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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: Answering My Call

When I entered the seminary thirty-five years ago, we had a religious sister on the formation staff. New in the program, and just out of high school, I was filled with uncertainty and anxiety about the promise of perpetual celibacy that one day I would be expected to make. I came from a family with loving parents, four brothers and two sisters. When I pondered my future it was almost always an imagining of a wife and children. I told sister this, long with my priest-spiritual director, and in unison they told me something that has stayed with me to this very day: “The best priests are those men who would have made loving spouses and nurturing fathers.” Long had I struggled with a call to vocation, largely because of deep-seated convictions— promises were meant to be kept.

I looked at my brother seminarians with a certain suspicion. Perhaps I was gullible, but the prospect that some of them might be gay did not immediately occur to me. No, my preoccupation was really over my personal struggle and how (by comparison) so many of them seem untroubled by the prospect of lifetime celibacy. Of course, I later learned that many of them kept their sexual struggles private and secret. A number would eventually leave the formation program, having ascertained that the priestly life was not for them. Others had real problems and addiction. Personality flaws would sometimes emerge. Instead of making me more confident, I became increasing conscious of my own weaknesses and shortcomings. Was I all that different from the men who left seminary? Despite my uncertainty, I tried to stay open and honest about my struggles. I was no unfeeling robot. Every pretty girl that came around pulled at my heartstrings. But I was determined that I would maintain my virginity, bringing it one day either to the marriage bed or to the altar.

As the years passed my reflection moved to the other promise that priests made, obedience to the bishop and God. I really hated being told what to do. I was always critical. It seems to me in hindsight that obedience is the most essential pledge of all because it contains within it every other priestly obligation: to celibacy, to prayer, and to service.

Much to my surprise, eight years after entering the seminary, I found myself standing before the archbishop, being ordained a priest. I am a normal man; but a quarter of a century into my priesthood, I can proudly say that I have kept my celibacy as I had promised. I have done as I was told. I am the Church’s man. Most priests ordained during these many years are also faithful and still in ministry. A number of my old classmates and others around the country have left ministry. They got married. Some even got divorced. I am disappointed. I pray for them. But a man cannot walk in another man’s shoes, only his own. God is their ultimate judge, not me. (The law of the Church says that a priest must be shod or wear shoes when he offers the Mass.) I am happy in my shoes and where I have walked. I hope that one day my shoes will take me the casket where I will be arrayed in my vestments for one last time. It is my trust that brother priests will say, he did his duty— he was a good priest.