Sunday, January 11, 2015

On Priestly Celibacy

"… Since you are to be ordained subdeacon, I wish to add a personal note on priestly celibacy. You see, we priests receive so much. Far more obviously than any layman, we are at the receiving end of God's bounty. The service of God provides our livelihood and security. We receive kindness and respect from those around us because we are God's priests. As though this were not enough, God showers grace and mercy on us in the measure that we are humble and holy. To receive so much so constantly produces its own problem. How can we tell that our love of God is disinterested, that we love Him for His sake and not for the benefits we receive for our service? How can I, Edmund Forester, console myself against the thought that I am a mere hireling and no true son? So much have I received! Well, I have made a sacrifice of the most fundamental urge I have. Also, it was not a sacrifice once made at my subdeaconate and then finished. It has had to be preserved every day of my priestly life. It is in this respect, in its constancy, that no other human sacrifice can compare with celibacy and virginity. Its primary purpose is to honour God, so that we who stand at the altar of His Sacrifice shall have made the most fundamental sacrifice we can. But its secondary use is to prove our good faith, not to others but to ourselves. As a matter of fact others will not call your good faith in question no matter how much they disagree with you. Even today [the year is 1977] the loyalty of the faithful to their priests is almost pathetic. Inevitably, however, you will doubt yourself. This is not easy to bear. It is then that you can remember your vow of celibacy. You have made a sacrifice. You have made a gesture which is totally disinterested. And you continue to make it every day of your life. Whatever your failings, at least you serve Him for His sake."
— Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook, 1979, pp. 145–146.