Objection Series: Celibacy or “You mean, no sex? Ever?”

As part of the Objection Series, I did not think I would be writing specifically about celibacy, although it can be an objection for parents.  I referred to celibacy in the Objection Series post: He’s throwing his life away!  I  was surprised to hear “You mean, no sex? Ever?” as the  very first objection from a well meaning friend responding to the news that my son was entering college seminary.

Now, I won’t begin to claim I have any understanding of celibacy as a discipline of the priesthood. There are so many facets to celibacy: physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual.  I imagine it would take a long time to come to an understanding and appreciation of celibacy by the individual and even longer for their family.  It doesn’t help that the culture is so over sexualized from every direction, type of media and passing billboard.  It is almost impossible to get away from the culture’s slant on sexuality.

Perhaps understanding the concept of celibacy is like eating an elephant; you need to take it one bite at time.  So as part of a small bite of understanding, here is  a post from a seminarian related to the desires of the heart of every man and woman. He provides a glimpse at the evolving understanding of celibacy in this post from the blog:  Seminarian Casual

Why I Want To Be a Priest     Posted November 20, 2015

by 

Thomas-Rhett-200x200Thomas Rhett, my favorite country artist, just came out with a new music video for his song “Die A Happy Man.” The video features Rhett and his gorgeous wife enjoying all the pleasures that a vacation in Hawaii can offer. And all of that paints the picture for his lines:

If I never get to see the Northern Lights
If I never get to see the Eiffel Tower at night
If all I got is your hand in my hand
Baby I could die a happy man. 

couple on horse3I think that song speaks to everyone. Everyone wants intimacy, a relationship, and to share one’s life with another. What’s more, everyone wants that on the beaches of Hawaii while horseback riding with the dog tagging along and a cold one in your hand.

 

I had my life pointing in that direction: I was set to make a lot of money as an engineer and I had the gorgeous girlfriend, what more can the world offer?

I think that was the mindset of a guy I met this summer who asked me “Why do you want to be a priest? Do you like public speaking?”I went into shock and I wasn’t sure why.  At this point I had been thinking about that question for years—throughout high school, at college, and now for a whole year at seminary. I’ve even given my vocation story countless times to total strangers. But for some reason the question caught me off guard and it left me with a pit in my stomach wondering whether or not I knew the answer.

 

The thing about that situation was that the guy that asked me was looking at the priesthood from a utilitarian standpoint. To someone like that, the priesthood is just another career path that you would only choose if you liked it and it fit what you thought the ideal life is.

 

Now, that’s not entirely wrong. The priesthood is a profession in some sense, but I think what the man asked me neglects the whole “God” dimension to the question. Because without God, the priesthood does seem best fitted for someone that likes public speaking, or likes being a leading community figure, or even likes to live by himself.

I think another part of it is that some people think that someone who coupone on beach3wants to be a priest just isn’t into the whole marriage thing. They don’t want that wife on the sun setting shores of Hawaii.  And to all of those pretenses I want to scream “No! I do want those things! I’m a normal guy!”

 

The thing that people have to remember is that discernment is choosing between two goods. Marriage is a good and priesthood is a good. It’s not that I don’t have a desire to get married, it’s that I have a longing for something more than that. It’s precisely that longing for more that comes from God, and because that longing is deep in your heart it’s difficult to explain to people.

 

That’s what I wish people knew. It’s not that I don’t want the girl on the beach, it’s that I want something more than that. And if God is truly calling me to more, then that’s the only way that I’ll die a happy man.

Please know that the authors of the blog pray for parents of discerning sons and daughters to find understanding and peace.

We must have done something right.

When I read blogs of parents encouraging vocations in their children, I can’t help but feel a little inadequate.  These blogs have many wonderful ideas I wish we had done when our children were younger.  For example, I wish we have said    “What do you think God wants you to be?” instead of “What do you want to be?”

As parents,  the list of things we did wrong is much longer than the things we did right. So it is easier to share this short list of things that I can see now had a positive impact in the long run.

I know a religious vocation does not come from anything overt that parents did or didn’t do, but from the Holy Spirit.  With the youngest in seminary, the other 2 appear to have grown into responsible, compassionate and generous young adults.  So, I can’t help but think, “We must have done something right.”   Looking back, I have come up with a list of things that in the long run seems to have had a positive impact.

Number one has to be attending catholic schools.
I know many vocations come from those who attended public schools.  But, after putting 3 children catholic school kidsthrough 12 years of catholic education I can’t help but reflect on all the positive benefits not available in public schools.

The example of the sisters, priests and lay teachers was a powerful factor as well as the transmission of our values and beliefs.  But the other factor is related to the cost and sacrifice related to attending catholic school.  Here are a few examples:

They saw our family sacrifice to pay for catholic education.  When they would complain about not going on a fancy vacation or getting a new car, we would remind them that we have decided to spend our money differently: sending them to catholic school.

2kids in catholic uniforms

Buying school uniforms every year was always difficult. We utilized the donated uniforms at grade school and high school while donating what they had outgrown.  Looking back, I realize the kids never complained.  It was just accepted that this was a way to help with the expenses of a catholic education.

nun teaching boy

We never allowed any disrespect or criticism of priests, religious sisters or any authority figure in their life. If a child made a negative comment in this regard, it was addressed immediately.

3 alter servers

Weekly mass  This is a no brain-er in our home. Even on vacation, we would plan where we would be able to go to Sunday mass.

Supporting and encouraging participating as altar servers and in youth group.

Actively participating in the life of the parish. I can honestly say we did not do this to specifically “encourage vocations.”  At best, we thought it was part of showing them how to be a responsible adult.

boy shoveling snow

Encouraging service to others
They were expected to shovel snow for their grandfather & other elderly neighbors and refuse money.  They helped to gather and deliver donations  to those less fortunate at Goodwill, donating to homeless shelters and pro-life baby showers.

1381656446_Grieving-girl-with-motherUsing a death in the family as a way to share more deeply in the application of our faith.
Our children lost a beloved grandfather suddenly. We shared our sorrow and grief with them, but communicated that we were happy he was in heaven with God.

Please know that the contributing authors on this blog pray daily for parents of discerning sons and daughters to find peace and understanding.

Cassock Day: A Rite of Passage

Early in my son’s discernment process, one of the biggest shocks was related to something very concrete, not spiritual.

About 2 weeks after my son first told me he thought God was calling him to the priesthood, I attended a women’s retreat that had been planned for several months.

In God’s perfect timing, it was exactly what I needed to get away and spend time in prayer and reflection to sort out my feelings, confusing thoughts and my imagination running wild.

At that time, I was struggling with the objection: “He is too young”.

It wasn’t the idea of discerning a vocation, just not right now.  He hasn’t even been out in the world yet to see what else is out there.  I didn’t want him to rush headlong on a whim or idealized fantasy and then feel trapped with a decision he made when he was so young. Remember, this was 2 weeks in, so it is easy now to pick out my misconceptions about discernment.

Arriving at the retreat a little late, I was looking for my assigned room, when I spotted a young man with a cassock and collar up ahead.

“Excuse me, Father, can you tell me where Tannery Hall is?”

When he turned around, the shock almost knocked me over.  This young man looked about 16 years old!  He graciously showed me where to go and helped me with my luggage.  At this point, I was reeling.  A few hours later I found out that this was a 19 year old seminarian who had just finished his first year in college seminary. He was helping the priest leading the retreat.

Now in my Catholic playbook, if you are wearing a cassock and a white collar, you are a priest.  I know I haven’t been around a lot of seminarians in my life, but I thought this was a pretty stable concept.     When did this happen?  When did seminarians start dressing like priests?

One of the traditions for new seminarians is something called “Cassock Day”.  This is when the new men have their new_cassockscassocks blessed and are now allowed to wear them for specific functions in seminary; sort of a rite of passage.

Cassock Day last year was the first time I ever saw my son dressed like a priest in a cassock and collar.  My very first thought was that it looked like he was dressed up for Halloween.  The clothing was in such a juxtaposition to the son I knew.  But he was so happy and proud, I couldn’t help but be happy for him.

All this back story is leading up to a posting on Seminarian Casual, the blog for St Charles Seminary in Philadelphia, about Cassock Day this year.  It describes the history and significance of the cassock.  Once you read it, you will understand why seminarians wear the cassock proudly.

The Cassock: Sign of Love

This weekend here at St. Charles is the annual “Cassock Day” celebration for every new man. Cassocks are the black, button-down robes that seminarians and priests, wear for liturgical functions. On Saturday, our cassocks will be blessed and we will be allowed to wear them for the first time since entering the seminary.

As a new man, I wanted to find out many things about the Roman Cassock in preparation for this day. There are many interesting facts that I found about the cassock, such as the normal cassock has thirty-three buttons symbolizing the Earthly life of Christ. Or that the five buttons on either side of the sleeves symbolize the five wounds of Christ. But the most interesting fact that I found was that the cassock was once worn by highly esteemed soldiers riding to the battlegrounds of war. The new soldiers would ride after them, recognizing the garments in which they had on.

We, no matter what denomination, are being thrown into battlegrounds between good and evil every day. The sad truth is that most of us choose not to follow the “esteemed soldiers,” but rather try to lead ourselves with no aid. We abandon our brothers and sisters and end up being berated by the enemy. But, lucky for us, those “esteemed soldiers” never turn their backs on us. When they see us turning away, they find us and remind us that there is a battle to be won, a battle for Christ and His love!

The cassock is not just a cloth priests, deacons, or seminarians wear “just for the heck of it”, but it is a sign. It is a sign of Christ’s love for the world. It is a sign of “esteemed soldiers” who try to lead all to victory. Gustave Flaubert, a famous French author, once said, “The true poet for me is a priest. As soon as he dons the cassock, he must leave his family.”

The priest, or seminarian, must leave his family for the sake of protecting and leading God’s children. He symbolically accepts this task by putting on the cassock. He is now an “esteemed soldier” for Christ and His Church.

Now all of us seminarians, whether new men or old men, are not worthy to receive or to even wear the cassock. To think of all the men who have worn it before is quite literally feeling like a midget in a giant’s footprint! But whether we feel like this or not, it is a symbol of Christ in the world in which we are all called to share, especially those discerning the possibility of priesthood.

The cassock, out of everything it is, is a pure sign of love. And that, for all of us, should give us a motive for praying for our priests, bishops, and pope. We should pray constantly for our “esteemed soldiers” and pray that one day these warriors for Christ and His Church may lead many into His Kingdom.

You are all in our thoughts and prayers, but I also hope we are in yours. We need good people of God, and you need holy seminarians that can discern if we can fully take on the cassock, a sign of love.

Please know that the authors of this blog pray daily for parents of discerning sons and daughter to find understanding and peace.

Objection Series: “You should get out into the real world and live a little!”


pope selfieSince you are reading this blog, you might be interested in following a blog where seminarians and faculty post regularly.  “Seminarian Casual” is the blog on the website for St Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.  FYI:  This is where Pope Frances will be staying when he comes to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families (WMF).  I expect we will see more posts from an insider’s perspective on these events, including hanging out with Pope Frances.
 

The post,  Discernment: How Long is This Going to Take?, quotes and links to a “Seminarian Casual” post on the myths about a time frame for discernment.  Scanning  the blog reveals a a wide ranges of topics; some spiritual, others temporal including pop culture, music, politics and sports.  This gives you an indication of how seminarians spend their free time.
__FS__world

One of the objections parents express about a son attending seminary is “You should live a little, get out there in the real world.”   One myth of seminary is that you are completely cut off from the world and surrounded by an intense environment of indoctrination, discipline and sacrifice with little to no personal freedom.
 
When a young man goes to seminary, he does not stop living in the world.  Between the Internet, cellphones, TV, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and instant messaging, your son is NOT cut off from the world. The post HERE: Advantages of Going to Seminary, describes the positive environment of the seminary which balances boundaries and responsibilities with free time.  I was happy to learn that one of the boundaries was the same in our home: no TV in your bedroom.
 

The “Seminarian Casual” blog  gives you an inside look at what seminarians are interested in, talking about and how they spend their free time.  These thoughts came to me when I read the most recent “Seminarian Casual” post titled   “2015 NFL Season Preview”.   Now it is not so men-football-television-mainunusual for young guys to follow football.  But when I read this post, I was astonished at the level of detail on the history, stats and current status of teams in the NFL divided by division.  This level of detail has to come from a deep and ongoing passion for keeping up with everything from player trades to injuries to coaching strategies.  I am sure there are obscure points of significance not in this post, which the author would be happy to discuss over a cold beer.
 

st thomas

eagles touchdownTheir major in college may be Philosophy or Theology in graduate school, but you can bet these guys can argue the merits of the offensive strategies of the    Philadelphia Eagles with the same passion as the classic works of St.Thomas Aquinas.
 
 
Here is just a sample of the post:

To read the rest of the post click HERE. 2015 NFL Season Preview for more analysis and predictions for this season. Last season, this blog periodically posted ongoing NFL analysis and commentary through the post season which I expect will continue this year.

Please know that the authors of this blog pray daily for parents of discerning sons and daughters to find understanding and peace.

How to Discern: For Young and Old Alike

Discernment can seem almost like a foreign word at first.  It is not a term you hear everyday.   As parents, you probably have heard this word thrown around quite a bit.  What exactly is discernment?   How is my son going to know if he has a vocation to the priesthood?

How to Discern  is a  7:30 video by Fr. Mike Schmitz, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry in Duluth Minnesota.   Fr.Mike provides some basic truths to keep in mind when discerning what is God’s will for you.   Then he describes 3 simple practices to follow  in order to “never miss God’s call for your life.”

These are simply good spiritual practices for anyone.  So although this video is focused on discerning a vocation (married, single or religious), I can see these practices being a useful tool for anyone who is trying to know what God’s will is in any given situation of life.  So if you are a younger person discerning God’s will for your life or a more “mature” person trying to decide how to spend your retirement years, these practices can be used to bring God into any decision throughout your life.

If you would like to hear more from Fr Mike Schmitz, look for him on You tube as well as the University of Minnesota at Duluth Newman Center website where he posts homilies at www.bulldogcatholic.org

No, I do not hate your religion.

Good day folks, Sparky here.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while. Largely out of being easily distracted by school, work and other such things. But the start of Lent seemed a good time to get back to writing. Today I would like to briefly address my agnosticism.

Weird, right? An agnostic child of two good Catholics, with a brother out learning how to be a priest? Where did things go wrong? What drove me from the faith? I must just be going through a rebellious phase. Or I’m ashamed of something. Those are some of the usual questions and explanations I find. Ex-something or others are common enough here in Utah (usually ex Mormons just by population distribution) that we have all heard it all. Part of this is well meaning concern and some of it is simply folk only understanding (tvtropes link warning) Hollywood Atheism. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HollywoodAtheist

Let me answer the questions now so you don’t need to ask the next non-believer you meet. Nothing went wrong. My parents are not perfect but who is, and they did an excellent job of raising me and my brother. It just seems that some of the religious teachings stuck with him more. No one incident drove me from belief and if it did that is no business of yours. I don’t have a grudge against God or the Church. Some do, but as a matter of fact I deeply respect the Catholic Church (and as a side note I think that the current Pope is one of the most awesome humans alive), as well as other faiths. I don’t want to tear down religions, I don’t think they are brainwashing the masses and I don’t think they are part of a conspiracy to control the world. The simple matter of it is that I do not have faith in any higher power. I am not an atheist, I do not inherently refute the existence of such a power, I simply question if one exists and if it does what form does it exist in. This is not an act of rebellion on my part, though there was an element of that in forging my own identity. Nor is it me hiding from God out of shame.

And all this brings me to the title of the post. Just because I lack faith myself does not mean that I defy yours. When someone says they are praying for me it means a lot. I know that they believe in prayer and they have taken the time to include me in that ritual. I don’t hate your religion. In fact I likely admire at least some portions of it. And I don’t take offense to people couching things in terms of faith, addressing or thanking a saint or deity for some act of good fortune or praying for aid during difficult times. If you take nothing else from this post take this. Agnosticism and Atheism simply mean that someone does not believe. No more and no less. Thank you

– Older Brother

Reflection: Self-Sacrifice

(Editor’s Note: As part of the discernment and training process, the novices and students write and lead prayer services.  Evan will share his from time to time as he writes them.)

Novice Prayer Service Thursday October 15th, 2013
On Sacrifice

You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone.
-Jesus to St. Faustina, Diary of St. Faustina, 1767

Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.
-St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Tonight I thought we could use this prayer service to reflect on the sacrificing nature of a vocation. We willing give ourselves in love to the service of others, especially as future priests. There is also an aspect of sacrificing the “normal” life. We won’t have the small suburb home with a white picket fence, a wife, two kids, and a dog. Instead, we are called to live for the world, not simply in it. I thought one of the best ways to explore sacrifice would actually be to look at a few scenes from movies that have sacrifice as a central theme in a prayerful manner. I’ll give a little set-up explaining each scene.

Movie One: Road to Perdition, scene at 1:33:15

After a fellow gangster kills his wife and kids, Tom Hanks has to take his son across the country in order to keep him alive. In this scene, Tom confronts his mob boss about the gangster who is also stealing money from the boss. In the end, Tom does get his son across the country, but dies in the process of protecting his son.

Movie Two: The Iron Giant, scene at 1:14:00

 Set in Maine during the 1950’s, a giant robot crashes to Earth and befriends a 10 year old child. The  robot has amnesia and cannot remember his mission. He learns about Superman and being a hero from  the child. When the local town finds out about the robot when he save a kid from falling to his death,  they go into full panic thinking he is a monster sent to destroy them. The military is called in and the  robot goes into a rage and remembers his mission (which is to destroy the Earth). This leads to the  military launching a nuclear missile at the town.

Movie Three: Stranger than Fiction, scenes at 1:31:09 and 1:35:45

 Will Ferrell starts hearing his own life being narrated as though he was a character in a book. One  morning he hears the voice say that things were set in motion for him to die. He eventually tracks  down the author and reads the finished manuscript detailing how he will die.

So in all of these films there is a sense of love for others, even total strangers, where one is
willing to sacrifice themselves completely. A vocation, especially one to God, can be seen in a very  similar way. We don’t have to find a way to get ourselves killed, but we can find small things to do for others, not for ourselves. We can take an example after Christ and His most Holy sacrifice. In our  sacrifices we can find God, His love for us, and our own conversion to holiness (to being superman).

Share any thoughts or feelings.

 Closing Prayer:

Jesus, tender and loving Lamb of God, Utmost Sacrifice of all sacrifices, Your glory is  reverberated in  the highest. Being preoccupied with my well-being, You chose to self-sacrifice Yourself, Setting aside all Your personal glories. I thank You Lord Jesus for Your act of love! Your action has drawn me closer to You. Teach me to model in smaller things, To sacrifice in order to help others, Guiding my soul to endure abstinence. Lamb of God, I thank you endlessly!

Amen.  (Unknown origin)

— Novice