Priest, deacons and seminarians who attended a conference last month at Steubenville, Ohio got an earful on living a holy life — especially when it comes to celibacy:

The main address Monday night was given by Sister Briege McKenna, OSC, an Irish Sister of St. Clare, who has an international ministry to priests and bishops. Sister McKenna addressed the topic of priestly celibacy, which she called a “charism and call to freedom.”

Speaking both to priests and married deacons, Sister McKenna opened by stating that there is a tremendous attack on both celibacy and marriage, two vocations which complement and mutually support one another. There is a need today for witnesses to both Christian marriage and Holy Orders.

The call to celibacy does not mean a denial of human love, nor that celibates are to be “consecrated refrigerators,” said Sister McKenna. Rather, celibacy is a beautiful way to live one’s sexuality. It is a call for priests to live “a virgin life” like the one they “stand under in persona Christi.” God makes priests fruitful as the spiritual fathers of the faithful, to “spread the love of Jesus Christ.”

“God looks at you and sees something very beautiful, your capacity to have a wife and children. He asks you, Will you give me everything? Will you give your sexuality to me that I may consecrate it for my kingdom and then give it back to you empowered?” said Sister McKenna.

Recognizing that the charism of celibacy does not mean a removal of the natural attraction to the opposite sex, Sister McKenna gave attendees guidance for living as a “happy and healthy celibate.” Prayer, fervent love for the Blessed Mother and the Lord Jesus, taking care of one’s mind, and being wise in one’s relationships will help priests radiate Christ’s love in their celibate vocation.

“Most important is to be a man of prayer. When we stop praying, the human spirit wounded by original sin takes over,” said Sister McKenna.

For the curious, Sr. McKenna (why don’t they refer to her as “Sr. Briege”?) has her very own website.

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