approach celibacy as a mandate imposed on the priest to be passively accepted. I think a better way to frame the question is this: Can a man freely choose and desire celibacy? I think so! How could a man desire celibacy? Simply put, because it is beautiful.
Often we focus on what celibacy is not, viewing it as a lack. Celibacy certainly entails giving up sex, marriage, children, or any types of romantic relationships, but to simply reject romantic love could be an act of selfishness. Priestly celibacy is for the kingdom. It is a complete offering of self for the Church through unreserved, unconditional love. A celibate priest can view all people as brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. He can say with the psalmist, “He has put into my heart a marvelous love for the faithful (Ps 16:3).” The celibate priest also receives and gives witness to a more direct spousal relationship with the Lord in this life. He can say to the Lord, “it is you who are my portion and cup; it is you yourself who are my prize (Ps 16:5).” In short, priestly celibacy sacrifices good things of this world which serve as a means to loving God in order to be joined to Christ the Head and become a sacramental mediator himself.
“You do not choose celibacy and virginity in order to enter into the Kingdom, but because the Kingdom has entered into you. In other words, you do not remain a celibate to save your soul more easily, but because the Kingdom, or rather the Lord, has taken possession of you, chosen you, and you feel the need to remain free to respond fully to that choice” (Raniero Cantalamessa Virginity). Celibacy is a gift from God which we can freely choose to accept. I think celibacy is a beautiful way of devoting oneself exclusively to the matters of the Lord, and I desire to be a celibate priest in order to belong intimately to the Lord and to render myself available to His flock. Please join me in praying for more vocations to the priesthood, that God will bless more and more men with the grace of intimacy with Him and His Church through the gift of celibate love.