“Some . . . have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”
In the Church celibacy is seen as a preparation for the kingdom of heaven where angels and saints “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (cf. Matthew 22:30). Christ Himself was celibate, giving His life for the Church, His spouse (rf. Ephesians 5:21-33). So, in the Church, priests, friars, monks, deacons and even laypersons who are celibate and chaste imitate Christ in preparation for the kingdom of heaven. Does this mean that those who marry are living in sin? Of course not. Jesus Christ Himself instituted marriage as a Sacrament (rf. Matthew 19:10-12). Saint Paul said, “But if thou take a wife, thou hast not sinned” (1 Corinthians 7:28). It should be noted that this is not dogma and several popes and bishops have noted. The Latin Church may not normally ordain married men as priests, but the Eastern Churches do. The canonical discipline of clerical celibacy can change and has changed; until modern times many priests were married; even some popes were validly married. In the Middle Ages that changed though as many had grievances about an aristocratic priesthood and the fact there’s little money in the priesthood.
It makes sense that clerical celibacy would be emphasized as Saint Paul said, “He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God” (1 Corinthians 7:32). It is easier for an unmarried man to serve God and His Church because there is less on his schedule and less a distraction, though the Church has never claimed this makes a married priesthood sinful, otherwise the Roman Church would not recognize many Eastern Catholic priests as holding positions in the Church.
In the early days of Christianity we do see married priests; it may be difficult for some, but many have managed it. Saint Hippolytus said the following about married priests.
“About the time of this man, bishops, priests, and deacons, who had been twice married, and thrice married, began to be allowed to retain their place among the clergy. If also, however, any one who is in holy orders should become married, Callistus [a bishop of Rome] permitted such a one to continue in holy orders as if he had not sinned.” (Refutation of All Heresies 9:7)
Socrates Scholasticus mentions a lack of canon law against married priests.
“In the East, indeed, all clergymen, and even the bishops themselves, abstain from their wives: but this they do of their own accord, and not by the necessity of any law; for there have been among them many bishops, who have had children by their lawful wives, during their episcopate.” (Ecclesiastical History 5:22)
As mentioned earlier a growing number of young men do not want to get married; this is a great opportunity to recruit them to the priesthood. Don’t be push, especially those who want to get married though. Yet, it never hurts to bring up an alternative career if they become interested. I pray for an increased number of vocations every day especially when I pray the Rosary. The USCCB recorded a large increase of ordained priests; there are 20% more seminarians ordained this year than last year alone. The link can be found here: http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/3799/Report_20_increase_in_number_of_men_to_be_ordained_priests_in_2015.aspx
Let us pray for an increase in vocations. The Church always needs more priests to confer and administer the Sacraments.
Life is your gift to me,
Through Baptism you invite me to share
the gift of my life in service to others.
Be with me as I choose each day to show
Your presence in our world.
Give me the courage and generosity to
respond to Your love, to Your call.
I pray especially for those who serve you as
Priests, Brothers, Sisters, Deacons and Lay Ministers.
Open the minds and hearts of many other
men and women that they may accept
Your challenge to build the Kingdom.
Loving God, you have made me in Your image and likeness,
and for this I shall praise You forever.
Through baptism Your invite me to serve as Your son Jesus served.
I offer You this day all that I have and all that I am
in union with His saving cross.
Father, in the power of the Spirit,
You send us forth to build up Your kingdom.
I pray especially for those whom You are calling
to serve the church as priests, deacons, sisters and brothers.
Help them to hear and answer Your call to discipleship.
The harvest is plenty, but laborers are few.
Please provide for us men and women
who will help to gather in a great harvest of souls.
I make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.