By Father Warren Sazama, SJ
I BLANCH WHEN I hear people say to me almost breathlessly, “Oh, Father, you priests make such sacrifices!” I matter-of-factly respond, “Yes, but no more than other people who make a serious commitment with their lives.” That a healthy man with options chooses to live his life without sex, a wife and children and can live a happy, full life that way seems unthinkable to many. But, do you know what? Jesus did. And,
Jesus invited his disciples to give up marriage for the sake of Godʼs reign (Mt 19:12). Moreover, he promised a hundredfold return in happiness and fullness for those who do (Mt 19:29, Lk 18:29-30). In my experience and in that of many celibate brothers and sisters, heʼs right.
I did my theology studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in California, which is part of an ecumenical consortium of theological schools. Quite a few of the Protestant seminarians there were what they sympathetically referred to as “Preachersʼ Kids”. Many lamented that their father, who was a minister, often seemed to be there for everyone but them. This should not be too surprising; there is an inherent tension between ministry and the commitment of marriage.
I cannot imagine a more meaningful life. By the grace of God, Iʼve been able to make a significant difference in many peopleʼs lives. People experience that they have a claim on me – that Iʼm theirs – because of my celibate form of loving. My former students often come back for advice, the celebration of special moments in their lives, support in difficult times, and not infrequently they become adult friends.
Is celibacy for everyone? Obviously not. It is a special calling. As a vocation director, I talk to young people who feel called to love in this more free, expansive way. I experience it in myself. But others feel called by God to love as a married person, and this clearly is also a wonderful way of loving that the church blesses with a special sacrament.