Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Celibacy- a Way of Loving

A Celibate way of Loving-- my testimony
There are many today crying out for the abolishment of Celibacy as a way of living for the Catholic clergy. They say it leads to loneliness, to frustration and to sexual abuse. Might I add something of my own experience to the debate.

It came as a light in the darkness to discover that in Christian terms celibacy is not to be seen as a restriction, but as one of the charismatic gifts which has its source in divine love. Unless it continues to drink from that well-spring of grace, it may indeed be a legalistic burden and we might as well abandon it. The priest who is frustrated and angry with what he perceives as a mere legal requirement for priesthood is on a road to nowhere.

It may as well be noted that celibacy is not a way for religious and clergy only. The unmarried are bound by this same condition, and if married people are to live by the strict rule of their Church, they find themselves having to abstain from sexual intercourse for certain and often long periods of their lives. So this is a far wider issue than one might at first sight think. And over all this range of living,-- love and relationship must prevail.

Celibate clergy think of themselves as signposts to the Kingdom of God, pointing out the heavenly way. But they must not be wooden signposts with wooden hearts. Priests should be Princes of love showing a way to relationship that is at once totally human and authentically divine.

Christian celibacy lays down a clear distinction between sexuality and genitality. The celibate person is of course a sexual being and is called to rejoice in the wonder of his being, but with the grace of God and the discipline of a maturity, he does not stray into the area of genital sex. The lives of several Catholic saints tell of beautiful and holy celibate relationships between people like Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal. Look up that delightful book: To Heaven with Diana -- the story of the two Dominicans, Jordan of Saxony, the successor of St Dominic and Blessed Diana. When he travelled to preach the Gospel, Jordan carried Diana in his heart and longed to get back to her. His love for her enabled him to be a loving presence to all he met on the way.

To everyone, single or married, cleric or lay, applies the basic text of Scripture: It is not good for man to be alone. That sacred word seems to go contrary to the one so many priests heard in the seminary: Nunquam solus cum sola-- Never be found alone with a woman!

A Dominican Provincial, Fr. Damian Byrne now gone from this world told me that he was fed up with alcoholics and workaholics under his care and wished that every of them had a good woman of God in their lives. Before all the world, I confess that while being madly in love with my Lord Jesus and rejoicing in my celibacy, I make no secret of the fact that God has sent such a woman into my life. And because of her, I love and relate to all others in an ever more delightful way. Because of her, I love the wider commuity and experience being loved by others in a holy and wholesome new way.Cherchez la femme. -- Look out for the woman should no longer strikes a note of trouble, but be seen as divine command and bring with it a fruitful blessing!
Some time ago, wanting to develop the above theme, I had the nerve to write a book entitled: A Celibate way of Loving. Not being able to compose a whole treatise, like St. Francis de Sales, I hit on the idea of putting it in the form of short pieces with the subheading: Letters to the Beloved. If you can't find it in he bookshops, I would happily send you a copy. Contact me at: The Dominican Priory, Tallaght Village, Dublin 24, Ireland or at: 15 Brett Ave. Lurgan Northern Ireland BT66 6HZ

1 comment:

Convenor said...

Dear Father,

We would be very glad if you could let your readers know about our blog:


You would be most welcome to link/follow/blogroll to it.

Would you mind letting them know about the latest issue of our newsletter:


It might also be interesting to read the latest installment of our series on the traditional customs of Sweden:


Happy Christmas!

St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association (Ireland)