Celibacy, Prayer and Obedience

When a future priest is ordained a transitional deacon, he is asked by the ordaining bishop if he has resolved to remain celibate for the sake of the kingdom and in lifelong service to God and mankind.

Celibacy is a gift from God which allows a man to love with an undivided heart, setting him apart to participate in a unique role within the mission of the Church. The celibate man willingly forgoes marriage for the sake of God’s Kingdom where he chooses to radically imitate Christ. Though a gift, celibacy must be nurtured by and grounded in prayer and healthy relationships. A celibate lifestyle certainly is counter-cultural and challenging, yet Jesus Christ strengthens those he calls with the necessary grace to persevere. In the words of Pope Paul VI, celibacy is “an answer of love to the love which Christ has shown us so sublimely.”

A priest also promises to maintain and deepen a spirit of prayer, faithfully praying the Liturgy of the Hours for the Church and the whole world. The Liturgy of the Hours is the ancient prayer of the Church which consists primarily of the praying of psalms. Since early days, monks prayed at different times of the day as a means to sanctify their day, and over time, this practice developed into official hours of prayer throughout the day. Every priest commits himself to pray this official prayer of the Church which is generally prayed five times a day.

Lastly, every priest promises obedience to his ordinary (bishop) and his successors. As the promise is made, the priest kneels with his hands together and the bishop wraps his own hands around the hands of the man being ordained. This promise is grounded in the firm conviction that the Holy Spirit continues to guide the whole Church and that through it, the whole body of the Church can remain united. Obedience to one’s bishop ensures a common vision in the Church. Truly a liberating experience, obedience frees a man from his own worries and pettiness in order to fulfill his role in the larger picture of God’s Kingdom.

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