On Priestly Celibacy


Tonight, allow me to share to you a thought on carrying one’s cross. Today’s Gospel talks about giving up everything in order to follow Jesus. How do we best live up to the standards of Christianity in our own ways?

Father Roy Cimagala, chaplain of CITE in Talamban, Cebu City, shares to us on his Facebook notes page the joys of priestly celibacy. In this way, may we reflect on how we as Christians love the sweet load that is given to us as much as priests like Father Roy try to live out to the standards imposed by Jesus himself, especially in the context of today’s gospel readings.

     I KNOW I am treading on dangerous water here. But I feel the issue has to be aired somehow. Priestly celibacy just cannot be marginalized, especially now when it is vastly misunderstood and a persistent wave of misconceptions continues to assail it.

    There are those who think that priestly celibacy is just an ecclesiastical law meant perhaps to serve some practical purposes in the life of the priest and of the Church.

    For sure, there is a good amount of practicality in a priest leading a celibate life. For one, it would make his life simpler, largely undisturbed by domestic concerns. The priest’s heart, time and attention could get more focused, more undivided for God and others if he is celibate.

    The Church leaders, bishops in particular, who are supposed to take care of their priests even financially, need not worry about having to support the families of these priests. The Church can run more smoothly with celibate priests.

    But there are those who also think that a priest can manage to work properly and even to be holy without being celibate. Proof of this, they say, is the growing number of married people who are also very active in Church affairs and thus are practically working like priests themselves.

    Some even say that these lay people can be more dynamic and effective than some priests. So, why can’t priests be considered like them? Or at least, why not make priestly celibacy optional? For those who want it, fine. But please don’t impose it on everyone!

    They claim that priests are also men and that they have certain needs that cannot be met in a celibate life. To rub it in, they say that many priests are actually not leading continent or chaste life. Ok, the point is made. Pertinent pieces of evidence are aplenty. So let’s stop there.

    We can actually go on and on with the pros and cons of priestly celibacy. I imagine that arguments, examples and statistics to support both sides will never be lacking. But I think we would be missing the point if we frame this issue within the parameters of practicality, human needs and ecclesiastical law alone.

    The law on priestly celibacy is not just about practicality. It has a deeper reason. And ultimately it rests on the truth that priests are conformed to Christ as head of the Church. They act “in persona Christi,” and as such, they are expected to live like Christ in his full status as the Son of God who became man to redeem mankind.

    Priests are the sacramental image of Christ wherever they are, 24/7. While their priesthood is most lived when they renew the sacrifice of Christ’s on the cross in the Holy Mass, they continue to be “in persona Christi” even in their sports, shopping and sleep.

    Priestly celibacy is actually an intrinsic requirement of priesthood, because Christ himself, on whom priests are conformed sacramentally and ontologically, that is, affecting one’s being, was/is celibate, his will fully engaged with the will of his Father.

    Recent studies show that while the law on priestly celibacy was first recorded in the 4th century, it must already have been required and lived during the time of the apostles. In short, the apostles must have understood their priesthood to involve celibacy.

    Proof of this can be gleaned from that gospel passage where Peter who, like many of the apostles, was married, told our Lord that he has left everything behind to follow Christ. (cfr Mk 10,28ff.)

    “Behold, we have left all things, and have followed you,” Peter said. And Jesus answered: “Amen, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who shall not receive a hundred times as much, now in this time, houses and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands with persecutions, and in the world to come life everlasting.”

    And so, it is quite clear that during the time of the apostles, those apostles who were married understood that once they were ordained, they had to let go of their conjugal relations, of course in a voluntary way between the spouses.

    This mindset is reflected in all the historically recorded laws about priestly life and celibacy in the Western Church. The Eastern Church followed a more tortuous path but somehow also upheld priestly celibacy. Those laws were precisely made to protect, not impose, this intrinsic requirement of celibacy in priesthood.

Sweet the load of the priesthood. Alleluia.

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A Visible Sign: The Roman Collar


This is a repost from a Facebook note which Leinad Castrence Garces, one of my former mates at the Philosophy department of the University of San Carlos, posted.

The original post can be found on the Roman Catholic Vocations blog.

A Visible Sign: The Roman Collar
The Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests, prepared by the Congregation for the Clergy and approved by Pope John Paul II on January 31, 1994 has this to say:

In a secularized and tendentiously materialistic society, where even the external signs of sacred and supernatural realities tend to bedisappearing, the necessity is particularly felt that the priest-man of God, dispenser of His mysteries-should be recognizable in the sight of the community, even through the clothing he wears, as an unmistakable sign of his dedication and of his identity as arecipient of a public ministry. The priest should be recognizable above all through his behavior, but also through his dressing in away that renders immediately perceptible to all the faithful, even to all men, his identity and his belonging to God and to the Church.
When collars were quickly taken off a few decades ago, the common argument proclaimed was, “What’s really important is what’s inside me . . . I don’t need an article of clothing to define my priesthood”.
Let us examine the importance of the Roman Collar.
The Roman Collar is a clerical collar that should be worn by all ranks of clergy. Bishops, priests, transitional deacons, and seminarians who have been admitted to candidacy for the priesthood (as is the case in the Diocese of Rome and many other Seminaries throughout the world). Apart from entirely exceptional circumstances, the non-use of clerical clothing on the part of the cleric can manifest a weak sense of his own identity as a pastor completely dedicated to the service of the Church.
Rev. Ken Collin’s, explains that “clothing conveys a message. A business suit says, ‘Money!’ A police uniform says, ‘Law!’ A tuxedo says, ‘Wedding!’ Casual clothing says, ‘Me!’ Clericals say, ‘Church!’ “
A priest is never ‘off-duty’ when he puts on the Roman Collar. Any occassion he is in can be turned into a pastoral ministry. Whenever a priest has his collar one, he no longer needs words to explain his presence. It is unlikely that anyone would stop a Roman Catholic priest with his collar on from entering a hospital after visiting hours or bar him from crossing the yellow tape at an accident scene.
A priests’ ministry is unending and there are no definate working hours. Casualness about being publicly identified as a priest of the Catholic Church may signify a desire to distance himself from his priestly vocation. The collar becomes ‘workclothes,’ which are put away when one is not ‘on duty.’ The functionalistic notion of the priesthood revealed by this attitude is in contradiction to the ontological configuration to Christ the High Priest conferred by priestly ordination. Furthermore, to have a ‘split personality’ is never healthy. No priest can temporarily put his priesthood on the shelf.

With this visible symbol of his sacred ministry around his neck, the priest allows the faithful to approach him no matter where he is; be it at the cafe having his morning cuppa or at the grocers picking up some provisions.

A person can make a confession and be reconcilled to God, a young teen may ask a quick question about the faith and be strengthened, an lost soul may come up to the priest and ask, “Father, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, a businessman may receive a blessing before his flight, etc… Christ’s faithful (and even those outside the fold) deserve nothing less. Lay people depend on their priests for spiritual support andstrength. They feel that something is not right when their priests try to blend into the crowd and, as it were, disappear.

Many priests often say that their people are adverse to the Collar. Well, trying to ‘blend-in’ isn’t really the solution. Allowing the reactions of others affect the priest’s decision to wear the collar is only allowing the problem to fester unresolved. Could it be that some think that what the collar signifies- Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, the priesthood- are obstacles? Priests must relate to others as priests, never in spite of being priests.

“A white collar on a priest’s neck should remind him of a ring and collar – his marriage to Christ and to the Church and giving his freedom to Christ, thus letting him control his life. We, priests, wear a collar because we want to be directed by Christ in all things. Please notice that our collars are white as opposed to our cassocks. In the background of a black robe it is a symbol of the light of resurrection. We go through the world giving up baubles and colours, living the hope of participation in the brightness of resurrection. This white collar in the background of our black dress is actually a sign of our desires and aspirations.” Rev. Fr. Andrzej Przybylski.

We use symbols all the time, and need not be embarrassed by them. To obediently and humbly wear the collar expresses one’s submission to the authority of God and his Holy Church.

Dear Rev. Fathers, please display the desire to manifest the presence of the Savior to a world gone mad… The reward is to be able to lead others to Christ is significant. Be aware that the priestly work you now do will not suffer but will be enhanced when you dress according to the venerable custom of the Church.

 

To add to that, I know of a priest whose uncle always tells him to wear his cassock. The priest’s uncle often chides him by saying that “Vatican II never abrogated the use of the cassock.” As a result, whenever the priest tags along other priests for a visit to his uncle, he always reminds them to wear their cassocks.

Let us remember that the cassock and the collar are symbolic of a life dedicated and consecrated to God and Holy Mother Church.

Ave Maria!

-Luigi Flores

Stay or Leave?


December 17, 2010

The thought of my desired career always strikes my mind every time I think about leaving the portals of the university in about a year’s time.

I have always basked in the thought of hearing myself on radio or seeing my name in the byline of every story I write.

For now, those two things are running on my mind.

While I have been basking on these thoughts for the past six or more years, I have thought of other things as well.

The thought of entering the priesthood attracted me so much. So much that I really entered the seminary, only to realize that I would not last even a year of detachment from the outside world.

I have always thought that the priesthood would be easy for me as I was attached to my service in church, to the point of learning Latin in order to know more of the liturgical rites being held in the official language of the Church.

Now that I am just months away (nine months, that is) from attaining my Mass Communication degree, I have always wanted to see if I could use my abilities in media at the same time be of service to God and His Church.

I was even thinking that I would be a priest and a media practitioner at the same time. I was thinking about those priests having their weekly programs some years back, at dyAB where I am working as an intern.

Right now, I am thinking about the recommendations I get from people in some sectors of media to work with them, and perhaps these opportunities might veer me from one of my plans: to eventually return to the seminary after some years in the media industry.

If the plan of staying in the media for long materializes, my fear is that I may not be able to enter the seminary anymore. In fact, one of my priest-friends tells our group of lectors: “Actually, kahit di lahat ay magpapari, one could still preach the Good News.” This priest pointed out to me as an example. Knowing that I was a seminarian, he told the rest of our group: “Luigi can still bring the Good News, at gagamitin niya ang kanyang boses sa media to be able to spread the word of God.”

Those thoughts bring a tall order to me every time I think of my career. Now, the question still lies: Should I continue to aim for serving God as His priest or as a religious, or should I stay on with the media bahala’g gamay og sweldo or leave my ambition to be with the media and aim for something more financially rewarding?

The only thing I ask from you, dear reader, is to pray for me. I promise you my prayers as well.

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