I do not recall who the author was, but I recall reading a quote years ago by an atheist who said that it was hideous and immoral to try to make virginity a virtue. His motivation was as clear as can be: someone who attacks something that everyone (even if only "down deep" in their souls) has a profound respect for is doing so to salve his conscience and cover up something that he does not want others to know about. Even though our modern society does not clearly express a respect for self-control, we all know the value of it and are struck by it when we see it happening.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about "A Lousy Argument for Priestly Celibacy". Today I would like to talk about a "Lovely" argument instead. This is, of course, only one of many good and proper arguments for retaining the predominant custom of Priests in the Roman Catholic Church being celibate. In my title for this post I did not just seek to come up with another word that starts with the letter "L" because "Lousy" started with an "L". It was convenient, but the choice of the word "Lovely" is fully intentional. Celibacy, especially in the priesthood, is a "lovely" thing.
What I mean by this is that those men who willingly and joyfully choose to surrender having the love of a wife and children of their own, for the sake of the love of Christ's Church are exemplifying love in an amazing way. Each and every sacrifice that comes from a desire to serve the Lord is a "lovely" thing. It is always beautiful to see the women religious who have committed themselves to the service of Christ and His Church, but we all know that the average man's libido is much more powerful than a woman's. Hence, for a man to say "no" to something that the world says everyone has to have (in any way that they want regardless of what God says!) is a powerful testimony of one's devotion to God.
Although we should never say that a person who wants to get married is selfish for doing so, we would all admit that when someone is willing to surrender the great joy of marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of God it is a holy act. Now, I have met a few people who have chosen the celibate life (I will not be any more specific than that in referring to them in order to protect the guilty!), who clearly did so out of a motivation of avoiding the horrible situations that so many married people get themselves into. This is not a motivation of holiness, but rather a motivation of selfishness. That is the very opposite of the "lovely" symbol of holy virginity that is portrayed by those who acknowledge that marriage can be a joyful blessing, and they choose to surrender it in order to better serve God.
Many years ago I met someone who said she did not want to get married because she wanted instead to focus on helping the poor. This is the type of holy motivation I am speaking of. And when a man is moved in this way to pursue the priesthood, he is telling the world there are things more important than personal pleasure. In fact, it is precisely the testimony to the world that is so important in the custom of celibacy. While the world is fighting so hard to allow anyone to have sex with anyone (or anything) else, the declaration of "I am seeking a greater joy" is a testimony that flies in the face of modern immorality. That is truly lovely.
I heard a married priest a while ago say that his dual vocation worked well for him (but might not for other priests). He also pointed out how his marriage complemented his priesthood, and vice versa. This is true, and I fully agree that it is the case for me as well. I have seen many times how this uncommon mix of two vocations has value and importance. In a certain sense there is a valuable testimony of both married priests and celibate priests. Both can exemplify an aspect of personal holiness in a unique way, but celibacy (especially in this modern age) is a more powerful example.
To return to the quote referenced in the first paragraph, it is easy to attack virginity and celibacy when modernists are obsessed with sexual activity. Yet, every one of us knows that there is something beautiful about the self control of virginity, and the intentional choice of a life of celibacy. The entire concept of "consenting adults" (so abused by pagans today) shows us that a lack of consent changes everything. A willing choice in the realm of sexuality is essential--hence one's choice of celibacy is valued even when they do not want to admit it.
Thus, the celibate priest is showing the world the wonders of Christ's love in a way that the world can barely wrap its head around. My celibate brothers are saying "I love you" to God by seeking first His Kingdom. My celibate brothers are saying "I love you" to their parishes by committing their time and effort to them first. My celibate brothers are saying "I love you" to a dying world by choosing to give up an earthly pleasure so that they can help the lost to find eternal pleasure in Christ. And as I said above: that is truly "Lovely".