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I would like to share with you some uniquely priestly experiences. By the time you read this reflection, I will have celebrated the wedding Mass for my sister Kristine and her husband Mitchell Simpson. Kristine is the baby of my four siblings. There are sixteen years separating Kristine and myself. I have had the privilege of celebrating all but one of my siblings’ weddings. I did not celebrate my brother James’ wedding because he married while I was still in seminary.

It is one of the special blessings of a priest to celebrate the wedding of a sibling. Deacon Evans will be celebrating two of his siblings’ weddings next year. (We are praying that he will be assigned to Blessed Sacrament at that time.) Honestly, it is kind of surreal receiving the vows of a brother or sister who grew up in the same home with the same parents. Siblings have a way of keeping a priest humble and honest. My siblings are not afraid to call me out consistently and frequently. Actually, they kind of enjoy it. 

I have also had the opportunity to prepare my siblings for marriage. Some people are taken back that I would prepare my brother or sister for marriage, especially, when there are some many intimate subjects to deal with in marriage prep. Although it might not work for everyone, it has worked well for my family and has actually enriched our relationships. There are always some good laughs and, well, no one in our family is afraid to call each other out on sensitive subjects when needed. This family trait often surprises, or shocks, the brother and sister in-laws. :-)

The closeness that I experience with my sibling’s marriages and families has helped me to appreciate the beautiful gift of marriage and family when it is embraced fully and enthusiastically according to God’s plan. Nonetheless, it has never led to sadness or confusion regarding my vocation to the priesthood and the commitment to celibacy. Of course, my siblings tell me that no woman in her right mind would put up with me.

There is something very beautiful about the relationship between the vocation of priesthood and married life. Time and time again I have seen how the vocations mutually enrich one another. The priesthood helps married couples and families stay connected to the highest values starting with God and then spouse. We all know with the business of life that it is easy to compromise those values. On the other side of the coin, marriage keeps priests and the priesthood grounded in life and not on some exclusively spiritual plane. My sixteen nieces and nephews have gone through a lot of diapers. :-)

Ad majorem Dei gloriam,

Fr. John F. Jirak

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