Priestly Celibacy

Fr. Manny P. Duetao

“Father, would you kindly give us some enlightening idea on priestly celibacy, based more from your own personal experience rather than from cold, lifeless, emotionless, reasoning, though very sanctifying theology?”

This was from a friend of mine. She is active and very dynamic, though low profile, member of a rather updated Metro parish. These are the people who looks up at us priests, like we were demigods up there in our altar of sacrifice – beyond reach of human weaknesses, earthly leanings, worldly ambitions or whatever temptations besieging human life!

I am young no longer, being 71 years age (as if this writing, in 2003), and by March 21 of 2004 I will be 40 years in the priesthood. I was ordained to the priesthood in the very midst of the years of Vatican II, 1964. To be honest, I did not go through those years unscathed and no bruises at all in the battle of life. There were days, months, even years, when in the struggle I never thought I would survive, but for the help from up, that was always at hand when I thought I was at my rope’s end! And the battle is still on. It’s like the Oakland power show. We are now before the Feliciano Commission, but the war is on!

“Priests are those who minister close to the altars of convention. They are the salesmen of wares handed on to them and the distributors of tradition. They do not so much create as conserve.” (The Great Religions by Which Men Live By, Ross and Hills, 1997, p. vii) And this is no easy job at all. In fact here is what one priest meditatively said to another: “The fair and the ‘handsome ones’ get married, the ‘intelligent kind’ stall out, the ‘saintly variety’ die, and look at us, we are the only ones left!”

A reaction to that jokingly made statement can be positive or negative, depending whether we want to create a laughter among friends or reflect seriously on a truth. If we want to laugh, then our conclusion would be: Those left behind are the less handsome, the less intelligent and the less saintly, if at all. If we want to be serious, then we would reflect: So who are those who stayed and remained faithful to their priestly commitment, except the more handsome, the more intelligent, and the more saintly. We guess and we hope so. They are so fair as to have no better bride but the Church, intelligent to have avoided pitfalls and bobby traps along the way, saintly enough to overcome temptations! Maybe yes, but always with God’s help through the intercessory prayers of friends and relatives.

On my part, whatever might be the case or the situation, I never discount biblical reasons: “Not all can accept this (life without being married). But only those to whom it is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they are born so; some because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this, ought to accept it.” (Mt. 19: 11-12)

Saint Paul has a very enlightening advice on this subject. Read the whole of I Cor. 12: 12-31. In short Paul said: “Only, everyone should live as the Lord has assigned, just as God called each one.” (I Cor. 7: 17) The reason is obvious: “An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided.” (I Cor. 7: 32) This is not a commandment from God, but only an “opinion” of Paul “who by Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.” (v 25)

In short, if I am still a priest up to now in the service of the Lord, in spite of scars and wounds from the battlefront of life (and the war is still on), it is because I am convinced of my calling and I am aware of the daily struggle to stay burning like candles in our altars until we are burnt out in the service we are called to.

Moral: “Once I had a secret love that lives within the heart of me… hmmm. Now I shout it from the highest hills. Even told the golden daffodils. At last my heart’s an open door. And my secret love’s, no secret anymore!”

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