The Priest's Bride

Why priests should not get married.
by Thomas Cahill Connelly, LC | Source:

“Do you think the Church will ever modernize to the point where they will allow priests to get married?” That was the first question the worker at the plumbing shop asked me after I finished explaining to him that I was a seminarian studying for the priesthood. I wasn’t expecting that kind of question, but the way he asked it made it look like he only thought it a matter of time before the Church ‘comes around’ to see things like today’s world.
I don’t think the Church will ever “modernize” in the sense that he spoke of. Many people talk about changing the rules of the Church, but often they forget that the Church put those rules there for a reason. It wasn’t a decision made overnight. Priesthood and married life are both full time jobs, and I don’t just mean time. A married man dedicates all his love and affection to his wife and children, and the priest dedicates all his love to his flock, the people he serves as Christ’s minister. They don’t love in exactly the same way but both vocations require all their love. That is why the Church, in her wisdom, has seen that it is nearly impossible for a man to do both. 

As I was riding up a ski lift last year and after the man next to me found out I was a seminarian he said, “Celibacy just isn’t natural.” He is right. Celibacy isn’t natural, it is supernatural. Christ explains in Matthew 19:12 that there are some who have given up marriage willingly for the sake of the Kingdom. 

The priest is called to be another Christ, to walk in his footsteps and be the minister of the sacraments to Christ’s followers, the Church. When I was little, my Mom had the habit of praying for my future spouse. Not too long ago she told me how beautiful it was to know that she had been praying for the Church all that time. The priest gives himself entirely to the Church just as a husband gives himself entirely to his wife (Cf. Mt 19:12). 

Celibacy is not just some unnatural self-denial, like putting on a blindfold for no other reason than to avoid using your eyes. Purity and celibacy are both positive. The one who lives either of these is not supposed to love less but more. They are a call to love more and with a higher love. Celibacy is also a reminder of heaven, since no one is given or taken in marriage in heaven. And don’t think that priests and religious are the only ones called to live purity. Married couples are called to live purity as well, though not in the same way (Cf. CCC 2514 and following). Pure love is more elevated than sensual love because it means loving the other in an unselfish way, to love without seeking your own interests. This is why the Church is not going to “modernize to the point where they will allow priests to marry.” The priest is called to love everyone equally with the heart of Christ. This is the way Christ loved and that is how the priest is called to love.

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