A Catholic woman recently told me that she thinks it is unfortunate for a priest to be young and handsome. Her thought was that it's best to save the ugly men for Holy Orders and leave the good lookers for the nice Catholic girls. She also worried that a priest's ministry might be compromised by his dashing smile and draw him (and others) into temptation.
I've heard it before and I'm sure I'll hear it again. Even when my son announced that he was leaving for seminary, an elderly parishioner said her piece while shaking her head: Well, good luck to him. But it is a shame. I have a lovely granddaughter...
There are many variations of the same theme. A new priest is ordained and...
Oh, tsk tsk... what a waste. Such a shame... so many broken hearts he's leaving behind. You know, he's going to be a real distraction to the ladies during Mass! We'll see how far he makes it before he leaves with some pretty Betty on his arm.
From a wordly perspective, those sentiments might make sense, but my Catholic heart knows better and is stung. There is definitely a dearth of good Catholic men and I have seen the tears that flow when the apple of a gal's eye heads off to seminary. It is hard. But these men... whether young, old, seminarian, husband, ugly, handsome, religious, single, priest... they are not objects to be coveted or possessions to be held. They are beloved sons of God. We love... but like all earthly love, it must be laid at the foot of the cross to be raised up and transformed.
The tears are real. The sacrifice is real. But it is not a waste.
Two of the most hurtful names in the Catholic world (even when said in fun) are "Vocation Wrecker" (referring to women who marry Catholic men discerning the priesthood) and "Fr. What-A-Waste" (referring to handsome priests who gave up girls for God). Don't use them. Let the sacrifices mean something. Let the world know that every true vocation -- married, consecrated, priestly, or single -- is a love freely given for Christ and for souls and should be celebrated. Nothing wrecked. Nothing wasted.
Holy and Handsome. A Reckless Temptation?
Should I have married an ugly man? After all, he goes out into the world daily and has been the object of advances in spite of his wedding ring. He must remain faithful to one woman even though he may attract and receive inappropriate attention from many lovely women. Single handsome young men must also remain chaste in spite of the fact that they are attractive and additionally, available.
Is it different for a priest?
The priest is not truly "single" even though he remains unmarried, because has given himself body and soul to Christ and His Church. As for the young handsome ones? Who are we to set limits on God's work? I am grateful that not all priests are old and I cannot see the benefit of wishing physical ugliness upon any of them. God's garden is flourishing with beauty and variety. And chastity is not necessarily less difficult for the priest who is lacking physical beauty.
The issue ultimately hinges on holiness and love of Christ. God bestows beauty at His pleasure and calls all to holiness and purity. We do not sin because we are more or less susceptible to temptations but because we fail to remain vigilant in defense of love.
God bless our faithful priests; the homely ones and the handsome ones. May He bless them with a fervent and holy desire that overcomes all passing desires of the flesh.
UPDATED: Here is my handsome seminarian son with his handsome seminary rector. Not a waste.