This week’s TOB (Theology of the Body) Tuesday topic was inspired by the recent ordination of a good friend of mine to the ministry of the priesthood. He is now Father Angelo Bartulica serving in the diocese of Kansas City/St. Joseph. It was a beautiful ordination celebrated by the always wonderful Bishop Robert Finn (**see video below).
Several months ago I came across this 1957 Mike Wallace interview with Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. In the interview, Wallace asks the birth control advocate what she thinks about the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception. In her response she objected:
How do they know? I mean, after all, they’re celibates.They don’t know love, they don’t know marriage
This is a common objection to the Church’s position on sexual morality. After all, what do a bunch of celibate bishops and priests know about sex and who are they to tell us what is or is not acceptable in the bedroom?
In the eyes of the world the celibate vocation has little to do with sexuality. In fact, more than anything, the world sees the celibate vocation as the antithesis of sexuality, an outright rejection of it, where one must live in a constant state of sexual repression. However, the call to Christian celibacy is a call to live out the very purpose and meaning of our sexuality. Christopher West explains:
Jesus calls some to remain celibate not for celibacy’s sake, but “for the sake of the kingdom” (Mt 19:12) – that is, as a living witness to the union that awaits us in heaven. Authentically lived, a celibate’s life proclaims that, as beautiful and wonderful as the union of the sexes is, there is a greater love, a greater union worth “selling everything” for.
Scripture reveals that God’s plan for mankind is to “marry” us (Hos 2:19) and “impregnate” us with His Divine Life. This is our ultimate destiny and the fulfillment of our sexual desire. The Christian call to marriage and conjugal union is meant to be a foreshadowing of this divine union whereas celibacy is the living out of this union on earth. Therefore, a celibate priest knows a great deal about love, sex and marriage – as it is ultimately meant to be experienced.
Through the Theology of the Body we learn that our bodies have a “spousal” meaning which is the body’s capacity for expressing love through total self donation. Both vocations – marriage and celibacy – are a response to this call to spousal love:
Relying on the same disposition of the personal subject, thanks to which man fully finds himself through a sincere gift of self (Gaudium et Spes, 24:3), man (male and female) is able to choose the personal gift of self to another person in the conjugal covenant, in which they become “one flesh,” and he is able to renounce freely such a gift of self to another person, in order that by choosing continence “for the kingdom of heaven” he may give himself totally to Christ. On the basis of the same disposition of the personal subject and on the basis of the same spousal meaning of being, as a body, male and female, there can be formed the love that commits man to marriage for the whole duration of his life (Mt. 19:3-9), but there can be formed also the love that commits man for his whole life to continence “for the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 19:11-12). This is what Christ speaks about in his whole statement addressed to the Pharisees (Mt. 19:3-9) and then to the disciples (Mt. 19:11-12).
–John Paul II — General Audience 4/28/82 (TOB 80:6)
Please pray for Angelo and all of our priests and consecrated celibates!
**Here is Bishop Finn’s excellent homily, given at Angelo’s ordination:
@ minute 14:
Your priesthood will be aided by the gift of priestly celibacy by which you are free to give yourself completely to the church with an undivided heart. In this way it will be clear that you belong entirely to Jesus Christ and your love for others will be at the same time deeply personal (?) and all embracing. Renew your confession of perpetual continence each day and you will be a source of strength for us all
@ minute 15:
In your priestly apostolate allow God to make you an instrument of justice and peace. Promote the dignity and respect of all human life, from its inception until natural death. Support with zeal those persons who have no voice of their own – the unborn, those with special needs, the aging and the dying. Defend the integrity of marriage and the family which, as the church teaches, are at the core of society.
If you are a member, you can see more pictures from Fr. Bartulica’s ordination in my facebook photo album.