He had once had his own community, of which he was the Pastor, and was very candid with me with regard to some of the struggles he and his family endured. At the time of these conversations, I was in the beginning of my conversion back to the Church, had fallen in love with Christ, and was happy to have a friend with whom I could speak of theological and spiritual things. He had been raised Catholic himself, but had left the Church in favor of an Evangelical belief system, and still had a great deal of respect for the Catholic Church. Of course, he clearly disagreed with many of the teachings, especially that of Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist, but supported a celibate clergy.
On top of this, a pastor's wife and children are themselves without pastoral care. No man, however talented or dedicated, can be pastor and husband or father to the same people. The objectivity required of the pastoral role is missing. But the minister's family cannot seek spiritual direction and sustenance elsewhere; loyalty and the need to avoid the appearance of a split in the family require that they remain at his church. When the father's career and the family's spiritual life are one and the same, the spiritual life suffers badly.
A priest or minister is seldom off duty. Any family activity is likely to be interrupted, often for the most trivial of reasons. A vacation at home is impossible for a clergyman's family; if he's around, he's assumed to be available to his flock. The bum-out rate among Protestant pastors is very high. If relaxing the celibacy rule increases the number of priests, it will have to increase it enough to make up for the large number who will leave the priesthood when they, like so many of their Protestant colleagues, find the toll it takes on the families impossible to accept.
If we truly love our priests, if we truly pray for them, then we should be desiring their good, as they desire ours. It seems to me that a married priesthood as the norm would be destructive to us all.
Today is the world day of prayer for Vocations. Pray.
Holy and provident Father, You are the Lord of the vineyard and the harvest and You give each a just reward for their work. In your design of love You call men and women to work with You for the salvation of the world. We thank You for Jesus Christ, your living word, who has redeemed us from our sins and is among us to assist us in our poverty. Guide the flock to which You have promised possession of the kingdom. Send new workers into your harvest and set in the hearts of pastors faithfulness to your plan of salvation, perseverance in their vocation and holiness of life.
Christ Jesus, who on the shores of the Sea of Galilee called the Apostles and made them the foundation of the Church and bearers of your Gospel, in our day, sustain your people on its journey. Give courage to those whom You call to follow You in the priesthood and the consecrated life, so that they may enrich God's field with wisdom of your Word. Make them docile instruments of your love in everyday service of their brothers and sisters.
Spirit of holiness, who pour out your gifts on all believers and, especially, on those called to be Christ's ministers, help young people to discover the beauty of the divine call. Teach them the true way of prayer, which is nourished by the Word of God. Help them to read the signs of the times, so as to be faithful interpreters of your Gospel and bearers of salvation.
Mary, Virgin who listened and Virgin of the Word of God made flesh in your womb, help us to be open to the Word of the Lord, so that, having been welcomed and meditated upon, it may grow in our hearts. Help us to live like You the beatitudes of believers and to dedicate ourselves with unceasing charity to evangelizing all those who seek your Son. Grant that we may serve every person, becoming servants of the Word we have heard, so that remaining faithful to it we may find our happiness in living it.