Plenty of good reasons for celibate priesthood

I found Msgr. M. Francis Mannion’s answer to the question of married priests (Pastoral Answers, Nov. 28) a little disappointing. Other than mentioning the value of celibacy to religious orders that live in community, he didn’t really provide any of the reasons why the Latin Church has a celibate priesthood. Here are several others: 

First, Christ himself, the eternal high priest, was celibate; the priest as an alter Christus practices celibacy in imitation of Our Lord, who refers to those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 9:12). The celibate priest serves God by serving the people of his parish; the married man serves God by serving his wife and family. Second, the celibate priest is a prophetic sign to all of the life to come, when we shall “neither marry nor be given in marriage” (Mk 12:25). It is a contradiction, even a scandal, to this sex-saturated age, and for that reason alone is of immense value. Third, celibacy is both a gift from God, without whom it would be impossible to practice, and a gift that can be offered to him, thereby becoming a blessing for others. 

Men who commit themselves to a celibate priesthood are surrendering their weak humanity to God. God is glorified in giving these all-too-human men the grace to remain celibate. A celibate priesthood is a beautiful gift from God to humanity and one that should be cherished. 

— Bill Vander Werff, Mundelein, Ill.

Taking care of each other 

Your thoughtful editorial “The tasks ahead” (Nov. 21) said we vacillate between “yes we can” and “heck no.” I think perhaps a corollary to that slogan could have been: Of course we can, but by whom, by what means, and to what ends do we provide for the common good? 

As a 90-year-old, I remember the time when there were no government welfare programs or government-funded retirement or health care systems, and at the same time there was tremendous poverty and 24 percent unemployment. Yet, one didn’t see hardly any of the homelessness or vagrant poor that proliferate on our streets today. 

What I do remember is that families, neighbors or extended families took care of those in need. One blustery cold winter in Minnesota, all five of us children contracted diphtheria. The closest hospital was many snow-clogged miles from our farm, and my parents were overwhelmed with taking care of us. And so, an aunt came some distance to stay with us through the ordeal. One of my brothers died one day and another was born the next day, all in the same farmhouse. Incidentally, the latter one became a priest, and that, my mother was convinced, was God’s recompense for her suffering. 

Excessive dependence on government programs destroys the incentive for people to be charitable and also discourages self-reliance.  

— Alvin L. Kirtz, San Clemente, Calif.

Personality counts 

Whenever I read another article about the need for effective homilies (Pastoral Answers, Nov. 21), I am reminded of a dear priest, Society of Precious Blood Father Werner Verhoff. For 15 years I taught religion at a released-time program held in a separate building across the street from a public high school. My students were members of five different parishes and, until lately, they each had their own pastor. My students identified with these leaders, but it was rare that the subject of homilies ever surfaced. One thing for sure, Father Verhoff was not a good speaker. 

Since we met twice a week for 45 minutes, we covered a lot of Catholic territory. Over time I noticed that the kids from one particular parish seemed to have a better handle on the important fundamental facts. I began asking students where they learned these things. The surprising answer was that Father Verhoff had talked about it in a sermon. These teenagers were listening and retaining knowledge of their faith from this gentle man who would have failed the ordinary homiletics course. Why? Because they loved him and cared about what he was saying to them. 

Although Father was a very poor homilist, he was a much-loved priest who carefully chose his subjects, did his best and then left the rest up to God. And the Lord moved his listeners’ hearts. 

— Eileen Whitsett, Coldwater, Ohio

Recycling religious items 

I hope Anita Alvarez (“Trashed Trinkets,”Dec. 5) and all OSV readers will consider recycling items sent to them by various charities. I wrote to all charities who sent such things, requesting that my name be taken off their lists. It didn’t work. 

So, I put my thinking cap on. Medals, rosaries, holy water and holy cards go to our parish education program and/or St. Vincent de Paul Society. Magnets, stickers and scratch pads also go either to parish programs or I save them for my grandchildren or other little people to play with. I use most of the return address labels to identify books, CDs and other items that I lend to friends and family. 

— Loretta C. Buffer, Fort Myers, Fla.

Firing up youths 

Thank you so much for Teresa Tomeo’s article “Youthful charge” (Eye on Culture, Nov. 28). My Deanery Council of Catholic Women is going to feature “Getting Fired up About Your Faith With the Youth” for our spring general assembly meeting, and your article is just what I need. 

— Grace Mullen, Stratford, Wis.