Revisiting priestly celibacy
With the promulgation of Pope Francis’ Motu proprio, “Vos estis lux mundi,” we need not only to review the reason for priestly celibacy but also and more importantly to find more ways of how to live that priestly ideal in these times when shameful scandals have stained the face of the Church.
It would be good if everyone, including those who are not in the clerical state, would help in coming up with relevant and helpful ideas, suggestions, plans, strategies, etc. To be sure, there are many people out there who can help, because of their training and experience.
First of all, we need to reiterate the organic link between priestly celibacy, chastity and charity. At least the theoretical vital connection between these virtues should be clarified, because even in this level, there unfortunately is already a lot of ignorance and confusion. Priestly celibacy cannot but be a living consequence of chastity that in turn is solidly based and animated by charity. Priestly celibacy should not be viewed simply as a requirement for priesthood. A deepening appreciation of its inherent value should be made all throughout life.
It should be pursued and assumed as a consequence of love, a function of one’s desire for a greater identification with Christ, a greater availability for the needs of others, a practical witnessing in earthly life of how we all will be in our definitive eternal state of life as celibates. It should be pursued and assumed freely, without disparaging the other states in which a love-driven chastity can be lived.
Of course, the practical aspects of how to grow in this particular virtue should be pursued without let-up. Given the great variety of conditions that we all find ourselves in, plus the many galloping developments these days that bring with them their peculiar challenges and issues, priests should really be adequately prepared and equipped to deal with the different challenges to protect, defend and foster priestly celibacy.
For this, everyone concerned should try his best to know himself well to the point that he would know what would help him live celibacy well and what would weaken or undermine it. He has to know those situations where he is most vulnerable and know how to avoid those situations or at least how to handle them when they are unavoidable.
Definitely, he has to be brutally sincere with God, with his own self, and with others, like his confessor and spiritual director, to whom he has to go for some help. Yes, living priestly celibacy is not just an individual affair. God, in the first place, has to be involved. Without him, there is no way one can live priestly celibacy. And one should also realize the great need to seek help and guidance from those who can give it to him. We should always remember that our growth and development is not strictly an individual affair. It will always need the help of others. We have to be convinced deeply that pursuing priestly celibacy on our own power is doomed to failure from the start.
The priest should also realize that he has to maintain a constant and intimate relationship with God and with others as he goes through the different events of the day. He has to be most wary of the strong tendency to simply satisfy himself, meeting only human and worldly goals, when he does his work and ministry. He really has to be constantly aware that he is doing God’s will always by serving the others.
In the end, it would be greatly helpful if one can come out with a daily plan and strategy, specifying the appropriate means, to live and grow some more in his love for chastity in the state of priestly celibacy. He should feel that love. He should be excited about it.