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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 – Weeping as He Prays

The Mass or Service for Marriage speaks of matrimony as the one blessing or gift given to mankind that was not forfeited by original sin or washed away in the flood. Those with noble and loving spouses regularly testify to their great joy. Just as this vocation has a great capacity for happiness and contentment; if something goes wrong, it conversely has the potential for devastating sadness and pain. One might argue, in this sense, that the sacrament of matrimony is more precarious than celibacy and entails sacrifices that it avoids. Indeed, it might seem that marriage can be more difficult than the life of a celibate priest. As one opens himself (or herself) to intimacy with another, the capacity for joy and sorrow increases. You cannot know true pain until you begin to love. If you want to avoid the worst sufferings, then the answer is to stop loving and caring. Of course, it would also mean that one would have to turn his back on living.

Any good mother will tell you that her child’s sufferings are her own. She is always afraid for her children. Spouses are called to a total offering of self for the beloved. But what happens when one gives and the other only takes? How can we really measure the pain that comes with coldness from a spouse, or worse yet, betrayal or infidelity? It takes two to make a marriage work. But the celibate priest has only himself. If he fails to keep his promises or stops loving as he should, he has no one to blame but himself. Of course, his vocation is informed by his celibacy as a particular way of loving. Celibacy is not a refusal to love but a way of loving unique to itself.

Every day the priest’s love must spill over like a waterfall in his loving service and prayer for others. Good priests try desperately to be holy so that they might be faithful to their charges and effective instruments for the perpetuation of Christ’s saving work. But, just as love brings both joy and sorrow to marriages; so too does it in his spiritual marriage to the Church and the family of faith. The priest laments his sins before the God he is supposed to love and to honor before all else. The priest weeps as he prays for his people, knowing both their sinfulness and indifference. The laity can be very cavalier about Mass attendance and the faith formation of their children. These attitudes wound the priest because he loves them. He wants them happy and holy. He wants them in right relationship with God. He gave up wife and family for them; and yet, sometimes it seems that they could not care less. Indeed, when asked about it by the media, they criticize the discipline and assert that the Church might be better off with married priests. Instead, their response should have been thankfulness that men loved the Lord and them so much, that they were willing to make real and perpetual sacrifices in love on their behalf.