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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 – Cooperation with Grace

It may be that most people in our world today are driven or owned by their instincts, compulsions, attractions, revulsions, drives, etc. The whole perfume and fashion industries are directed to that which lures and excites, particularly in a sexual way. While controversial, there is work being done in the area of human pheromones. There is also a mysterious arbitrary element in all this. We even have a saying about it, “Love is in the eye of the beholder.” Young people who fall in love are often regarded as “love sick,” obsessed with the beloved and struggling with impaired judgment. Hormones and chemistry go mad, for men and women. The married man must insure that his feelings do not stray from his spouse to another.

The celibate priest is not immune to all this, but he cannot give in to it. This may sometimes mean a tremendous internal battle. The priest must keep his promise of celibacy when it is easy and when it is very hard. Sharing his struggle with God in prayer can make all the difference. We are attracted to beauty. We naturally want to escape ugliness. Nevertheless, we have laity and clergy that bring light into the dark side of life, caring for the poor, the sick, and the dying.

I once worked at the Washington Home for Incurables where we had a brain damaged adult living in a playpen. Another had half a head and a compromised brain. I remember one nineteen year old volunteer who exited the building crying, repeating again and again, “I can’t do it!” She felt very guilty. The priest knows that sometimes you have to witness to a nightmare world. There is much confusion and temptation.  You cannot act upon every inclination. You cannot chase after passions that refuse to be satiated in this world. You cannot run away from every fear. You cannot have everything you want and you will encounter things you had not bargained upon. Men desire the intimacy of the flesh, the comfort of a home and a family that loves them. This is all fine and good. But it is not the life of a celibate priest. His is a restless spirit that only finds peace in Christ. He belongs to the Lord and to his flock.

The priest makes a certain distance to protect himself. He can become too attached. Men are not animals; the celibate priest demonstrates that the passions can be tamed and redirected. Goals can focus upon the kingdom and its breaking upon us in this world. He places the emphasis upon mind and will. This is not simply a matter of self-discipline but of cooperation with grace. Celibacy is given its value from God who is strong where we are weak.