TWO BEAUTIFUL VOCATIONS – MATRIMONY AND PRIESTHOOD
In the past it was said and maybe it is still being said today that when a priest gets married he leaves the church. The reality however is that married priests are pastorally active and working with basic christian communities.
I was a celibate priest for 17 years in Brazil. On one occasion during the Clergy meeting our Bishop said to us: “If you marry, choose well” – (“Se casar escolha bem”).
Today, after 37 years of married life, with two children and two grandchildren I can say that those words of the Bishop were very wise and profound.
I spent 7 years studying to be a priest in a seminary but it is my wife who has helped me to live out my priesthood. She has always encouraged me to do church work and together we have done a lot of pastoral work with small basic christian communities and prayer groups.
I come from an ordinary working class family and from the example of my parents I understand that marriage is a holy and beautiful vocation. I know that I have not lost my priestly and missionary vocation just because I got married. I am not suggesting that all priests should marry or that the marriages of priests are perfect. I personally know two married priests whose marriages were a failure, one is living on his own and the other is in a second relationship.
Like many people I love the Eucharist and I pray for its future, but it is its future that I worry about. If we look at the age of priests here in Ireland and other European countries we see that many of them are in their 70s and over. These are wonderful men doing a beautiful job but in 10 to 15 years who will carry on their work for the number of vocations to the celibate priesthood has dropped a lot? Celibacy is a real, deep and meaningful vocation but it is not the only way to serve Our Lord. We need, however, to plan for the future to make sure that the Eucharist will continue to be celebrated on a regular basis for our future generations and not become a museum piece. Our Lord’s words, “Do this in memory of me” must be taken seriously and if necessary make changes to Church law whereby suitable married women and men be ordained to the priesthood, and also, that priests who have already married be invited back to public ministry if they so wish.
Our Good Lord chose 12 Apostles, some of them were married and were holding down a job as fishermen. His successor Saint Peter was married, we know this from the Bible when Christ cured Saint Peter’s mother-in-law ( Saint Mark Ch. 1 Verse 29 – 31), so Our Lord saw no obstacle between marriage and priesthood.
The Irish church is preparing for a Synod. One of the subjects that should be discussed is the future of the Eucharist for you cannot build a community without the Eucharist. In the Catholic church we believe that priesthood is a very important part of its tradition and that without priests there can be no Eucharist. The Synod could discuss the relationship between matrimony and priesthood, that from good marriages married women and men can answer the call to priesthood.
Brian Eyre 7 – 6 – 2021