The readings today mentioned celibacy. And I find myself particularly bothered by its assertion that to be free of marital affairs and duties is essential to the priesthood.
Intuitively, this assertion is sound. Imagine if the priest had a wife who constantly nagged at his spending so much time in the church and so little with the family. Imagine if his child was terribly ill or was transiting into a rambunctious adolescence, and required an extraordinary deal of attention. Imagine if his wife had to work especially long hours because the allowance afforded to priests by the Church is too measly to support the family. Truly, these are all very practical constraints. But to found the argument on practicality alone is to suggest that marriage is nothing but a burdensome and time-consuming affair. We know this is not true.
Though I have not the right speak much about marriage, I’m quite certain there is plenty to learn from it. More than a testament to love, marriage is a test of it. We hear all the time about couples whom before making their vows, danced about everywhere in the delight of love and warmth of emotion. But after the eternal promise is made, the problems begin to show. Sometimes, there arise bouts of petty bickering and other times a series of blatant blaming. But when finally their temper and fluster subside and they apologize to each other, they will come to experience the sacrificial nature of love – one which in the spring of youth is often marginalized by passion. They will realize that love is to see beyond the hurtful quibbling, to understand when all seems infuriatingly irrational and to accommodate in the most difficult times, and find within the other person what was once so cherished.
Marriage is a form of experience. It enlightens the naive definition of love. And if God were the quintessence of love, then to discover love in a marriage is really to discover God himself.
Many might be quick to say that love can come from other people as well and cannot be limited to the love in marriage. But just as one would not love his friend the way he would his wife, so also is the love in marriage quite different from the love in perhaps friendship.
This is what celibacy robs of the priests – a significant facet of the incredibly vast entity that is love. Yes, they may be free to spend every minute of the day in deep prayer and reflection, but they shall never be able to experience the love that is in marriage, in that miraculous unity of two strangers. And what is prayer formed by knowledge compared to prayer impelled by experience?
EDIT: Brandon was telling me how celibacy might result in a form of love for God that is as exclusive as that learnt from marriage. So I guess celibacy may well have its merits, and it is only that they remain unseen to those not bounded to its principle that we sometimes think it such a great pity to forgo the potential inherent in marriage.