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Intimacy and our priestly celibacy

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Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 18 August 2022
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2018.

Intimacy with God and with others is a journey that is often long and difficult, painstaking but so wonderful. It is a process with highs and lows but something that could come out as a precious gift we must keep and nurture.

Mr. Webster defines intimacy as “close familiarity or friendship” or simply, “closeness”.

But being close does not necessarily mean intimacy. True closeness in intimacy means finding and sharing a “sacred space” with someone that is built on mutual trust and sincerity where we bare our true selves to offer it to the other person. It is in this sacred space where intimacy grows as we become “engaging” with the other person, even with God, like in bantering.

There is one beautiful incident in the gospel I always love relating with the topic of intimacy, the story of the Canaanite woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter.

At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”

Matthew 15:21-23

Photo by author, Caesarea in Israel, May 2017.

Here we find the first difficulty with intimacy which happens often in the most unexpected situations like Jesus going to a foreign territory where we are not most comfortable or most at home, where we are so uncertain with everything and everyone.

Is it not that is when we grow intimate with others and with God, when we were in the most desolate situations, when we were weakest when suddenly somebody came to strengthen us in our journey?

It was not a simple walk in the park though because it was as if like adding salt to our injuries when at our lowest point in our lives we were asked to even go lower, bare our vulnerabilities further until we were stripped naked of our pretensions and defenses, standing naked and true.


"That is intimacy, of still believing, of being sincere, of still being beautiful and good in the worst situations with one's self with the other person.  It is a sacred space where anyone can come and be welcomed, be affirmed, or simply be safe for a moment while the storm is passing through you."

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.

Notice how Jesus tested the Canaanite woman to see how engaging she could be in their conversation, of how willing was she to get closer to him and be intimate to gain his healing.

But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

Matthew 15:25-28

I like this part; it was more of the woman bantering with Jesus than bargaining. Try situating yourself there as if the woman was already feeling close with Jesus, engaging him in their conversation when he used the colloquial expression “dog” used by Jews at that time to refer to Gentiles or pagans. Of course, there was no any racial or malicious intent on the part of Jesus in using that common expression of his time; in some translations, he used the word “puppies”.

And that is where intimacy kicked in: when the Canaanite woman told him how dogs – or puppies – eat just the scraps from the master’s table. Here is a woman baring everything to Jesus, taking off all her defenses totally accepting the realities of life, of them outside the own circle of Jesus who was a Jew but still believing in him and in herself that she is worthy of attention, of healing for her daughter.

Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias, Israel, May 2017.

That is intimacy, of still believing, of being sincere, of still being beautiful and good in the worst situations with one’s self with the other person. It is a sacred space where anyone can come and be welcomed, be affirmed, or simply be safe for a moment while the storm is passing through you. This is very true for those who had undergone surgery when you were there on the narrow operating table, naked and everything, just praying and hoping everything would go well, without any complications later. That is why I admired doctors more than ever because after a surgery and you visit them for follow up consultations, it is as if he had not seen the worst in you, still friendly and casual. Most of all, trying so hard to keep you well and healthy!


"Intimacy is the reason why everyone says life is a journey."

To be intimate with Jesus is like continuing the journey with him in foreign territories like when a man and a woman get married not knowing what’s really in store for them or a young man getting ordained as priest or a lady taking religious vows without realizing the real weight of Christ’s cross to carry. Many times in life, we just forge on in life with our family and friends, and with God most especially, engaging him in conversations even debates to show him how convinced we are in ourselves, in our cause, in our prayers. We grow intimate only with someone who is willing to accept us.

Intimacy is the reason why everyone says life is a journey – you always have a companion, somebody you break bread with which is the literal meaning of “companion” from the Latin terms cum panis.

The most beautiful part of this journey in intimacy, whether with God or with another person is that as we become one in being intimate with the other, the more we become free, not constricted nor limited because the more we love, the more we trust each other that even when we are not together physically, we can still be intimate — because intimacy is actually a spiritual reality, a gift only God can give for those willing to take the difficult journey.

That is why, we priests remain celibate: our celibacy is the clearest sign of our intimacy not only with Jesus our Eternal Priest but also with you, our flock, the people of God which is the Church.

When parishioners give their pastors a good chance to pray and recreate to nurture their intimacy with Jesus, the more priests value their celibacy, the more they are true and faithful in serving the people, the Body of Christ, the Church.

Anyone who finds true intimacy finds true love who is God alone. That is the essence of our celibacy as priests. And that is why, priests and religious, as well as married couples and singles joyful in their state of life too who have found intimacy would never venture to look for other “loves” because they have already found God, our true intimacy. It would be madness to any priest to break his vow of celibacy or, even to married couples to go on extra-marital affairs when you already have God. Amen.

May you find and experience intimacy in your life journey.

Photo by Ka Ruben, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 04 August 2022.
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