One of my friends from high school emailed the following question to me yesterday:
"During your internal monologue of self-discovery, did you find it difficult to decouple (pardon the pun) the hardwired desires to procreate versus your stronger desire to serve the church? Obviously I lack a frame of reference (clearly I have never been a priest-in-training), but that would certainly be one of the principle issues that would need resolving."
I appreciate the question, and I thought I'd share some thoughts on it. Please let me know if you have more questions or comments on this or any other topic. Here is what I said:
Procreation is meant to be a profoundly holy thing. In his "Theology of the Body," Pope John Paul II actually said that the mutual, self-giving love of husband and wife in intercourse is an icon of the Holy Trinity, which is the endless and intimate (although not bodily and therefore not sexual) mutual self-giving of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is in fact a "family of Love." God is not a monad; He is an eternal community. Therefore, before God made the world, He was not lonely. He was filled with joy and love within Himself, and that Love overflowed into His creation. In the same way, a husband and wife is meant to love one another so much that they want to have children with whom they can share that love.
In addition to the holiness of married intercourse, there is the holiness of participating with God in the creation of a person, to whom He gives a soul from the moment of conception. How wonderful it would be to be married and to raise a family. In many ways, I think it would be good for my soul and for my human development. Of course, it would also be the hardest thing I would ever do, and a lifelong sacrifice. Marriage may seem idyllic, but I think most married people who truly enter into it admit that it can be a true Cross. It needs to be in order to have the kind of redemptive power to represent the love of Christ for His Church.
I am in the novitiate with a 50 year -old medical doctor. He is a dear friend, and a great man. He was never married, but he says that the same skill-sets to be a good husband and father are needed to be a good priest. So, it is promising to have a sense of my desire and aptitude to be married. In fact, as a priest (if I am called to that), I will live a spousal reality of being married to the Church, who is the Bride of Christ. In order to do this as fully as possible, I will commit to non-exclusive relationships so that I can be equally available to help the souls of whoever is in front of me, so that they know that I have no ulterior motive. For example, a single, attractive young woman can feel much safer sharing her inner life with me for spiritual direction if I am a vowed man and a priest than if I were a "free agent," or perhaps even a married man.
In truth, I expect (and already have experienced to some extent) having a certain spiritual intimacy--though non-sexual--with countless more women (and of course men too) and having more spiritual children (and by this I mean people who I help bring home to God) than if I were married. The two states of life are not in competition, they are in-tandem. The one serves and blesses the other. The vocations need each other. If I genuinely found that my deepest desire were to be married, then that would be good, holy, and a great gift to me and to the Church.
Welcome! My name is John Roselle, SJ, and I took lifelong ("perpetual") vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as a Jesuit on August 13th, 2011 after a two-year novitiate. I am now a Jesuit Scholastic for the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus. I will study philosophy and theology for the next three years at Loyola University in Chicago. At the same time, I will do part-time ministry in some capacity with the poor. After that, I will likely teach for three years before finishing three more years of theology. Then, God willing, I will be ordained a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest! It's a long road, but a blessed, fun, and enriching one. This blog exists as a resource for friends, family, and others who are interested in my progress through the Jesuit process of formation. Every day is its own adventure, and I am happy to have you along with me to share in this. This blog contains my own personal thoughts and should not be taken to speak for the entire Society of Jesus. Feel free to contact me. God bless you!