the priest as spouse of the Church

One of the insights that John Paul II developed with great beauty and depth was the idea of the priest as spouse of the Church. This understanding has the potential to put into proper perspective a number of dimensions of priestly life, especially celibacy. It’s one of the reasons I hope that the Saint Paul Seminary will begin to incorporate some of these insights into its curriculum. I have heard that the seminary in Denver already does this. Other seminaries may be doing this as well; I don’t know.

I do know I would have benefited from learning about the Theology of the Body during my seminary formation, particularly the sections on the resurrection of the body, virginity for the sake of the Kingdom, and the sacramentality of marriage.

I posted a short article back in December about Fr. Roger Landry’s application of these themes to the ordained priesthood. After reading this, I cannot help but see the following sections of the Program for Priestly Formation from the point-of-view of a spousal theology of priestly life:

spouses have unique and complementary roles

[The disciples] were to minister in a special way to those with whom they were united in the body of Christ, a body in which “all members have not the same function” (Romans 12:3; Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2). Thus while all the baptized participate in the priesthood of Christ, some are called and ordained to minister to all of the faithful. In the sacrament of orders, priests are especially configured to Christ to act in his person as head and pastor of the Church and in the name of the whole people of God (Lumen Gentium, 10; Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2; cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 15). (PPF, 30)

husband and wife each provide an indispensable contribution to the mission of Christ in the world

“Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless ordered one to another; each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ.” (Lumen Gentium, 10) (PPF, 32)

husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the Church

“The ministry of the priest is entirely on behalf of the Church; it aims at promoting the exercise of the common priesthood of the entire people of God.” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 16) (PPF, 32)

the life of a spouse is a life lived for the sake of the other

Although committed to a great diversity of individual ministries, priests are united in the common goal of building up the body of Christ through ordained priestly service. (PPF, 35)

spousal love as mutual subjection

From the waters of baptism and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, priests and laity share a sacramental origin and a common purpose as disciples of Christ. These bonds imply a continuing relationship of collaboration and mutual respect. (PPF, 39)


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