Celibacy is a gift and a privilege. When was the last someone said that to you? What if I told you that was true?
Being in seminary, I get asked a lot of personal questions. What do your parents think of you becoming a priest? Are the studies hard? What are the other seminarians like? But the one I get asked most often is, “Won’t you miss being a husband and father?”
The honest answer is: yes. Yes, being able to raise a family and love a wife is an immense privilege I will never experience. And that’s ok. Not having this incredible gift is something that needs to be mourned as a loss. It’s a part of my masculinity–my humanity–that I will miss. Humans are created to love and be loved. We are wired to give our heart to another. For most, that’s a wife and a family. But I’m called to give my heart in a profound and intimate way to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Growing up Catholic, I’ve heard all the practical reasons priests need to be celibate. They’re more free to serve the people of God. They don’t need to help their kids move schools and ask their wives to quit their jobs when they get reassigned. But when I heard that a priest not only needs to embrace his celibacy but also desire it, I thought that was crazy! How am I supposed to desire to lose a part of my nature?
The reality is, brothers and sisters, that loss is painful. But celibacy shouldn’t be viewed as something that just comes as “part of the package” of becoming consecrated. It’s something that needs to be discerned separately. Don’t ask God only if you should be a priest or married. Ask God if you should be a celibate, then ask if you should be a priest. Ask God if He is asking you to give your whole self over to the service of the Church. If He says yes, then spend time mourning that loss. Talk to your spiritual director about it. Don’t put on a brave face and intend to “white knuckle it” for fifty years. Beg God for the grace to accept it, appreciate it, and eventually to love it.
So where is God asking you to place your heart? How are you being called to love Him? If you ask God for the grace, you will receive it.
St. Joseph, pray for us.