Thursday, May 03, 2007

Priests In Love

Sometime last year I was strolling through Borders, one of my favorite pastimes. As usual, I was wandering through the store and looking at all of the new releases. Eventually, I made my way over to the religion and spirituality section and I stumbled upon a book entitled Priests In Love. “Interesting,” I thought to myself; “I wonder what this is all about.”

So, I took the book off the shelf and began to peruse it, reading the back cover, looking at the contents, and skimming the pages. As soon as I read the back cover, however, I quickly realized that this was an anti-celibacy book. In the book, the author critiques celibacy while highlighting priests who have fallen away from their promise. After reading through some of the book, I came to the conclusion that the author came up with a wonderful title but with all the wrong content.

Priests In Love is a very fitting title for a book about the priesthood because priests are called to be men in love. But to use this title for a book about priests who have fallen out of love with Jesus and the Church and into love with a woman misses the point. You see, celibacy is not simply a way to live; it’s a way to love. The man who is called to be a priest should be in love with Jesus Christ; in fact, as St. Paul wrote, it is the love of Christ that should impel us to love others. Celibacy enables the priest to open his heart to the intimacy of Christ’s love. And as a priest comes to know the love that Christ has for him, he in turn is able to love the people who are entrusted to him in his ministry. One of the ways priests make the love of Christ present to others is through living chaste celibacy, just as Jesus himself lived.

Why else would a man decide to be a priest if not for love? When a man who is called to the priesthood comes to know the depths of Christ’s love for him, he finds within himself a desire to give his life completely to Jesus Christ. For any man who is discerning the priesthood, for any seminarian, and especially for any priest, it is vital to see celibacy as an invitation to love like Christ. This does not mean that a priest does not experience temptation, or that he is exempt from normal human emotions and attractions. However, if a priest does not see celibacy as a way to love, then it will be felt as a burden not a gift.

The priest, Pope John Paul II wrote, is the living and transparent image of Christ the Priest. Celibacy, then, is a way for a priest to be Christ’s living and transparent image to others. Celibacy is a gift, and when fully embraced and lived it leads to tremendous spiritual fruitfulness in the Church and also to incredible fulfillment in the life of the priest who is living it.


Blogger Zdenko said...

Well put! - Z

May 6, 2007 at 3:02 PM  
Blogger faithfulfreddie said...

Your posting sounds suspiciously similiar to a homily I heard this morning at All Saints Parish in Woonsocket....hmmmm. I was glad to note that you did not include in your posting the comment, paraphrasing you "I don't want to criticize my fellow priests who were mentioned in the book." Critize them? You should have distanced yourself from them. You should have denounced them. That is just the type of doublespeak that was expected. Sorry, but you need to sharpen your message and be a spokesman for the Church Militant, not the Church Milktoast. Now, rewrite the stump speech, and try it again. PS, there is more celebacy among married men that so-called celebates!
PPS, it doesn't help your position when pastors are indiscrete in their "friendships." When will Fenner Street, oops, I should say, Gate of Heaven, clean up shop?

May 6, 2007 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 7, 2007 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Firstly, I would like to second "zdenko," in commending Fr. Najim for a job well done.

Secondly, I would like to address a few concerns I had when reading "faithfulfreddie's" comment. What is most surprising is that Freddie thinks the Church is some type of dictatorial aggressor, which apparently condemns those who make mistakes. When Fr. Najim said he did not want to criticize his fellow priests mentioned in the book (I was not there, I am working off of Freddie's post) he was most probably saying he did not want to judge their sins. Moreover, as a priest--as the altra-Christi--it is his duty to forgive those who have distanced themselves from Holy Mother Church. Do we honestly want priests condemning each other in public, along with condemning the sin-savvy laity? Also, I don't see what was wrong with Fr. Najim's humble approach to ascribing priests as men of love. Did Christ not have healthy, loving relationships with His Blessed Mother and His apostles? Freddie, I am sorry to say, but your argument seems to favor an arrogant method of teaching, and I pray that you will understand that the Church encompasses nothing arrogant or self-serving.

I'm not sure what you're talking about with priests being "indiscrete" in their friendships, but I am certain that priests should be most outward with love. I neither condone nor advocate a priest kissing every congregation member as he walks down the procession aisle, but what is wrong with healthy, relational love? Have you not seen the aesthetic ecstasy John Paul II gave off every second he walked into a room? He was a man of love! And so too should every priest; nay- every human being be a man of love.

It seems as though the comment Freddie made was more of an ad-homminem attack on the priestly life, attacking Fr. Najim because he is celibate. I pray Freddie's view will change.
*NOTE, the post before this had errors; this is the same post.

May 7, 2007 at 4:14 PM  
Blogger Fr.Michael Najim said...

I'm not sure who faithfulfreddie is. Obviously, you were at the Mass that I preached at All Saints because my blog this week was the same message I used for my homily; I just posted it in advance of the weekend.

After a man has been ordained for a few years, inevitably he will know another priest who leaves the ministry. This is a sad moment for any priest. My point in saying that I didn't want to condemn my brother priests was that I didn't want to make their indescretions the focus of my homily. The homily was about the the priesthood, specifically focusing on celibacy as a way to love. I pray for priests who have left and I entrust them to the love and mercy of the Lord. He will take care of his way and his time.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am completely faithful to the Church and have absolutely no fear preaching what the Church teaches. So, I don't belong to the Church Milktoast. Nice try, though.

So, faithful freddie, you missed the point. I would say this, however: your tone is evidence of some frustration and anger in your heart. People are not led to Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, through anger. If you want to lead people to Christ, you first must love them. Once they know they are loved, then they are more open to being challenged to change.

Trust priest I frequently challenge people, but I always first try to love them.

May 7, 2007 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger Sir Timothy said...

As a future college seminarian, the issue of celibacy is a complex and intricate one that I will need to face as my formation (God willing) continues through college and maybe even into major seminary. As an eighteen year old male, the idea of going to college and also adopting a celibate seminarian lifestyle blows my mind. However, what is equally astounding is that I feel completely at peace with the concept. Perhaps it is because I currently feel drawn to the Catholic priesthood. I believe the main reason that I am at peace with the idea of celibacy is because it really is a way of loving that is pure and untainted. One does not need to be qualified by biology to be called a Father, and the priesthood is a great example. An ordained man can be all things to all people, and can have a spiritual family that is united under the one true Father. That, all by itself, is truly awesome.

May 8, 2007 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger nicholas said...

I think we should all pray for faithfulfreddie.

May 11, 2007 at 7:57 PM  

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