Thursday, October 06, 2005

an answer to a question

Several months ago a reader asked about life as a priest:
“I wonder... is it a sad life? Perhaps Mr. Vox [sorry, I don't know your name] can answer. Now, I'm perfectly content being single, but I'm single by choice and I can easily go out and get a boyfriend when I want. But I can't imagine being restricted like that.”

I couldn’t answer the question several months ago as I haven’t had much experience of living the life of a priest then. But now I feel I can, after having a few months of priestly life under my belt.

First of all, like the reader, I am also single by choice. I didn’t have to enter the seminary and present myself for ordination.

I didn’t have to answer “yes” to God’s invitation and calling to serve as a priest.

Most likely God would have been disappointed if I had said “no,” but I know that God also would have understood (He’s great like that).

But eventually I responded positively to the calling out of love. Plain and simple. No other reason, but sheer response to God’s initiative and love.

And after a few months of living as a priest, I can already recognize the many joys of living like this: sharing in the intimate lives of the people I come across with, being part of the lives of families, being there when their firstborn is baptized, when their parent has passed away, or when they are desperate and in need of someone to talk to.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was on retreat with a group of teens. And my goodness, the energy and the excitement in the air during the whole weekend was tremendous. It’s enough to make this guy feel 10 years younger.

All of that experience is just irreplaceable. And I know of no other “profession” that offers the same amount of richness and intimacy with so many people.

And as with any choice made, opening a door and entering a room means closing a few doors and not entering those other rooms. I have closed the door to a family of my own and having an intimate physical relationship with another person.

One can say all of that sacrifice is compensated by the joys I identified above with the many people in the community.

Well, yes, that’s true. But you know, for instance, when it’s cold at night and I wish that I have a special someone with me to cuddle with---and there’s no one---it is still a loss. And I feel it, especially after a long day’s work in ministry.

Is that "restricting," as the reader asked. Well, no, because I have never felt so right and fulfilled in all my life. Besides, "restricted" is not exactly the right word for it.

Rather, it is indeed a cross, and we all have our crosses to bear. But this one I chose to carry gladly.

I must emphasize the word "chose" here because I find quite awful the notion that Catholic priests are being "forced" to be celibate, which is what a recent email to Daily Dish has said.

No one has forced any of the priests you meet today to be celibate because no one has forced them to be priests in the first place. As of today, celibacy is part and parcel of the vocation, and if a guy can't deal with celibacy, he shouldn't enter the seminary today. Straight up.

But might that change in the future? Perhaps. This seems to be in the agenda in the present synod of bishops in Rome. But the idea of the Church forcing her priests to do this is silly, because it is false.

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