I’ve been wearing it for the last four years: a silver band on my left ring finger. It was the wedding ring of my grandfather, received by my mom when he passed away. When people notice it, they often ask about it with surprise, and my response is always the same: “I’m engaged to the Church!” Just as a husband is called to give himself entirely to his wife, I explain, as a seminarian I am preparing to give myself completely to Christ’s bride, the Church. So in a sense, I am preparing to “marry” the Church. I have been wearing the ring ever since I first entered seminary, as a sign to myself and to the rest of the world that I’m officially “taken.” Plus, I jokingly add, it helps to keep all the young ladies away! (I am, after all, a Brad Pitt look-alike. Or not!)
Usually people will then ask something along the lines of, “Don’t you wish you could get married?” The honest answer is that I would love to marry and to be a husband and a father! The thought of giving up those joys is what kept me from saying yes to God’s call for so long. When I see a father playing catch with his little son, or a husband walking hand-in-hand with his wife, I imagine that there will always be a part of me that thinks, “That could have been me!” That is normal, that is natural. All of us here in seminary recognize how beautiful and fulfilling and grace-filled the married life is.
So yes, I explain, I would love to be married and to be a husband and a dad… but I want to be a priest and a father to countless spiritual children even more! God is calling me to be a priest, and I know that it is only in accepting this vocation that I will find the greatest fulfillment and holiness in this life. Sure, I could be happy marrying a beautiful faith-filled woman and raising an awesome Christ-centered family… but I would always be saddened by the knowledge that I had chosen to turn away from my true vocation. I would see the priest celebrating Mass every Sunday, and I would say, “That should have been me!” I would see the priest baptizing my children, and I would realize, “That should have been me!” I would hear the priest saying the words of absolution during confession, and in my heart I would know, “That should have been me!”
Sure, the celibacy requirement could one day be removed. After all, it’s just a custom and not a doctrinal teaching of the Church. But it is unlikely that the Church would ever turn away from such a tremendous gift— it’d be like throwing a big Steinbeck-esque pearl back into the ocean or ripping up a winning lottery ticket and tossing it into the wind. In fact, even if I were to open the paper tomorrow and read that Pope Benedict has made celibacy optional, I would still choose to remain single. That surprises a lot of people. But I want to give myself entirely to God, I want to dedicate my life to love Him through serving His people. It would be impossible for me to give myself 100% to my future flock and simultaneously give myself 100% to a wife and children— it would be like being married to two different women and raising two different families!
Celibacy allows a priest to more fully imitate Jesus, giving himself totally to his people and not to one woman and one family in particular. It is sign that shouts to the entire world, “The true kingdom is still to come, and it is worth sacrificing everything to help others attain eternal joy in that kingdom!” Celibacy is not for everyone, of course, but for those who God calls it is a great gift and a great joy. If you know a young man that might make a good priest, ask him if he has ever considered becoming a priest. It may be that your simple question causes him to think seriously about the priesthood for the very first time… the call to give his life in loving service to the Church, the beautiful bride of Christ!
My vocation story : “Accepting the Lord’s Call to the Priesthood”
Article by Matthew Pinto : “Why are priests not allowed to marry?”Marriage, Priesthood