THE EXPERIENCE OF A MARRIED CATHOLIC PRIEST DURING COVID 19 LOCKDOWN
In the early stages of Covid 19 lockdown when the number of people that could be present in the church for Mass was reduced to a few I decided to celebrate Mass at home for my wife and myself, my wife is a high risk person with a health problem so that was why we decided to celebrate Mass at home. I could have left her alone at home to say her prayers while I went to church but when I married her I promised to be by her side “In sickness and in health until death do us part”.
The experience of celebrating mass at home just for the two of us was beautiful and it brought us closer to each other. Now that the restrictions have been relaxed and churches are now open to a bigger congregation we have returned to our Sunday community Mass in our local church.
The other day as I was coming out of the church from Mass a man approached me and said: “I cannot understand why people like you cannot say Mass in public especially now as there is a shortage of priests”. I confess I too cannot understand this as my love for the church and my desire to serve people is still as strong as ever it was when I was a celibate priest.
Yes there is now a place for my wife, my two children and two grandsons at the centre of my life, at the very core of my heart where once it seemed that only celibacy and canonical priesthood could abide but my love for the church is still there and very strong.
There is a brain- teaser which goes like this: You can be a married catholic priest and be in charge of a catholic parish if you started out as a married Anglican priest, but you cannot be a married catholic priest and be in charge of a catholic parish if you started out as a celibate catholic priest.
I was happy as a celibate priest and faithful to my vow of celibacy and could never imagine myself living a double life as sometimes happens. I met my wife doing pastoral work in shanty towns in my parish in Brazil. I decided to return to Ireland to pray about my relationship with her and so after four months in Ireland reflecting and in deep prayer I came to the decision that I wanted to carry on my life with her while at the same time doing pastoral work and taking on a civil job. Ever since getting married we have been doing pastoral work together with small Basic Christian Communities and prayer groups. I know some married priests who like myself would be willing to do public pastoral work, I also know some married priests who do not wish to return to public ministry.
Brian Eyre – 9th of October 2021 – Tralee