Posted by By Toyin Osawe on
Teach a child the way he should go and he will not depart from it. These are the words which tell the story of Rev. Father Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo, Director of Social Communications, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria.
Teach a child the way he should go and he will not depart from it. These are the words which tell the story of Rev. Father Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo, Director of Social Communications, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria. Born into a Catholic family and influenced as a child by Rev. Fathers, he grew up yearning for the vocation of the priesthood. He took the vows of poverty, obedience and chastity at 24. But like roses, the priesthood is beautiful, yet has its thorns. He says it was not easy for him to embrace sacrifice, self-denial, continence and celibacy, which priesthood stands for.
Attraction to the priesthood
It is really difficult to say because I decided to become a priest even when I was a child. It is a combination of things - a good Catholic family background which I thank God for, which taught all of us children in my family to take God seriously, to be close to God, to dedicate our entire life to God. At that time, it wasnít too clear what we wanted to be. But whatever we wanted to be in life, our parents made us believe that we had to do it with the fear of God, in the presence of God and for God. And so, when it turned out that I was in a school where I had the opportunity to meet and move around with Rev. Fathers, it was almost logical that I wanted to be like some of them. It was a Catholic School in Osogbo, the priests used to come in and weíd serve at mass. They spoke English to us and that helped us to speak English better in those days. The better you spoke English to us, the better it was for you, especially with the missionary priests. As I grew older, the young priests who were being ordained at that time were very attractive to us. Brilliant young men, smart in their cassocks, smart at the pulpit and you wanted to be like them. And it was a combination of all these things that made me decide to go to a major seminary at the age of 15. At that time, it was too soon because I had finished secondary school. And the major seminary would only take one at the age of 17, so I was delayed. I went to teach and at 16, I went back and I was taken into the major seminary at Ibadan. In my own case, there was no news to break to my family about my decision. In my family, the Rev. Fathers and sisters visited us quite often and my parents worked at the Catholic hospital. So we were pretty well around the church. And in many families like mine, it was clear when you saw your child moving around with Rev. Fathers, sisters or seminarians, such parents prayed that the child would join them. I actually went to the seminary with one of my brothers. I come from a family of seven children. So my parents were happy that two of us were going to become priests. My brother opted out of the major seminary after five years and heís happily married now (I hope).
If I were to have another chance, oh, I would beg God on my knees to still make me a priest because with all the challenges in it, the blessings have far outweighed what I would consider the sad moments. There are challenges and sad moments too in the priesthood. But life has been wonderful. I really thank God for giving me the opportunity to be a priest and the church for giving me the training that I have and for the grace to have done it so far. I have a number of colleagues who didnít make it this far. They didnít live this long, they didnít have the opportunities that I had. So I thank God. If I have another chance I would do this all over and in the Catholic church.
I got ordained as a very young man at the age of 24, after so many delays. In my diocese you had to be of canonical age otherwise I was ready for the mission at 22. When a young man becomes a priest, you have a lot of authority and responsibility. People respect you like who we say a priest is, another. Christ. It is not easy to handle all that demands of the dignity of a priestly state. The exuberance of youth always crop up once in a while. The ability to keep that is check with the responsibility to be able to face people who are the age of your parents and to guide them in their spiritual life is huge. You have to find time to study, pray and remember that youíre the example many young men are looking up to and trying to follow. You have to practise what you preach. At the early years of priesthood, it was not easy but with prayer and the training weíve had, it is quite possible and desirable to follow these things because one reaps the fruit. Of course, there are other challenges in the society. We live in a society that does not value as it should, what the priesthood stands for. Sacrifice, self denial, continence and the whole issue of celibacy, especially when youíre gifted. In the seminary, there are so many priests brimming over with gifts. In our world today, the more gifts you have the more economically viable, people think you ought to be. If you can play music, you must play it to earn money. If you must write books you must write it to get rich. If you can dance, go and dance for money. In the priesthood, every gift you have is supposed to be for sacrifice. There are challenges, there are so many temptations to face. Dealing with those challenges are not easy. And of course, there are people out there who have other opinions about the Catholic church. I know there are many young priests who have to every day say no to the temptation of looking at a beautiful young woman and picking her up and saying, look I want to live all my life with this woman. The discipline that weíve had in the seminary and what the church stands for and the prayer and grace from God has seen us through all that. Thatís why, in spite of what is going on in the world, the priesthood is still a wonderful sign of contradiction. Except our society takes God seriously and takes the traditional values seriously, we are going to be zig-zagging through life like we are doing now. The values of honesty, continence, fidelity in marriage, faithfulness before you get married, etc. are the basic things that form family and should be taught in family. If the family is not properly built with these necessary values, our society is in danger.
Dealing with temptation and women
There were a number of them but two things helped. My father had always taught us that being with my mother and vice versa at that time (over 40 years) had made him the happiest man on the face of the earth. We asked him why? And he said, whatever things may happen, I know who Iím dealing with, I know where the problem might be coming from and she also knows. He says one woman and one man is enough trouble for a man to live with all his life and vice versa, so why do you add more problems than God has given you power for? Thus we grew up with that mentality about fidelity. You make your choice and you get committed no matter what. And the training in the seminary also taught us how to deal with our emotions, not to suppress those emotions as other people will begin to interpret the priesthood but to discover those energies and redirect them to more profitable ways. Maturity for a man is supposed to be the ability to make your emotions answerable to you not you answerable to the emotions. It is when we allow those emotions to master us, we lose control, then we are no longer mature men. But when we master them, the energies they generate, we can redirect them to other areas where needed. That is why it is possible for Mother Theresa to raise families although se did not have one of her own. People who are not Catholics, who are not even Christians, remember her for those virtues of selflessness. The evidence was everywhere even before she died. There are other people who are not Christians. Look at Ghandi, he didnít even have the time for his own family any more. His energy that would have been used for this family was now shifted to a more global family.
Missing a family
Oh yes, definitely! Every priest misses having a family but like I said, youíll invest that vacuum as an offering to God. Thatís what we say at mass everyday. There are some of us who are priests, who, if we were out there in the world would be making millions because of the abilities we have. There are people out there that are not as gifted that are making millions. But that sense of deprivation is what we consciously offer. People cite the example that the church denies marriage to priests or that the church does not allow us certain things. No, we chose not to have these things. I think it is part of the integrity of a man of stick to what he has committed himself to. When a man says yes today and says no tomorrow, what kind of a man is that? Integrity is missing in our society, in our politics, the banking industry. It is missing everywhere. Today a politician tells you heíll build you a bridge, tomorrow, not only will he not build you a bridge he has not even dug up holes, so where is the man? At our elections, nobody mentions integrity in this country. But integrity is about the man who says yes and itís going to be yes or Iím going to make this road and he makes it no matter what. Where are such men? Until we bring back these values we will be in trouble. So itís about commitment and integrity. We do the best we can. Iím not saying weíre perfect. We make our own mistakes. You must have heard stories about clergymen. But the point is there are so many of us that are doing well and trying our best in our commitment compared to those who are failing. And for heavenís sake, some of those who are failing have worked for 15-20 or 30-35 years. Then they make a mistake, the society says, oh because of this singular mistake, two or three mistakes you have made, a whole lifetime of effort is cancelled. Those priests who have been vilified today because of their mistake, (maybe they have a girlfriend or a child), may have helped hundreds of people in the society to become who they are. Unfortunately, those people donít speak up to say this man sacrificed such and such to help me. But that is the way of the world.
Catholic church and miracles
We say to people that the Catholic church itself is a miracle. How can you say that a church that is a miracle does not believe in miracles. What I tell people is to go to the gospel, Jesus Christ who I believe is the centre of our faith (any Christian should believe this) laid a certain emphasis on His ministry. He did not make miracles the centre of his ministry. Miracles were signs to what he was doing. We believe in what Jesus Christ believes in. He said to (Pontius) Pilate, I have come so that the truth may be known and be spread. Donít forget that miracles are not always the sign of the presence of Christ.
There were several times that miracles were worked in the scriptures by evil people. Pharaohís magicians worked miracles. Pharaohís magicians turned their rods into snakes also. In the Acts of Apostles, people begged for the power to work miracles from the apostles. And in the gospels Jesus kept saying, I have to go to other villages to preach the world of God so that others can hear the good news.
The Catholic Church de-emphasises miracles because it gives people a sense of superstition. Look at the language we use. I take control, I command, I take dominion. The apostles didnít do that, remember Peter and John, at the Beautiful Gate. The kind of miracle atmosphere we live in has made it such that we now command God. "Heíll be there at 6,0íclock, come for our miracles and youíre gonna get it." What kind of houseboy god is that? What Jesus says and the Catholic church is that your faith will save you. You will have to show that you believe first. But you do not begin to find a God that youíll believe if He works miracles. Who are we to give conditions to God? We donít do that. When those miracles happened, Jesus kept telling people donít go talking about them because this is not the central thing thatís important. But what do we find today? We find that all the talk is about miracles which is not whatís important. Ad thatís part of our problem today.
Gay priests-Gay bishops
I donít think it will happen in my lifetime, in the Catholic church. Thereís a whole philosophy behind it. The period we are in now is one which subjectivity has taken over in belief. Meaning everybody determines his own brand of religion. Every church is now creating our own religion. The Catholic church has sympathy for whoever has the tendency for maybe, lesbianism or homosexualism and we say they need help. But unfortunately today, we live in a society that is ready to accept a deficiency, a disease, a problem and accept it as status quo in the name of freedom.
For heavenís sake, when something is not acceptable, we should not let the liberalism in the Western world mislead us. Iím happy that the Anglican Church in Nigeria has made a something we should pray about, that God will help the Church in the West to see that they are heading for disaster, the way they are going.
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