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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In Defense of Priest

Let your light so shine before men that, seeing your good works, they may glorify your Father in Heaven.-- Matthew 5:16

As we read the news we seem to find more and more people calling for an end of Celibacy in priest, especially with the case down in Florida. It’s taken me a while to be able to put pen to paper on this matter because there was a lot of research and information I wanted to read before giving my opinion on the matter.
As we all know the church has 7 sacraments 5 to which are mandatory as Catholics and 2 which are only brought upon through true vocation; those being Matrimony and Holy Orders. Not everyone is called to either/or. Some people choose to follow their lives through consecrated lay or celibate laity. Most Catholics marry, and all Catholics are taught to venerate marriage as a holy institution—a sacrament, an action of God upon our souls; one of the holiest things we encounter in this life. In fact, it is precisely the holiness of marriage that makes celibacy precious; for only what is good and holy in itself can be given up for God as a sacrifice. Just as fasting assumes the goodness of food, celibacy assumes the goodness of marriage. To despise celibacy, therefore, is to undermine marriage itself—as the early Fathers pointed out. As Catholics we hold true the virtue of purity in which a celibate lifestyle must be carried outside of Matrimony because in truth Matrimony is the union between two people in which the product is children. That is the reason for human sexuality and hence Marriage. God established that bond between a Man and a woman in order to further carry out his love for us.

That all being said one of the most explosive and basic attacks on the Catholic Church have come from those calling for the end to Celibacy in the Catholic Priesthood. It is the fieriest argument yet most misunderstood on both sides. To begin many believe that celibacy is a doctrine or dogma of the Catholic Church when in truth celibacy is not the rule for all Catholic priest. It is the norm for Priest in the Easter rites (Maronite,Byzantine,etc..) to be married. Though, there have always been some restrictions on marriage and ordination. Although married men may become priests, unmarried priests may not marry, and married priests, if widowed, may not remarry. Moreover, there is an ancient Eastern discipline of choosing bishops from the ranks of the celibate monks, so their bishops are all unmarried. For Western rite priest the rule of celibacy has been in place since the middle Ages.

A Man's decision to become a priest comes only through the vocation that God places in his heart, as for one who is called to the priesthood is a Holy soul whom God has touched. The word "vocation" comes from the Latin vocare, meaning "to call"; It's usage referred firstly to the "call" by God to the individual, or calling all human kind to salvation, particularly in the more specific to the "vocation to the priesthood". In order to become a priest the usual guidelines set forth in the United States and most Seminaries are that of 4 years of College(usually in Theology)+plus an additional four to five years of graduate-level seminary formation in theology. So in all it takes (give or take 8 years) for a man to become a priest. During that time they are given enough time and guidance to decide if that vocation is truly there and their calling is to that of the priesthood. Like a priest friend of ours said” We are not forced, nor are our arms twisted to enter into the priesthood it is through our love of God and love of our vocations that we follow this path and become priest knowing perfectly well what we are giving up, but at the same point understanding the Graces we will receive from this calling."

When a man and woman join in Holy Matrimony their vows are to God and each other. They form a bond and a joining in which no man can undo. Why is it that when a priest does that bond and promise to God they are belittled? Our Society focuses so much on the Sexual aspect of celibacy due to the nature of our Society becoming such a Sexual Society. That they don’t look upon it’s beauty and love of God that is behind it. In the past a Priest was regarded with such respect and honor, yet know our society has taken them off of pedestals. A priest is somewhat looked down upon and if not one of the most persecuted in our society. One can blame it on the various priest that as men and humans have fallen into sin(JUST LIKE WE ALL DO!) or the lack of respect the Catholic Church has slowly gained due to their "antiquated ways". But whatever the reasons priests are not given the respect they should be given for their calling in life.

Why it is that most if not all religions are respected because of their traditions and "antiquated ways" yet the Catholic Church seem to be the one that gets the criticism. Do people criticize Orthodox Jews for Celebrating the Sabbath, or their lack of use of Pork products? Do people criticize DaliLamas for their Celibacy? No. You will never hear those criticisms in the Media or from the mouths of followers of each religion. Is it that they understand why they do what they do?
I've noticed in the past that the majority of the people who criticize the practice of Celibacy are those that don't understand the basic Catechisms of the faith. I don't claim to know them all but as a Catholic I am learning every day. We have so many people disapprove of
this virtue, this grace, which holds such a high place in God's eyes because we ourselves can't take the time to understand where it comes from. If a man cheats on his wife these same people who disparage celibacy will be the first ones calling for the man's head. Do humans deserve more respect than God? If your answer is yes than this all falls on deaf ears and changing the rules of Celibacy for priest will not make your attendance at church any better.

Many feel that by advocating for the change in Celibacy they are fighting a fight equal to that of the Civil rights movement. But your not! If you feel such a championing nature in your heart than focus on the real battles like that of Respect for Life, Love of the Eucharist, Return of virtue or love of the Mass. Not a battle that doesn't pertain to you or will make your understanding of the faith greater. Realize that priests are where they want to be. They are happy where they are, if they weren't they wouldn't be priest. Priests have a hard enough time with the job they have. Judging their decisions and disrespecting their positions isn’t going to help them nor is it going to help the faith.
The Catholic Church has been present for over 2000 years, holding true to its foundations and roots. There have been many changes and many practices that have come about during those 2000 years but to hold firm in criticism to one practice and defend it because of our own view of sexuality goes against the very core and backbone of this religion. Learn about this faith before judging, learn about your Catechism before giving an opinion but most important learn to love and respect this faith, especially if it is your own. To judge it and judge priests is a sin that no man/woman must carry in their hearts. They (priest are human) but have been given the most important job a human can have and that is to Consecrate and bring Jesus to us through the Eucharist. Respect these men and allow them to work as they should because they have a hard enough job as it is and don’t need for other to judge them in the process.

Let us pray for our priest for they have a harder battle than any and remember "those who speak ill of priest face the harshest punishment of all".

A Prayer for Priests
O Jesus, Eternal Priest, keep all Your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart where none may harm them.
Keep unstained their anointed hands which daily touch Your Sacred Body.
Keep unsullied their lips purpled with Your Precious Blood.
Keep pure and unearthly their hearts sealed with the sublime marks of Your glorious priesthood.
Let Your holy love surround them and shield them from the world's contagion.
Bless their labors and abundant fruit, and may the souls to whom they ministered here below be their joy and consolation, and in Heaven their beautiful and everlasting crown. Amen.
O Mary, Queen of the clergy, pray for us; obtain for us a number of holy priests. Amen.

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"Never has the devil found such fertile territory upon which to work as in this era when his very existence is denied by so many" - St. Padre Pio