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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Priestly Celibacy – Ministerial Availability

Is celibacy an obsolete construct? Could it be abandoned without damaging the body of the Church? My response is that it is more pertinent and valuable in our age than in any preceding it. We need this sign of contradiction so that we might not be swallowed up by the hedonism of our day.

The theme of availability which is furthered by celibacy is usually crudely understood as one having the time to respond at a moment’s notice to the urgent needs of our people. While this is certainly a partial definition, it has a far more pervasive scope. The premise that “no wife and no children” equates to a freedom to serve fails if the celibate fills the vacuum with selfish preoccupations. He must be wary of becoming the proverbial old and angry bachelor. He must place the needs of his people and the demands of God before strictly personal pursuits that give pleasure. A physical creature of desires and passions, he might place the love of entertainment or traveling or drinking or eating before his role as servant. He might also begin to waste time with unhealthy rumination about his choices, resenting the decisions he made or faulting the Church for his unhappiness. (I think this is where we discover a number of aging dissenters and those who abandon their ministry and/or break their promises.) Availability is not simply time management or sitting around like Bruce Wayne waiting for the Bat signal to call him to the rescue. The celibate priest makes Christ available to the People of God. While a husband and wife encounter the Lord through the symbolism of their bodies; the priest is wedded to the Church and facilitates our meeting with Christ through his priesthood and in the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This assignment or coming together is best furthered when there is no distraction. Just as the maleness of the priest speaks to his role as an icon for Christ, so too in a lesser manner does his celibacy resonate with the life of our Lord. He has nowhere to rest his head. He looks around at the vast crowds of searching humanity and laments that they are like lost sheep needing a shepherd. Even when he seeks out deserted places to pray, they find him out and he responds with teaching them of God’s love, healing, forgiving and feeding them. He also fights for them, knowing that the devil is like a prowling beast, ready to devour them. The urgency of the priests who share in the high priesthood of Christ is that they must be ever on guard to do battle. Indeed, the battle never stops. He crushes sin with the extension of his hand and the words of absolution in the Confessional.  He makes present the saving presence and sacrifice of Christ at the altar.  On the road or in a chapel, he says his prayers, giving God his due and interceding for his flock. Alone in his bed he clutches his rosary, still throwing himself completely into the burning hearts of Jesus and Mary. He begs that he might be consumed so that souls might be saved.  Not in an exclusive relationship to one person, but to the Mystical Body of Christ, his whole life finds meaning with the proclamation, “I am totally yours!”