Friday, July 25, 2008

Celibacy - Why not just be a permanent deacon?

One of the major questions on the mind of most who discern the priesthood is - Can I do celibacy? And especially in our cultural climate today where sexuality is so often abused, misused and rarely understood, this is the question. Often times, this is what turns men away so quickly from thoughts about the priesthood. It doesn't help when you hear people say that celibacy is unnatural - as I heard from someone when I announced my decision to enter the seminary. But it is not a matter of whether one can "do" celibacy or not, but rather whether one has been given the gift, the grace of God, to live out the celibate life.

I often look back at my own vocation and wonder how I discerned that I was called to the priesthood and to celibate life. From my vantage point, it seemed darn near impossible. I always wanted a wife and family. Always. To discern that God may be calling you to celibacy strikes completely opposite of the way society teaches us to think. We're always focused on having a girlfriend or having a wife that the thought of embracing the single life and maybe even considering the celibate life is so far stretched. So I encourage all of you to consider how can we get to that point. How can we come to know that God is calling us to the celibate life?

Part of it is to look into the spirituality of celibacy and how a priest still marries and expresses his sexuality - yet not as husband and wife would do - but in a unique sense in his care and love for the Church. Also, it would be cool to look at how it is in first discovering what God wants us of rather than deciding simply what we want for ourselves that we discover the capability through grace to live a celibate life. But to start off a little lighter, there is a good video with a bit of humor done by some young adults (produced by Juan) from St. Catherine's in Vallejo that I think places an interesting light on the subject at hand.

Part 1

Part 2

This lays out something that is incredibly interesting. Why not just be a permanent deacon? As one seminarian told me, you still get to baptize and witness marriages. And one can still serve liturgies and preach. Seems great. But I think it is a telling sign that one might be called to the priesthood if before marriage, even while dating, that one considers this option. It is telling because it says, "I have a great interest and passion for serving the Church but I'm not quite ready to be celibate." And sure, there are men who are called to be permanent deacons and we have celebrated the many men who have answered that call. But as single men, the desire to be a deacon shines forth a desire to serve the Church and possibly as a priest. Why should celibacy stop this search? Yes we fear or we are stubborn. But these things should never stop us from considering what God asks of us. The only reason to not be a priest is because we aren't called to be a priest. We can't let our human weaknesses decide our fate.

It's important to point this out because I had the same thought before I really began discerning. And I know other seminarians have too. I always thought, "Lord, I won't disappoint. I'll still become a deacon and serve the Church. Don't you worry. But I'm getting married." And I remember telling this to a Jesuit who I believe was in the process of formation and may have been a deacon at the time. And he looked at me funny. Why, because I was only 21 at the time and candidates for permanent diaconate have to be at least 30 something. Point being, I realized quite quickly the contradiction in my statement. I wanted to be a priest but I was not ready to be celibate. This draw to permanent diaconate can be a temptation so one must be careful to discern the authenticity of this and whether it is simply doing what we want or whether what God calls us to do.

These are my thoughts. What do you guys think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi , i read your blog and i know what it feels like your on the right track but still have doubts. I've been called to permanent celibacy and i never wanted to get married or have children and i've had plenty of signs but still have some doubt sometimes! but if i ask myself truly ( in my heart ) is this the right choice for me then the answer is yes we usually concern ourselves with the little things instead of thinking of all the good that is yet to come but haven't experienced yet !!!! happiness has many forms not just in marriage.