“Ask a Priest: Am I Wrong to Forgo Marriage After the Death of My Beloved?”

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Q: There was a girl who I was in love with, but unfortunately I lost her to a brain tumor. Since then I took a decision of not getting married to any other girl. I am also not holy enough to be a priest. I just want to stay a bachelor for the rest of my life. I still believe in God and love him. I sometimes even pray so that I don’t get married. Will it be right if I did this? Is there anything wrong or sinful in what I am doing? – J.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It must be heartbreaking to lose this young woman whom you loved. May God rest her soul.

It is understandable that your first reaction is to want to retreat into a life of solitude. You need to go through a period of mourning. It would help a lot to intensify your prayer for the repose of your friend’s soul; in this way you could continue to show your love for her. With time your heart can heal.

Looking ahead, it is good to remember that God has a mission for you. It is not something that you need to shoulder alone, for the Almighty will be there to give the grace you need to carry out the mission.

You speak of “not getting married to any other girl.” You also mention that you are “not holy enough to be a priest.”

Perhaps in the first case you think that you are incapable of loving anyone else. In the second, you seem to think you are unworthy of a life of special service to the Church.

Let’s start with the priesthood first. The priesthood is a vocation, a call from Christ. It isn’t a backup career for someone whose hopes at marriage seem to fade. Rather, it is a call to participate in the priesthood of Christ to serve and help sanctity the people of God and to preach the Gospel. If Christ calls someone to the priesthood, he will give the man the graces necessary to follow the vocation.

At a deeper level, perhaps, your comments about marriage and priesthood are two sides of the same coin: You feel inadequate for both.

In one sense you are right. Certainly, none of us priests are adequate for the priesthood on our own. Similarly, the demands of marriage and parenthood can push anyone’s abilities to the breaking point. What empowers priests to be good priests, and spouses to be good spouses and parents, is divine assistance.

And that’s what you might remind yourself of now. You can do a lot with your life if you stay close to God and let the Holy Spirit strengthen and sustain you.

With God’s grace you can learn to see all the events of your life things through his eyes – even the tragic events. “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28).

What this can mean in your current situation is this: The love this young woman inspired in you is meant to grow, not wither. Part of your mission now is to spread love to others around you, in a way that is proper to each person.

This doesn’t mean that you must get married. But you don’t want to give up on life, either. Your own experience of heartbreak can make you more sensitive to the needs of others. That is a trait you want to cultivate.

Some of this might take time. During your period of mourning, when the strong experience of loss might be overwhelming, it would be good to avoid making a lifelong decision not to marry. Stay open to wherever God might lead.

Again, you need to go through a stage of mourning. But do it with the hope that your friend is with Jesus.

And remember that Our Lord has something wonderful in store for you. To discern what that might be, it would help to seek out a good, regular confessor or a spiritual director. Your friend would no doubt want you to find out what Jesus wants for you.

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