Among the concerns young men have about a priestly vocation, celibacy sticks out as the most daunting demand. “I like girls too much to be able to give them up for the rest of my life,” many of us would say. If you share the same concern, do not worry, because many aspirants have shared the same struggle and gone on to become happy priests.
Pope Francis was one such aspirant. As a young seminarian, he met a young lady at his uncle’s wedding. “I was surprised by her beauty, the clarity of her intellect,” shared the pontiff in his book On Heaven and Earth. “When I returned to seminary, I could not pray during the entire week because when I prepared to pray, the young woman appeared in my head.” This led him to seriously reconsider his pursuit for the priesthood. But eventually, he chose once again to be a priest.
The pope was not afraid to share this story, because it is perfectly normal for a man to be interested in women. Such inclinations indicate that a priestly candidate is psychologically and emotionally sound, and therefore viable for the sacerdotal ministry.
The only issue is that celibacy is often misconstrued as sexual repression. It is not. Marriage is about giving up all the women in the world but one; celibacy is about giving up just one more. Celibacy frees a man to offer himself more completely to the Bride of Christ, the Church.
Do not fall for the lie that celibacy is unattainable or ridiculous. This lie comes from a secular, hedonistic culture, where sex is the way to happiness. But look: There are more than 400,000 celibate priests in our world today — a vast majority of whom testify that they are happy and satisfied with their lives.
Yes, you may not be ready for celibacy today, especially if you’re already struggling with chastity as it is. But with God’s grace, you can arrive at sexual purity. Our God does not abandon those whom he has called to drown in their own weaknesses. So let him work in you, and do not let your fears surrounding celibacy stop you from discerning a vocation to the priesthood.
Celibacy in the Scriptures
Giving up Family:
“And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29)
Freedom to Serve:
“Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage… Those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that… The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.” (1 Cor 7:27-34)
Celibacy for the Kingdom
“Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom it is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” (Matthew 19:11-12)
Here, Jesus emphasises that we should think of celibacy as a gift from God — not a demand laid on us. If this gift shall come from the hand of God, should we still doubt its power to transform us?