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February 11, 1994     The Message
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February 11, 1994
 

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11, 1994 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 5 "- Bishop's Forum & Weeks articles bPeared in the public a number of our resigned from of the priesthood. as been made to of this issue at --Priesthood: Some personal thoughts our Diocesan Synod last No- vember. Celibacy--Gift, Goad and Glory As the Publisher of the Mes ByFATHER EUGENE DEWIG nal Twelve, He summoned tual direction the candidate for sage it not my intention to open the issue of priestly celibacy to public debate. On the other hand, two of our ac- tive priests have submitted their own personal thoughts and those of another on priestly celibacy and priestly holiness. I am presenting their contributions in this forum. I urge you to give them serious consideration. I wish to thank them for their willingness to express themselves from the context of their own prepara- tion for and lived experience of priestly life. When God gives a child to parents, it's a gift precious in- deed. But it is also a burden and a responsibility. So, too, the gift of celibacy to the Catholic priesthood. In today's Church, a celibate clergy, re- quired of priests of the West- ern Rite, is in the news and under widespread discussion. For some, celibacy is seen as the root cause of sexual mis- conduct, as well as the under- lying reason for fewer priestly vocations, and the departure of priests from active ministry. Let's take another look. When Jesus called the origi- A proposal for priestly holiness Vatican II, is never tired of in- * I am afraid that all the Director I have Oranis Terra" publica- the Pontiff- nion. It is the the teachings and pas- Yes for the Sterium of the it publishes Holy See, ar- ogy, studies in regard- world, etc. tion for our were two and dill- many, many rs of sharing. part of fo- into practice ng the two the Faith the Octo- Terra". I Interesting T "Father An- of the Y He pre- Project for the Priestly hell- l for the is made by a Operation, I tel, when, an invi- in "African . I received a call from to answer Capable. the atten. in the the follow- ather, following sisting that the secret of evan- gelization is holiness. If a new saint like the Cure d'Ars is not born in Africa, Africa has no hope of resisting the invasion of western pagan- ism, which is threatening it from every side. But one must ask the grace to obtain saints from God and God will give them because Jesus taught us so when He said: "Your King- dom come!" If the priest in Africa is not a man of prayer and a teacher of prayer, his evangelization will be like a body without a soul. How many priests in Africa teach the youth how to pray? How many transmit to them practice of silence? How many are capable of leading the youth to the Pure sources of the Eucharist? Human and Social develop- ment is certainly an important and urgent work, but it will be deception if it is not born from a deep interior life. I dare to make present a serious problem: I think that in the seminaries, prayer is not taught enough. How many priest in Africa reach the priesthood without having learned the esteem for Silence and the need of remaining in the presence of God for a long time in prayer. The fact that true prayer begins after prayer and the fact that in the life of a priest everything must be changed into prayer is not taught with sufficient insistency. It is sad to note that a plague, that has already conta- minated so much of the west- ern clergy, is also attacking the clergy in Africa, that is the plague of a "diseased" Eu- charist, that is a Eucharist which is not the center of life, but only a negligible appendix. 8 t t t t g :Z Uthwestern Indiana The Bishop's Fund/ADA aore than a new name --- heated discussions on celibacy above all hide another real problem. The problem, I be- lieve, of the refusal of the cross: "If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself, take one's cross every day and follow Me." (Lk. 9:23) To often behind theological and pastoral reasons put forward to abolish the law of celibacy, there is a vast emptiness of inner life. One does not appreciate any more prayer, one does not cul- tivate any more friendship with Jesus. Then sacrifice is feared. Lack of the spirit sacri- fice leads to easy solutions. The liturgical life is the strength of the whole spiritual- ity of the priest in Africa. but if the liturgical life becomes a passing wind, how will the priest'sspiritual life be nour- ished and on what foundations will it be built? It is not enough to cele- brate Mass. It is not enough to recite the Breviary. It is ur- gently needed to understand and experience that the liturgi- cal life must nourish, convert and transform our lives as priests. If liturgy does not pro- duce any personal change and betterment, it will become a deception in the life of the priest. One of the first proofs of a true spirituality of the priest in Africa must be his solidarity with the poor. If the attraction of a comfortable life is predom- inant, if the fashion to parrot the bourgeois manifestations of the western life prevails, then it is clear that the spirituality of the priest in Africa has not taken root. Till the poor do not attract and interest us, our spirituality is sick. * If the new evangelization must mean a new Pentecost" (African Synod Instrumentum Laboris, n. 140) and an inva- sion of the Holy Spirit in the church, then it is urgently nec- essary that a deep renewal of the life of prayer be born in the African Church. Such renewal demands: saintly bishops, and priests, men of prayer, saintly religious persons, persons of prayer, saintly catechists, men and women of prayer, saintly spouses, spouses who know how to pray together, saintly young men and women, youth of prayer, saintly communities, which will be first of all com- munities of prayer. them in these words: "Come, follow me." (Mk. 1:17) His words are significant. As Jesus was celibate, could we not say, at least in an implied way, that He is inviting a celibate com- mitment? Later, after some trudging in His footsteps, Peter one day posed the question: "Behold we have left ALL, and followed you, what then shall we have?" (Mt. 19:27) Matthew records the answer: "Everyone who has left home, or brothers, or sis- ters, or father, or mother, or WIFE... for my sake, shall re- ceive a hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting." (19:29) Is this not a more ex- plicit call to celibacy, a full- time dedication to His service? Still earlier Matthew records the thoughts of Jesus concern- ing eunuchs. He said that some are born that way; some are made so by men, and some make themselves that way "... for the kingdom of heaven's sake." (Mt. 19:12) Granted the vocation to priesthood is not for everyone. A high and spe- cial calling, it exacts a type of restraint for the sake of the kingdom. Later, St. Paul would urge the same decision as he wrote to the Greeks at Corinth. An ideal for an ideal reason, Paul pointed out the practical side of celibacy: that one might be "undivided," and thus be concerned totally "... for the things of the Lord." (I Cor. 7:32) It didn't take Mother Church, aided by the Holy Spirit, long to grasp the wis- dom of St. Paul. MARRIAGE AND PRIESTHOOD ARE TWO DIFFERENT AND FULL-TIME CAREERS. To try to combine the two is to do in- justice to both. So, as early as 309 A.D., at the Council of Elvira (Spain), the Church en- acted the decree requiring celibacy. It was now the law, the condition, the gift accepted prior to priestly ordination. Was it then, and since, a cause for universal celebration? By no means! History shows ample evidence both of faithful acceptance and regrettable non-compliance. When one considers the lofty and special call to priestly min- istry, and, aware of the long, serious, thoughtful, prayerful and faith-filled reflection on this vocation, the demand for priestly celibacy "makes sense." It is not a commitment made in haste; it is not a charism facetiously accepted. I know no other career or life- work prepared for with more intense caution. Prior to ordi- nation the celibate condition is subject to years of trial.  It is the topic of regular and on- going conferences, retreats, prayer days, etc. The gift of one's genital sexuality to the service of Mother Church is not a triviality. It is not taken or given lightly. There is ample time for "testing." Mother Church clearly explains the "gift" as well as the "chal- lenge." After due deliberation the candidate is invited to make a generous "adsum." If the candidate feels unable to do so, he is advised to discon- tinue. With the help of spiri- ordination is given a full com- plement -- spiritual armor for the celibate life ahead. Fully aware of the human condition, he is reminded: 1) "Principiis obsta." (Avoid the beginnings of all wrong, dangerous, deviant or un- priestly tendencies; be faithful to your spiritual exercises.) Did not Jesus warn: "Watch?" (Lk. 21:36) 2) Keep busy at useful and ennobling occupations: prof- itable reading, study and ser- vice to others. 3) Work closely with a wise spiritual director, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation often. 4) Be part of a regular asso- ciation with brother priests, while limiting too frequent vis- its with laity. 5) Watch, that is, be selective in the choice of secular read- ing, especially print that shows contempt for authority, exalta- tion of the ego, materialistic, permissive and pagan themes, and, in particular, the count- less variety of assaults on sex- ual decency. 7) View TV discriminatingly. Where have we come from, and where are we in the 90s? Since WWI1 America has shown a marked disdain for personal discipline and whole- some restraint. Extreme per- sonalism is the vogue. The cry is: indulge, "do your own thing," repression is evil and harmful. At the same time youth is glorified; mrdhnd .... more it is given to ease with little exposure to "hard work " Early initiation into the cor- ruption of human sexuality, with all the endless abuses, has led mere children into early arousal and experiences of their sexual makeup. Many have noted it: our young peo- ple, spoiled with too much com- fort, pampered and coddled, are morally weak and emotion- ally fragile. This is evident by their self-assertive nature, ar- rogant, out-spoken and disre- spectful of any authority fig- ure. Any wonder that many youth have a problem with a Church that still believes in the value of basic obedience and deference to all God-given authority? Translate the post WWII baby-boomers into candidates for seminary training and priestly commitment, and what can we expect? Is not the gift of celibacy for many an in- tolerably galling disvalue? Is it not for many a downright un- fair and unreasonable de- mand? An unjust invasion of privacy? A sign that Mother Church is hopelessly out of touch with reality? Isn't a celi- bate priesthood a blatant af- front to the naive young who still think you can have the best of all worlds? The Cure d'Ars, patron of parish priests, said it well: "If the priest really understood the gift of the priesthood, he would die of joy.  At the very least he would recognize the wisdom of his investment: he gives so little to follow Christ, and in return has His promise of a hundredfold!