Page last updated at 09:34 CST6CDT, Sunday, 30 June 2013 PH
I received a lot of positive feedback on an article I wrote about "Holy Priests." Most of those who wrote wanted to acknowledge the existence of numerous priests they personally know who are living exemplary moral lives. There was an abundance of testimonials to the lives of many priests who have been faithful to their vocation and have stood out for their personal sanctity and apostolic zeal. One email after another emphasized the generous response of numerous Catholic priests to the demands of a priestly vocation which includes the state of celibacy. The emphasis given by some of them to the importance of the state of celibacy among priests made me want to review the Encyclical Letter on Priestly Celibacy written by Pope Paul VI on June 24, 1967. This Letter cogently demonstrates the value of priestly celibacy, which has "been guarded by the Church for centuries as a brilliant jewel, and retains its value undiminished even in our time when mentality and structures have undergone profound change."
There was, however, a consensus that being a holy priest in today's very secularized environment is not a walk in the park. The grace of God is absolutely necessary. But the priest must exert every effort to keep his heart, mind, body and soul pure and chaste. He should take into account these words of Paul VI: "The priest must not think that ordination makes everything easy for him and screens him once for all from every temptation or danger. Chastity is not acquired all at once but results from a laborious conquest and daily affirmation. Our world today stresses the positive values of love between the sexes but has also multiplied the difficulties and risks in this sphere. In order to safeguard his chastity with all care and affirm its sublime meaning, the priest must consider clearly and calmly his position as a man exposed to spiritual warfare against the seductions of the flesh in himself and in the world, continually renewing his resolution to give an ever increasing and ever better perfection to the irrevocable offering of himself which obliges him to a fidelity that is complete, loyal and real. "
Like every ordinary baptized person, the priest is called to be a saint. The means he has to strive for sanctity are no different from those of the lay people: "Christ's priest will receive new strength and joy daily if he deepens in his meditation and prayer the motives for his gift and the conviction that he has chosen the better part. He will ask humbly and perseveringly for the grace of fidelity, never denied to those who ask it sincerely. At the same time he will use the natural and supernatural means at his disposal. In particular he will not disregard those ascetical norms, guaranteed by the Church's experience and no less necessary in modern circumstances than in former times."
He, too, as St. Josemaria Escriva, Founder of Opus Dei advises every Christian must "seek Christ, find Christ and love Christ." For the priest, celibacy is impossible without piety. Paul VI said this in no uncertain terms: "Priestly piety, nourished at the table of Gods' Word and the Holy Eucharist, lived within the cycle of the liturgical year, inspired by a warm and enlightened devotion to the Virgin Mother of the supreme and eternal High Priest and Queen of Apostles, will bring him to the source of a true spiritual life which alone provides a solid foundation for the observance of celibacy. When we pray for holy priests, we should pray that priests take into account and religiously apply all the advice contained here from Pope Paul VI. Our prayers will be rewarded by God with priests made unto the Sacred Heart of Christ. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.