Lively Theological Discussion

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“The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus made visible for us.”

– St. John Mary Vianney


 

Questions and Objections

Not all questions regarding the priesthood are addressed on this page.

So if you are looking for more information or if you have other questions, please contact with the Archdiocesan Vocation Office.

Celibacy, Sexuality, and the Priesthood:

Often the greatest challenge or fear that men face is the requirement of celibacy. It can be difficult at first to see the beauty, joy, and gift the celibate life is. Today more than ever, there is a profound need for brave men to willing live in the freedom and simplicity of the perpetual celibate state as it is a reflection of the eternal love, joy, and relationship that will be shared with God in heaven.  Celibacy is a big "yes!" instead of a burdensome "no!" The promise of celibate chastity means that a person promises not to get married or have sexual relations. This means that you say "no" to marriage in order to say a greater "yes" to Christ and his Church. Instead of giving yourself to one individual, you are able to be a shepherd for the whole family of the Church. Also, celibacy allows a priest to have one foot in heaven and one on earth as he surpasses earthly marriage to partake immediately in a perfect heavenly union with God.

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  Is celibacy avoiding sex and not getting married?

It includes that, but it is much more than that; it is not primarily negative.  Celibacy is an intentional expression of love.  It is a way of giving oneself to God and His Church without reservation, a renunciation of marriage for the sake of the Kingdom (Mt 19:12).  The celibacy of priests and religious serves as a sign of life in heaven, where God will be the satisfaction of all our desires.  As St. Paul says, 'An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.  But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided' (1 Cor 7:33-34).  Celibacy frees a person to unreservedly dedicate his time, thoughts and actions to God.  Just as a married man's daily routine should include time spent with his wife, so a celibate man's day must include time intentionally spent in the presence of God.  As a married man has story time with his children and 'pillow talk' with his wife, the celibate man should consciously spend his time preparing for bed in communion with God. This is not to say that celibacy consigns the priest to a life of loneliness.

Celibacy's purpose is to foster intimate friendship with God, the only true and lasting remedy for loneliness.  Furthermore, celibacy thereby opens the priest to genuine intimacy with many people who know him to be an instrument of God's love and mercy.  At times, celibacy can be a burden, just as married life can at times be challenging.  However, celibacy is not the elimination of human friendships and relationships.  Human friendships, especially with other priests, can be a strong support during the times when celibacy is challenging.  Maintaining friendships with both priests and lay people can help a priest remain faithful to his celibacy and can help him to more richly understand that his celibacy serves the Kingdom of God.       

  But I have always wanted to be a Dad!

Good! All men are naturally drawn to biological fatherhood. It is written in our human nature! The priesthood provides a unique opportunity for men. Instead of being a biological father of a few children, you are the spiritual father to many. There is a reason why you receive the title, Father. 

  Why don’t Catholic priests marry?

Priests in the Latin Rite forgo their natural right to marry “for the sake of the Kingdom of God,” as Jesus taught his disciples (Mt 19:12). It is a gift from God which opens a man’s heart so that he can embrace all of God’s children in a very powerful way. His healthy and holy inclination to be married and have a family is transformed into a supernatural fatherhood that renders his ministry, if he is faithful, fruitful beyond all expectations.

Imitating the celibacy of Jesus, whose entire earthly life was devoted to His priestly mission, Catholic priests represent Jesus in a unique way while celebrating the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, and even in their ordinary pastoral work. Celibacy is a declaration that the greatest joys of humanity are not to be found in earthly goods but in union with God in this life and in the next. It is also a statement to the Catholic people that their priest is available to them and at their service in a way that would be precluded by the responsibilities of marriage.

Celibacy does not do away with a priest’s sexuality, but with the help of grace and his own growth in virtue, it can become part of a tremendously joyful and fulfilled human life. Like marriage, it is not always easy to live, but a solid prayer life, healthy lifestyle, good friends, and prudent judgment about persons and situations contribute to a beautiful expression of celibate generosity by the priest for the sake of the Kingdom of God, for his brothers and sisters, and for the Church.

  Can a person who was married become a priest?

In some exceptional circumstances someone who was married can become a priest. For example if the man’s wife has died a man may become a priest. There are a few other circumstances, talk to the vocation director of your diocese if you have more questions

  Can I become a priest if I have had a physically intimate experience(s) in my past?

Yes, you can.  Many great saints such as: St. Augustine, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier and many others lived wild lives before they became priests.  God used their early lives to draw them to Himself and He does the same today.  All men are sinful, and therefore no man is worthy of the priesthood, yet God still calls him.  God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.

Despite even the worst previous behavior, through God's grace a person can decide to live in chastity and celibacy. Most dioceses and religious communities will require at least two years of celibate chastity before accepting a man into formation.

  Some other spiritual realities signified by celibacy:

Celibacy marks the priest as a man consecrated to the service of Christ and the Church. It shows in a concrete way that he is not merely someone who exercises a set of functions or who holds a certain office but that he has been changed on an ontological level by his reception of the sacrament of Orders.

Celibacy configures the priest more closely to Christ, the great High Priest, who forsook earthly marriage for the sake of the Kingdom and for the sake of uniting Himself more perfectly to His heavenly Bride, the Church.

It is fitting that the priest who offers this same Jesus in sacrifice to the Father, show in his own person (albeit to an imperfect degree) the purity and holiness of his unspotted Victim.

Celibacy reminds us of heaven, pointing to the coming of the Kingdom when marriage will no longer exist.

“I’m very impatient with some of the pragmatic arguments for celibacy—that it frees up your time and allows you to focus your energy in different ways. I’d rather see celibacy as a kind of irrational, over-the-top, poetic, symbolic expression of the soul in love.”  – Bishop Robert Barron

 


Happiness and the Priesthood:

Some men have a hard time seeing happiness and fulfillment in the Vocation of Priesthood. They say “Priesthood is boring” or “priesthood is lonely”. Some claim that priests aren’t free and because of this they aren’t happy. This is simply not true.

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  Isn't the priesthood boring?

Are you talking about the same priesthood we are? Priests have one of the most exciting jobs in the world! They stand with people in the most profound moments of life: at weddings, baptisms, deathbeds and everything in-between. If you're called to be a priest, trust that you will be happy!  The overwhelming majority of priests are extremely happy in their vocations! Why? Because they are doing what the Lord intended for their lives…for their vocation. Most priests will cite administering the Sacraments, preaching the Word, and helping people and their families as great sources of satisfaction.

Ultimately, the source of happiness for any child of God is his relationship with Jesus Christ and the priest is given the privilege of acting in the person of Christ at key moments in the life of the Church. Studies consistently show that priests are very happy in their ministry, in far higher percentages than those studied in virtually any other life work.

  Aren't priests lonely?

Of Course. Priesthood can be lonely, just as often as people who are married, single or consecrated religious. We try to nurture significant relationships between our brother priests so we can fill our human need for closeness to other people and, of course, we pray. There is, however, a real difference between simply being alone and feeling lonely. Think about it!

  Do you lose your freedom as a priest?

Yes and no. No sensible person tries to live free of all responsibilities and obligations to others. Why has Christ set us free from sin and death? Certainly not to live a self-centered life. We have to make choices about how we will use the freedom we have.

In addition, because they want to serve God within the Church, diocesan priests make a formal promise of obedience to their bishop. Their personal integrity is on the line in this promise. It binds them to do what needs to be done, as seen through the eyes of the bishop who is responsible for the entire diocese; they renounce the exaggerated freedom to do always and everywhere what they like or want to do.

On the other hand, diocesan priests can testify that there is great freedom to be creative in the priesthood. Bishops rely on priests along with the laity to suggest necessary pastoral initiatives. A bishop also tries to match his priests with the work that needs to be done. Ordinarily, a priests ends up doing work for which he is well enough suited. The bottom line, however, is service, not pleasing oneself.

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, spoke about finding true happiness to a group of young people on pilgrimage. “Our 'yes' to God makes the font of true happiness gush forth,” the Pope observed. “It frees the 'I' from everything that closes it in on itself. It brings the poverty of our lives into the richness and power of God’s plan, without restricting our freedom and our responsibility. [...] It conforms our lives to Christ’s own life.”

This pilgrimage, the Pontiff concluded, “is also a good time to allow yourselves to be asked by Christ: ‘What do you want to do with your lives?’ May those among you who feel the call to follow him in the priesthood or in consecrated life – as have so many young participants in these pilgrimages – reply to the Lord’s call and put yourselves totally at the service of the Church, with a life completely dedicated to the Kingdom of Heaven. You will never be disappointed.”

  Unworthiness and the Priesthood

I'm not holy enough to be a priest!

You're right! Get over it. No priest who ever lived was worthy! Through God's grace, those who are called share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Of course you are not ready to be a priest now; this is what the years of seminary training are for. Give your weaknesses to God and trust that over time, you will grow in virtue.

By virtue of this consecration brought about by the outpouring of the Spirit in the sacrament of holy orders, the spiritual life of the priest is marked, molded and characterized by the way of thinking and acting proper to Jesus Christ, head and shepherd of the Church, and which are summed up in his pastoral charily.” – Pastores Dabo Vobis #2

“No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God. Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God's call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift.” - Catechism of the Catholic Church 1578

Of course you have many more questions, curiosities, and concerns.

Reach out, without fear, and we will help you.

 

Find The Answers You Seek.

Vocation Office

Ask Jesus what He wants from you and

BE BRAVE!

© Archdiocese of Milwaukee Vocation Office | St. Francis de Sales Seminary | 3257 S. Lake Drive, St. Francis, WI 53235 | 414.747.6437

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