MANILA, April 20, 2014 — Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas on Holy Thursday reminded members of the clergy that a key to living a joyful celibate life is to have “happy friendships,” especially with fellow priests.
“We have many very good priests in the Church. They serve with vigor…Healthy and happy celibacy demands holy and happy friendships,” said Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
Sharing of joys, dreams
He said that keeping friendly ties enables priests to “share deep joys and dreams, vulnerabilities and frustrations with the assurance of compassionate acceptance, at the same nurturing and supporting one another.”
“Celibacy does not forbid friendships. Celibacy needs friendship with God and friendship with brother priests,” explained Villegas added.
He said these strong friendships with fellow priests will also help counter feelings of of loneliness, isolation, and frustration in their ministry.
“Happy celibacy stands (on your) friendship with your brother priests. An isolated priest is headed for a fall. We only become lonely if we allow ministry to take over us and neglect our need for friendship,” Villegas said in his “Joy in loneliness” meditation for priests, addressing the clergy of his archdiocese.
Life of integrity
To counter the loneliness they feel in their ministry, priests are also asked to live a “life of personal integrity” for “only honest and truthful celibates can be happy celibates.”
“Hypocrisy among priests dooms the priests to bitterness. What you do when no one sees you is who you really are. How you are in your conscience is who you are. Hypocrisy is stressful,” Villegas said.
Leading a celibate lifestyle is “a living proclamation in our sex-starved society that there is something more important than sex,” Villegas noted, adding that “more important is love and mercy, compassion and kindness, friendship and service.”
The prelate further noted that priests who are honest enough to lead a celibate lifestyle are the only ones who will enjoy a happy and joyful ministry.
“A happy celibate cannot frown too long. The joy of his heart will always take over a momentary irritation…Celibacy is for the brave and the compassionate, for the humble who serve the Lord with joy,” Villegas said.
“If we dare to be mystics, if we deepen our priestly friendships, if we fight on to be truthful and faithful, we have hope. Our hope is in the Lord. Our joy is to serve Him,” Villegas added. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)