Is God calling me?

Identifying signs of a vocation to the priesthood and fostering it

 

Discernment
Discerning Signs of a Vocation to the Priesthood
Discernment is Not Done Alone

Celibacy

 

 

Cellbacy

OH Wait…What about Celibacy

In our society today, celibacy is often seen as something unnatural, a denial of the right to marry. Some complain that it is unfairly demanded of Catholic priests. If one desires to be a Catholic priest in the Latin Rite, one must be a celibate.

 

Since the holy priesthood is a call from Jesus to follow Him, and to be His presence in the world, it is important, therefore, to hear what Jesus says about the gift of celibacy in the Scriptures. It is interesting to note that this topic emerges when Jesus is speaking of marriage, the value of marriage, and the necessity of maintaining fidelity in marriage.  In St. Matthew’s gospel: as Jesus is responding to the Pharisees about the question of divorce,

He indicates that Moses permitted divorce because of “the hardness of heart” of the Jewish community at that time. Jesus then goes on to say that it was not that way from the beginning. In the plan of God, the Father intended marriage to be permanent and fidelity within marriage to be absolutely observed. The apostles seemed to be so unnerved by this teaching of Jesus that they say to Him, “If such is the case the man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” (MT 19:10)

Jesus then makes a statement that will resound forever, a statement that emphasizes the nature of celibacy and the reason for celibacy. He says, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been granted. Some are incapable of marriage, because they have been born so; some because they have been made so by others; some do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so.” (MT 19:11-12)

 

Celibacy is our response to the love of God
When Jesus calls a man to follow Him as a priest, He is asking him to be open to His love, his constant and never-failing love. Jesus is asking that the priest be the recipient of His love so that he may witness this love to others. At the Last Supper as Jesus prepares to give the apostles the gift of Himself in the Holy Eucharist, He shares fully His powerful message of love. “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  (JN 15:9-12)

 

The message is eminently clear. The priest is to be the love of Jesus for others. The priest is not capable of doing this with his own limited strength through his own humanity. It is the love of Jesus that comes to him, strengthens him and lives in him.

 

The Gift of Celibacy
Through the gift of celibacy that has been given, the priest enjoys a unique openness in his relationship with Jesus. Without any other commitment or obligation, the priest is enabled to enter into an intimate union, a bonding in love with Jesus. This union allows Jesus to come, to be so fully in the priest, that His love is uniquely revealed to others. “Love one another as I have loved you.” (JN 15:12)

 

Celibacy is in effect an invitation and a gift. God is inviting an individual to be so disposed for His love that without any other commitment, he is willing to receive the love of God fully, and be the witness to this love.

 

Celibacy for the Kingdom
The priest witnesses the love of Jesus in a unique way in his role as servant. Jesus often reminds us that “the Son of Man came to serve and not to be served.” (MT 20:28) Without an obligation to an immediate family, the priest living the life of Jesus is ultimately free to be the servant of all. He is not to serve in just some general or vague way, but to serve each individual according to the needs, especially those most in need. He is to see the presence of Jesus ultimately in all that he serves. Blessed Mother Teresa said that her ministry was “to serve Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.” The priest living the celibate life, being fully open to the gift of Christ’s love, is uniquely capable of seeing Jesus in each individual.

 

The celibate priest is to be a witnessto Jesus and a servant of Jesus for the Kingdom of God. In his witnessing and serving, he does not strive merely to alleviate present pain, give temporary solace, and make this material existence somewhat better, as vital as these ministries are. With the love of Jesus as he serves others, he is to be a constant reminder through celibate living that here in this life we do not have “a lasting kingdom.” As Jesus speaks of those who might seek abundance for their own security in this present life, He reminds us that this life is passing. While some material possessions are necessary, He reminds us that the Father knows that we need those things, but we are to seek the kingdom of the Father.  (LK 12:31)

 

Celibacy: A Final Though
As one considers the call to the priesthood, many thoughts may crowd into his mind. It is possible for him to be preoccupied by his own limitations, and possibly intimidated by the responsibilities of a future ministry. He should never forget, however, that Jesus is always present to him. Jesus invites us to follow Him. He does not force us. He never forces us. If one is considering a call to the priesthood, he should seek the advice of a priest who can be of assistance to him. It is also wise to read the Scriptures often to see how Jesus gently invites with those simple words, “Follow Me.” (MT 9:9) He should also pray daily especially by attending Mass frequently and visiting Our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament. He should also pray to Our Blessed Mother, the Mother of Jesus and all priests, and to St. Joseph who nurtured Jesus and who is the Patron of the Universal Church. He should also remember that Jesus never deceives or injures us. He always journeys with us as a faithful guide to bring us to fulfillment.

 

In His final meeting on this earth with St. Peter, Jesus asks Peter three times that moving question, “Peter do you love Me.” (JN 21:15)As Peter responds to each question, “Lord, You know that I love You,” Jesus gives Peter his commission, “Feed My lambs. Feed My sheep.” (JN 21:16)

 

As each priest lives the love of Jesus and serves with the love of Jesus, he always hears Jesus gently asking, “Do you love Me.”  With the grace of God, the priest is able to respond “Lord, You know all things. You know that I love You.”  As each priest states his love for Jesus, he receives his commission from Jesus. “Feed My lambs. Feed My sheep.” It is only in and with the love of Jesus that the priest is able to serve.

As the priest lives the love of Jesus and witnesses this to others, he realizes more and more that celibacy is not a deterrent, but rather an invitation, a gift, through which Jesus becomes one with him for the good of others.

 

"I needed to put my fears aside"

Fr. Peter Rayder

The New York Mets have been building a new home, a new field of dreams in Flushing, Queens, which will open in April of 2009.  There are many ways to get to the new stadium, Citifield, all depending upon one’s starting point.  There is no wrong way to get there, maybe faster ways, but no wrong way.  Some may take some detours and visit all of the boroughs’ that make up New York City before one gets to the final destination: Citifield, yet he or she will finally reach Citifield!

 

The route that I took to the priesthood may not have been the most direct route in some people’s minds but it definitely was the proper route for me! I know it was the right route because I was absolutely immature at the age of ‘twenty –something’ to make lifetime commitment to God as a priest in His Church.

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