"He who is unmarried careth about the things of the Lord, how he may
please God" (i Cor. vii. 32).
THE Catholic Church recognizes matrimony as a holy state. She recommends
celibacy to those desiring greater perfection, and enjoins it on her
priests because, as St. Paul says, "He who is unmarried careth about the
things of the Lord." It is said that the life of the priest is a hard,
lonely one, and that it
is unscriptural. Let us see. That his life is
one of hardships is certain. His path is by no means one of roses; it is
rather one covered with thorns. The young man knows this well before he
enters it. With a full knowledge of its duties and responsibilities, he
willingly enters the priesthood. He knows well that it is a life full of
trials and crosses. He knows, too, that the whole life of Jesus Christ,
from the stable of Bethlehem to the cross on Calvary's heights, was one
continuous trial, cross, mortification; and that the life of every
follower, especially every minister, of Jesus Christ should be fashioned
after that of his divine model. "If any man will come after Me," He says
in the 16th chapter of St. Matthew, "let him deny himself, take up his
cross and follow Me." The disciple, the minister of Christ, is not above
his Master; and it is not becoming that the path of the disciple or
minister should be covered with flowers while that of the Master was
strewn with thorns and sprinkled with His own precious blood.
Yes, the priest's life is one of trials, crosses, and hardships. But the
more trials he has to bear, the more crosses he has to carry, the more
hardships he has to endure, the greater is his resemblance to his model,
Jesus Christ; and if he bears those trials, crosses, and hardships,
which he shares with his Master here, with a proper spirit, the more
certain he is of sharing with Him a happy eternity hereafter.
But is the life of celibacy unscriptural? No. In fact, few questions are
more clearly defined in Holy Scripture than that of religious celibacy.
St. Paul, in the 7th chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians,
says: "I would have you without solicitude. He who is unmarried careth
for the things of the Lord, how he may please God; but he who is married
careth about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and is
divided. And the unmarried woman and virgin thinketh about the things of
the Lord, how she may be holy in body and spirit. But she that is
married thinketh about the things of the world, how she may please her
husband. Therefore," he concludes, "he that giveth his virgin in
marriage doth well; and he who giveth her not doth better." Could
language be clearer? Marriage is good; celibacy is better.
"He that is unmarried careth about the things of the Lord, how he may
please God." This teaching of St. Paul is the teaching of the Church--
that marriage is honorable, is good, but that there is a better, a
holier state for those who are called by the grace of God to embrace it.
Religious celibacy is one of the principal reasons why the Catholic
priest and missionary will risk all dangers, overcome all obstacles,
face all terrors, and in time of plague expose himself to death in its
most disgusting forms for the good of his fellow-man.
All are acquainted with the noble examples of numbers of priests and
Sisters of Charity who, at the risk of their own lives, voluntarily
nursed the sick and dying during the yellow-fever scourge in the South a
few years ago. Do you think they would have done so had they families
depending upon them? No; they would have cared for the things of this
world. Jesus Christ has said: "Greater love than this no man hath, that
a man give up his life for his fellow-man." This the good priest is ever
doing, ever ready to do. Although death stares him in the face, he never
shrinks from his post of duty, never abandons his flock while there is a
wound to heal, a soul to save.
When his duty calls him, he is not afraid of death, because St. Paul
says: "He who is without a wife is solicitous about the things of the