When hearing Confessions or just in general counseling someone, one of my favorite lines is that Jesus never promised us that it would be easy, in fact he promises very much the opposite! However, He does say that He will be with us as we try to follow Him and that His burden is easy and the yoke is light.
This applies to everyone who is attempting to follow Our Lord more closely, not just priests who have embraced a call to celibacy, so the short answer is that, yes, sometimes it is difficult to fully embrace a life of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom; but it is not impossible.
I remember very clearly the day that it hit home for me that I would never have a wife or my own children, because it was the day I was standing next to my identical twin brother as he pledged his life and love to his high school sweetheart. I stood there, as his Best Man (prior to my ordination), to support and encourage him as they took this next step in life. I had just completed First Theology and was pretty convinced of my vocation to the priesthood. As I listened to my brother and his new wife exchange vows, I knew that this was something that I would never have, but it was something that I freely gave over, sacrificed, for the sake of the Kingdom. I am glad I have done so.
Yet, even now, nearly ten years later, remembering this day still brings up a stir of emotions. I was very proud and honored to be standing there next to my brother. I love his wife like a sister, and their two daughters are extremely precious to me. There was a moment of sadness in my own heart for the sacrifice that I was willing to make, yet gladness that I knew where God was truly leading me.
For most priests, the life of celibacy is something that is not overly burdensome, because of Christ’s promise that His burden truly is light. What we realize, and perhaps one can only realize it after a time of living it, is that we are still called to a life of fruitfulness, a life that gives life, but in much different ways than parents give life to their children. We beget a spiritual life, parents beget a physical life.
We do not do this alone, for alone we would be powerless to overcome those difficulties. Through his prayer, the priest is ever more configured to Christ, united to Christ in the context of the Church. As one of seminarians says on the video we use for the Andrew Dinners: “It is only the priest/seminarian who doesn’t pray that is lonely.” In fact, the story floats around seminaries of the bishop who, when a priest would come to him to ask for laicization (the process by which he could be returned to the lay state), would initially ask: ‘When did you stop praying?’
Prayer and an intimate communion with Christ, in the context of the Church, makes all the burdens of priestly life not overbearing, but joyous.
For more, check out the ‘Husband or Priest?‘ tab above.
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- Discerning Your Vocation: Eucharistic Adoration
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- Interview with Fr. Tim Fahey
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- Priesthood Ordination 2016 (Vocation Office version)
- College Seminary
This video features our young men who are in college seminary for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
- The Gift of the Priesthood: Parents of the Called
What do parents have to say about their sons call to the priesthood? We took the opportunity to interview a few wonderful parents to learn more about the call to become a Catholic priest and the transformation of their son.