Celibacy— from cælibatus and cælebs and the indo-european roots, means alone-living, that is, living alone, or, at least, unmarried. This is simply descriptive of that which we see in this world. If it is without a spiritual dimension, celibacy is sterile, cold, lonely, something which positively rejects the way God made us. Here is where some of those in Holy Orders limit their understanding, and whine about loneliness and lack of fulfilment, begging to have a physical marriage in this world, or putting themselves in de facto concubinage, i.e., the state of being with someone in one’s cubo (in Latin), that is, “cube” or hut or shack. “Shacking up” is simply a translation of concubinage. A concubine, then, is the person with whom one lives without the benefit of marriage. Celibacy, living alone, is the most unfortunate word to be used for the marriage of the priest to the Bride of Christ, for this is hardly living alone, or being in an unmarried state. The priest is to be married to the Church. He must understand that, or he’s in deep trouble. And if he’s in trouble, others are as well. To avoid misunderstanding, the words for the sake of the kingdom of heaven are added from Matthew 19,12, the passage about Eunuchs (which will be discussed further on in this series, please God).
Now, did I mention whining above? Perhaps I shouldn’t tread so roughshod over those who never had anyone to invite them to a deeper understanding of their marriage to the Church through the Sacrifice of the Mass they offer daily. I suppose one can be so enthusiastic that others come to know the awesome love that celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God entails that one gets a bit carried away.
It’s just that I remember when I was much younger than I am now, during one of the first trips of Saint John Paul II to the United States, that a priest was chosen by some Federation of Priests or other to address the Holy Father in the name of all the priests of the United States. “Speak for yourself!” I exclaimed to the television. He went way, way, way over time. No one knew what to do. 15 minutes. 20 minutes. Half hour. 35 minutes. 40. John Paul was most patient throughout the most whining diatribe of cloudy thinking imaginable. The priest’s biggest gripe was that priests are soooooooooooo loooooooooonely. Yep. I bet that’s true… for those who don’t know that they are married to the Church. Anyway, this fellow, although American, was very, very Irish. Finally, he finished. All looked for the response of Pope John Paul. What could he say after this diatribe, this whining, all this “Boohoohoo!” Knowing the priest was Irish, Saint John Paul II simply said — quoting the popular song — “It’s a long way to Tipperary!” Muffled laughter was heard throughout the crowd. JPII is awesome! Here’s the greatest Irish singer ever, ever, singing “It’s a long way…”
Meanwhile, Jesus on the Cross, cites Psalm 22, “My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?” Lonely, in the very moment when His self-giving to His Bride, the Church, is complete? No. Look at the rest of Psalm 22, and discover the wonderful filial unity with His Father, the trust, respect, the love. No, really, look up Psalm 22 and read it right through. I dare you. This is important. This is the heart and soul of our redemption, of our salvation, of Jesus’ marriage with His bride, the Church. This is the very moment when He is drawing all to Himself. Here is the completion of the wedding vows of the Last Supper which priests offer daily: This is my body given for you in sacrifice, my blood poured out for you in sacrifice. If priests don’t get this, they are absolutely dead in the water. Done. This is the Mass they offer. This is their marriage with their bride, the Church. If they don’t understand the Mass they offer, they are absolutely dead in the water. Done.
Save celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, save the priesthood.
Save the liturgy, save the priesthood.