Priestly celibacy is seen as a “brilliant jewel” when we have a good understanding of both the call to celibacy and what it represents as well as a good understanding of ourselves. The vocation to the priesthood necessarily involves a related call to live a chaste celibate life for the sake of the Kingdom of God (c.f., MT 19:12). In a culture that is increasingly obsessed with immediate gratification, many have difficulty understanding celibacy as a gift and therefore struggle to understand a man’s call to the priesthood. Many in the world look at celibacy as something that must be endured rather than as the gift to be received that it is.
Consecrated celibacy unites the priest more closely with Christ for the priest more perfectly witnesses his love and faithfulness to his bride, the Church. Jesus, who lived a celibate life Himself, offered his total self for His Body, the Church. How beautiful it is for the priest to offer every part of himself, in unity with Jesus Christ the eternal high priest, to the Father for the salvation of souls and the glorification of the Church. In this sense, it is not so much of a “giving up” but a complete love, a “total consecration” to God, His Church, and to the eternal. Rather than a withholding or a self-denial, consecrated celibacy is self-giving to the wonder of the God whom we adore. Pope Paul VI rightly points out that the call to “celibacy is and ought to be a rare and very meaningful example of a life motivated by love” (Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, n. 24).
A celibate life provides the opportunity for solitude. Husbands and wives share a mutual solitude with one another. For the priest, his solitude is filled by his openness to God; when the priest allows God to fill the space of solitude, he is never lonely. He lives a life of love of God and neighbor. The intimacy of his relationship with the Lord who calls him to live and to love as a celibate man is so profound and so personal that it is difficult to express how this call came to be and was heard. Much like the call to the priesthood, the call to live chaste celibacy is the fruit of a personal encounter with the living God. The call is born in the solitude of the encounter with God and, lived faithfully, it allows for and nurtures that solitude and intimacy with God.
From that intimate relationship with the Lord flows a love for the members of His Body, the Church and the pastoral sensitivity to be an alter Christus to all of them.