Jesus, Mary and Joseph chose celibacy. The apostles chose celibacy. For centuries, priests and religious have chosen celibacy. So why in the 21st century has the call to celibacy been questioned to such a relentless degree?
“So much of modern secular society sees one’s identity in sexual expression and any fetters to this is seen as a great evil,” says Father Pius Pietrzyk, a Dominican Friar of the St. Joseph Province and a teacher and formation advisor at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University in Menlo Park.
“But we see celibacy as the solution,” says Father Pius, generally referring to the view of seminary educators and the larger church on celibacy as a supernatural gift of one’s whole self to the church – the people of God – for the purpose of loving and leading souls to God.
Father Pius candidly offers “celibacy is not a ‘natural’ option; men and women are created for one another and for the family and children.” He agrees it’s natural for people to want to fulfill these desires. Yet, without pause, he moves to the underpinnings of celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church.
“The celibate life has to be not a natural one but a supernatural one,” he explains, accentuating how celibacy must be rooted in the supernatural: “It’s essential.”
“Do students come in with struggles about celibacy? I’m absolutely certain they do,” Father Pius says, sharing real and practical truths. “They come from a world that is saturated with sex – it’s readily available. It’s the norm.” He concedes that society openly talks about casual sex as normal, good and accepted, and any idea of chaste living is disregarded within the realm of one’s vocation.
“Seminarians have lived in this culture,” he says, acknowledging that people develop patterns of “giving in” to culture whether simply accepting the prevalent attitude or in fact living it.
Father Pius says the process of discerning and choosing a celibate life is difficult and at times truly “a suffering,” just as the rejection of any worldly temptation in favor of living virtuously is often experienced as suffering. This is why the seminary prepares a candidate for many years to answer the calling confidently.
“We help seminarians understand that the answer is the cross,” Father Pius says, submitting that suffering is not a bad thing. “On the contrary, it’s a good thing,” he stresses, telling how candidates unite their sufferings to the cross and “that can be redemptive.”
“The celibates I know are neither angry or frustrated,” Father Pius says. “It doesn’t mean there aren’t struggles but by and large they’re happy with the life they’ve chosen. I think that the willingness to witness to Christ in celibacy and to find joy in it is probably the best evangelical tool we have.”
“The church needs to double down on its teaching about celibacy and its primacy to help highlight it,” Father Pius insists. “We have to be vocal about it and stop apologizing for celibacy, but rather point out this obsession with sexual expression which is so prevalent in modern culture.”
Full story at Diocese of Sacramento website.