Ask A Priest
Ask a Priest
Q: I’m thinking about priesthood. But can a priest know much about family life without having his own family?
A: Thanks for your question. A couple of immediate thoughts come to mind that might help your thoughts.
Firstly, every seminarian comes from a family himself and when he’s ordained he doesn’t stop being part of that family.
In fact, last Christmas, when I was in a new parish, a nice couple asked if I’d like to join them for Christmas lunch. I thanked them heaps but said I’d be with my parents, sister and brothers and all my nieces and nephews. The lady smiled and said something relevant: ‘I guess we have you serving us as a priest and forget that you’re part of a flesh and blood family like us!’
Secondly, in response to your question of whether a priest can know much about family life: Don’t be fooled by the presumption that somehow a priest has to be an expert about everything in order for his life to contribute! Each vocation is a unique way of loving and sharing and the priesthood certainly is too. Regarding family life, I think priesthood can offer something quite unique. Whilst the priest doesn’t have his own family of wife and kids, it’s been my experience to be invited into an incredible variety of family stories. I’m quite certain that if I had my own wife and children I would see that family at very close range, very consistently and that would be a unique way of loving and experiencing. But I’m just as certain that if that was the case I wouldn’t have seen anything like the variety of stories and situations that I’ve experienced and been invited into. This is one of the ways in which celibate loving makes sense to me; in that special connection to such a variety of situations, people express the most incredible trust.
Being now some years along the track of priesthood, I find that I have a certain intuition about varying family situations. And I so often find families asking me confidentially things like: ‘Have you seen many people in this situation?’ OR ‘Do you think many families go through this?’ The responses I am able to share from some experience of many situations can often bring some clarity or comfort.
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