Looking at celibacy today means looking beyond present day culture, beyond the violent and the erotic strands of contemporary culture, to the way we respond to God with generosity. It concerns the way in which we place our whole person before the Lord, asking Him to irrigate us with His love. Indeed, Adoration brings about a virginal love for Jesus.
Pius XII in his Letter Haurietis Aquas spoke about the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the kinds of love which that Heart expresses: emotional, spiritual and divine - all these 'loves' are united in His heart. It is this heart which the priest is called in imitate through an integrated interior life. Another way of saying this is "maturity". St Paul describes such a person in Galatians 5:52; a mature person, a person who has integrated Christ into his or her personality expresses the fruits of the Spirit. The Blessed Mother is the first person in the Church who expresses all the fruits of the Spirit in a perfect way. Indeed, Galatians 5:52 can be said to be a portrait of her soul.
What then are the characteristics which a priest is called to live is personality?
Self-effacement. The opening up of pastoral relationships to the presence of God without any possessiveness; being totally attentive whilst at the same time being reserved so that God can enter into the relationship. In other words, the priest is called to pave the way for the spousal relationship between Christ and the Church. So, in a completely real sense, the priest is "Father".
Tenderness. Being totally human in contact with people, whilst at the same time being totally chaste. We see Jesus being like this throughout the Gospel. The whole world saw JPII being like this also. Being tender in our relationships is costly because of our sinfulness; we have to allow God to prune us so that we can better be His instruments. If we are pure in ourselves, then we will better be able to carry other people's crosses. But the fact is that we do have the human capacity to receive Christ and to take Him to ourselves so that His life becomes our life.
Surely this speaks volumes about the renewal of the Priesthood in our time!
St John Vianney, pray for the renewal of priests.