When I go out to parishes to preach on Vocations, I usually address two topics: Celibacy and Obedience. These are two main characteristics of the priesthood in the Latin Rite. Celibacy has been much in the news lately, mostly in the negative sense. I wanted to offer my reflections, not on a why of celibacy, but more on a fruit of the charism.
To me, celibacy is about freedom; a freedom to serve God’s people in a radical way. It is about allowing the priest the flexibility and to respond to the promptings of the Spirit in this service. The concept and gift of a celibate preisthood is in complimentarity to the married life as well. I think it is important to keep in mind that in the Church’s theology of marriage, especially as developed by John Paul the Great, Christ primarily comes to each member of the couple through his or her spouse. It is a one on one on one relationship, Christ in the midst drawing the two together so that they might be one.
As a celibate man, my relationship with Christ is different. In the parallel to marriage, instead of Christ in the midst of a one on one relationship, I see it that he comes to me through the community that I have been called to lead and serve. In the inverse, Christ should also then come to His people through the leadership and guidance of the priest. He acts in persona Christi, shepherding and leading God’s people. That is why he is called ‘pastor’ and ‘father.’
There is a spirituality about celibacy, and if it is not approached prayerfully and with an idea that it is a sacrifice, I think it can be fruitful. Jesus never promises that it will be easy, he does promise that He will be with those who call on Him and ask for His guidance.
May God Bless you during this Advent Season.