Are some of these your thoughts in regards to celibacy?
- “I really like girls!”
- “I have not always lived a chaste life. Can I still be considered for the seminary?”
- “I struggle with purity, so I’m not sure I possess the holiness that is required for a commitment to celibacy.”
- “Celibacy seems like a life of loneliness…will I be happy alone?”
- “I think I still want to be a father.”
The requirement of celibacy is certainly one of the greatest sources of anxiety and fear in a man who is discerning priesthood. This is especially true in a sex-saturated society and culture. The message we receive from the media and culture is very clear: no person can be happy and fulfilled unless they are having a lot of sex. But this is simply not true.
The good news is that God’s grace can accomplish all things! With the power of Jesus’ cross, a man can overcome sexual lust and live his life peacefully in his respective vocation. It can be done. It is possible. There is much evidence. For example, there are approximately four hundred thousand Catholic priests worldwide. The huge majority of these men at one time said these or similar words, “I can never become a priest because I like girls too much.” Well, all four hundred thousand of them are priests now. God will never send us where His grace cannot sustain us.
[Excerpt taken from: To Save a Thousand Souls: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood by Fr. Brett Brannen (Pgs. 216-219)]
Priests in the Latin Rite forgo their natural right to marry “for the sake of the Kingdom of God,” as Jesus taught His disciples (Mt 19:12). It is a gift from God which opens a man’s heart so that he can embrace all of God’s children in a very powerful way. His healthy and holy inclination to be married and have a family is transformed into a supernatural fatherhood that renders his ministry, if he is faithful, fruitful beyond all expectations.
Imitating the celibacy of Jesus, Whose entire earthly life was devoted to the work of redemption, Catholic priests represent Jesus in a unique way while celebrating the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, and even in their ordinary pastoral work. Celibacy is a declaration that the greatest joys of humanity are not to be found in earthly goods but in union with God in this life and in the next. It is also a statement to the Catholic people that their priest is available to them and at their service in a way that would be precluded by the responsibilities of marriage.
Celibacy does not do away with a priest’s sexuality, but with the help of grace and his own growth in virtue, it can become part of a tremendously joyful and fulfilled human life. Like marriage, it is not always easy to live, but a solid prayer life, healthy lifestyle, good friends, and prudent judgment about persons and situations contribute to a beautiful expression of celibate generosity by the priest for the sake of the Kingdom of God, for his brothers and sisters, and for the Church.
For additional reading on celibacy, please see the book recommendations under more resources.