the shortest distance is between
Blessings come in many different packages, and seldom labeled to make them look appealing. One of the blessings I’ve been thinking about since my Dad’s death has been the tremendous gift that is priestly celibacy.
The vast majority of Catholic priests make a promise of celibacy at their ordination to the diaconate. This is the norm. I did too. The disposition of the heart to follow the vocation of the Catholic priesthood means also being open to and accepting of this specific promise. Sometimes people misunderstand it and see priestly celibacy as a negative, and are even bold enough to make fun of it. I strongly believe, with the Church, that it is a tremendous positive, and the experience of my Dad’s death and the preparation for his funeral made that particularly clear for me.
Thinking aloud before Mass Jan. 19, I commented to Julianne Wunder, the DRE at St. Lawrence Mission, that I don’t have a family with whom to share the subtle twinges of my grief. She replied, very correctly, that the whole parish is my family and that we are working through this together. This is absolutely true. My family is huge, and you, the reader, are beloved to me. You are my family, and this is a result of giving up family life in the normal way by becoming a priest and your pastor.
For my Dad’s funeral arrangements, I fulfilled a couple different roles pertaining to that task: Son, brother, priest, advisor. The grounding part of my life that made the grief bearable as I helped my mother and siblings through our agony was that I am the pastor of St. Mary’s and that despite of the present sadness, the present unhappy task, my family is alive and thriving. Beyond the acute reality of death there is so much life, and so much living.
Being a priest, being your priest, is not just a hobby that becomes a vehicle for finding time for skiing or golf. My priesthood is a deep and trusting love of Jesus Christ that is expressed in faithfulness to you. I have no need for distractions from this, no want for anything or anyone to get between us.
There is nothing practical about celibacy. This union is a spiritual reality and seeing its value requires spiritual maturity. When I was ordained a deacon, I answered this question in the affirmative: “Do you resolve to keep for ever this commitment to remain celibate as a sign of your dedication to Christ the Lord for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, in the service of God and man?” Yes, I do. I do, and neither you nor the Lord have disappointed me in my time of grief.