Thursday, June 3, 2010

For Annie, On Her Birthday

Though middle school and high school boys (and many of their fathers) find it difficult to believe, celibacy is a great gift given to priests.  It permits them in a very real way to offer themselves wholly and unreservedly to God through service to his people.  Through celibacy a man lives in a concrete way the mystery of the union with God we hope to experience in heaven while simultaneously witnessing to that reality in the world.  In a word, celibacy is the way in which a priest loves.  Anyone who has ever really loved has learned that love always demands sacrifice.  

For me, and I suspect for my brother priests, the sacrifice of celibacy is not really about the sexual act itself.  Rather, it is tied to the fact that we will never enjoy fatherhood and family life in the same way as most of our peers.  For this reason, just as families need priests to provide the sacraments for them, inspire them, teach them, and lead them, so too do priests need families to inspire them, spur them to deeper holiness, image the love of God in the world, and witness to the power of love that sacrifices itself for the good of another.  There are many such families who provide this witness to me, and they know very well who they are.  I expect I will receive some gentle ribbing because they haven't been mentioned by name here, but tonight, having just parted company with them, I am thinking in a particular way of the Jacques and Annie Daniel Family.

I love to visit the homes of families, and never turn down an invitation if I can avoid it.  Oftentimes, though, when visiting a family, I get the sense that they assume that I am always on top of my game and that I have got this whole priest thing figured out.  Sometimes they assume I have the whole marriage thing figured out too.  In a sense, the way that I speak, the way that I act, and the general manner in which I approach life serve as a measure of goodness, and truth, and righteousness for these families.  They are right to do this.  To look at one's priest this way is appropriate.  If the priest is really alter Christus, another Christ, people should have a right to expect that he models a godly life.  The problem is this: I am not always a very good representation of our Lord.  

As with all of us, I am still a man on the way.  Sometimes, I need to be reminded of this fact.  The Daniels seem to grasp this reality instinctively.  They grasp how it is that I can be father to them while also recognizing the father I am called to be.  In other words, they look to me to be their priest in the present moment while still encouraging me to become the priest God intends me to be.  They call me higher.  In a similar way, they can make a distinction that many priests still cannot.  A priest is a priest, even when he is trying to relax.  Being at their house "off the clock" doesn't  absolve me of my duty to be a priest always and everywhere, but they also recognize that I am often with them because I need a place to go where I can be "off the clock."  I am not looking for a place where I can "just be Tyler."  I am not just Tyler anymore.  I never will be again.  I do, nevertheless, appreciate having a place where I can just be Fr. Tyler.

The Daniels spur me to holiness not because they preach at me or because they read my soul and announce my sins to me.  Rather, they try to live their own married vocation faithfully, and the fidelity they show towards the life to which God has called them inspires within me a desire to be more faithful to the vocation to which God has called me.  The love they have for each other and their children fans the flame of love burning within my own heart.  In the time I spend with them, I vicariously share in the joys of parenting children and having a spouse.  Hopefully from me they are reminded that it really is all worthwhile.

And, to top it off, they make great tea, they stay up at least as late as I do, I have great fun with their kids, and after a day of homeschooling or a long day in the parish, we can all appreciate some conversation with another adult.    


  1. Best birthday present EVER. Thank you Fr. for such a beautiful description of our home and relationship with you. You are always welcome and indeed, show us it IS "worth it."
    I will look to this again and again when I need encouragement to keep on keepin' on.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you friend!

  2. "vicariously".... makes my canonist heart perk up :-)

  3. So glad I've stolen some time from this day to catch up with your blog, and especially posts like this one. (I may have to go to confession for this theft of daylight from the workweek...)


I appreciate your comments and thoughts. I do not appreciate vulgarity, attacks on me, the Church, or other people who comment. Comments of this variety will not be published.