Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Prophetic Priesthood and Celibacy

I read a great piece on why priests are male and celibate. I'll be honest, the article did a better job of explaining celibacy than it did for why women can't be priests. The author's main argument for that was the natural differences and how males and females complement each other. There are many more reasons than that and I was hoping he was going to go into them. Oh well.

The article, written by Fr. Damian J Ference, can be found on the Word On Fire blog here.

Back to the celibacy issues...here is the paragraph that really struck me:

Celibacy stands boldly in the face of a fallen world as a powerful witness that there is more to life than sexual pleasure, and that there is more to sex than just pleasure. A healthy celibate priest (or religious or layperson) becomes a prophetic sign that points to a much deeper and more satisfying reality than can be contained in the material world. In the spirit of St. Augustine, the healthy celibate reminds us that our hearts are restless until they rest in God, no matter how much sex we may have to try and fill them up.
I'll be honest, I haven't thought of that before. I've never had an issue with the celibacy of priests, I think it's a beautiful thing. When discussing the issue with others, my main argument for celibacy is that they are married to the Church. They enter into a sacrificial role, giving of their lives to serve the Church and to give greater glory to God.

Priests live radical lifestyles. They have chosen, for themselves, a life of celibacy. If you told the "average Joe" that there is more to life than sex, he'd probably give you a funny and disgusted look. Our world has made sex a normal part of life. It is no longer sacred and is often an act that is defiled. The "hook-up culture" runs rampant in high schools, college, and what people try to pass off as their "adult lives." Reading articles and comments about casual sex, whether the people are in relationships or not, saddens my heart.

I doubt we will ever go back to a time when sex was seen as a sacred act reserved for marriage, but maybe we can create more reverence for it than there currently is now. And that is why it is so important for priests to remain celibate. They are the world's example that there are more ways to love than just sex! Another line from the article: “He’s happy, and he doesn't have sex. How is that possible?” Sex has become trivialized and most people find it a waste of time to talk about abstinence and purity because "everyone will just do it anyway." That is not true; the more we discuss chastity, the more it becomes ingrained in the hearts and minds of teens and adults. It worked for me.

The article also related celibacy to marriage:

And this is not to say that celibacy somehow downplays the beauty and power and holiness of marital love. But the witness of the healthy celibate is a reminder to married couples that their marital love must always be celebrated as a participation in God’s love, and make present the love between Christ the Bridegroom and his Church in order to be truly satisfying.
As a person who will be entering into the sacrament of matrimony in nine months, I find that quote beautiful. Sex is not about pleasing your partner, rather it is to be an expression of true love and, as stated, a participation in God's love. The act of love for a priest is his celibacy. The act of love for husband and wife is sex. And yes, it is very difficult to wait, but that wait is definitely worth it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Farewell, Papa!

Today Fr. Ron chose to say the Mass of Thanksgiving for Pope Benedict XVI, and that is when it became real to me that he would no longer be the shepherd of the Church here on earth. Eight years is a relatively short time for the papacy, but Benedict XVI left quite a legacy. I have a stack of books of his written work, almost all of it published while he was pope. He led us with a gentle spirit, yet legitimate concern for our spiritual welfare.

Fr. Ron gave a wonderful homily about Pope Benedict. He mentioned how, as a boy, Joseph Ratzinger was very shy, but had the courage of his own father to stand up for Truth. And his whole papacy has been about fighting the relativism so prevalent in our world today. There is a Truth and Jesus is it. He always encouraged people to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As I listened to Fr. Ron reflect on this point, I thought about how it seems people today are afraid to have a personal relationship with Jesus. They're afraid of that encounter they could have with the Risen Lord. But why? I know I can find myself sometimes skirting around my own prayer life. Are we afraid we could change!? Are we afraid of the unknown? Afraid we might see an image of the Blessed Virgin in our toast the next morning? What keeps us from that relationship?

This Lenten season has been about strengthening my prayer life. I have begun almost every day with Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. I find comfort in praying that way and see it as a way to get back on track. Some mornings my thoughts are quite distracted or I'm pressed for time, so my prayer doesn't seem as genuine, but it's still there. The mornings when I take time to actually have a conversation with God and express myself are the best ones.

This morning the Pope tweeted: "If only everyone could experience the joy of being Christian, being loved by God who gave his Son for us!" We can only experience that joy when we are in true relationship with the living God and acknowledge His presence in every moment of our lives. In his last Wednesday audience, Pope Benedict said he felt the presence of the Lord with him every day of his papacy. Can we say that about our normal, everyday lives? I'd like to acknowledge that same presence. Maybe some days we have to look for it, but joy and peace are a simple prayer away.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Into the Desert

Another year, another Lent. I can't recall any memorable Lents from years past, but I do know I enjoy the season. It is a time to step back and step into the desert with Jesus. For all of us that means something different, especially what we need to step back from. In years past I have viewed numerous lists of creative things to do for Lent or even thought of my own, and I would always want to take on too many things. I would want to pray the Liturgy of the Hours more and pray the rosary more and make time to read spiritual readings, and of course get in more reflection time. Well, it does become too much and it's easy to "fail" at what we want to do for Lent.

This year I'm keeping it quite simple. I'm looking forward to it, yet dreading it at the same time. For Lent 2013 I will be waking up earlier in the morning and using that time to pray. I am not a morning person, so this will be a sacrifice of my time, but I'll also be adding in more prayer. And coffee. It will be difficult; even this morning I didn't get out of bed until an hour after my alarm first went off. But I believe it will be fruitful. I will be stretching myself to grow, but in that growth I will become a more balanced person. I'm hoping that praying and reflecting in the morning will better prepare me for the day and also set my mind toward God.

Blessings on your own Lenten journey, whatever you have chosen.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Gospel Reflection

This Sunday's Gospel couldn't be any more perfect for the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. And the Church didn't plan it...this is just the way the calendar falls this year!

We have heard the story over and over about Jesus preaching to a large crowd and then telling Peter to "put out into the deep and lower your net." Peter was probably tired, since he would have been up very early (or all night) fishing and had no luck with catching anything. I'm sure he thought Jesus was a little crazy...it's the middle of the day, no way are they doing to catch anything. But Peter was obedient to a man he barely knew and to his astonishment he hauled in an amazing catch of fish.

When we're tired and fed up with our work, how often do we say to Jesus, "but at your command I will..." We all lead busy lives and can be tired and frustrated after a long day, and because we're tired we don't take the time we need to pray. I know I'm guilty of it. Before we can do what Jesus asks of us, we first need to listen, which we all know is the toughest thing to do. God doesn't shout at us or give us great signs; He stirs our heart in silence.

Lent is approaching quickly, a wonderful reminder for all of us to enter into the desert once again. So often we want to be like Peter and say "Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful person." But Jesus responds to all of us, "Do not be afraid." This Lent, do not be afraid to put out into the deep and cast your nets. Do not be afraid to leave things behind and follow Jesus. Do not be afraid to put God first and things of this world second.

Jesus didn't say "It's alright to sit on your couch and drink beer all night, I'm sure you'll make it to Mass on Sunday." No, he said "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."