In Eastern Christianity – among both Catholics and Orthodox – a dual vocation to marriage and priesthood are seen as a call to broaden the boundaries of what a priest considers to be his family, said Russian Catholic Father Lawrence Cross.
The Code of Canons of the Eastern (Catholic) Churches insist that “in the way they lead their family life and educate their children, married clergy are to show an outstanding example to other Christian faithful,” said Cross, a professor at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne.
He spoke at the Chrysostom Seminar in Rome Nov. 13, a seminar sponsored by the Australian Catholic University and the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at St. Paul University in Ottawa.
The vocation of married priests in the Eastern churches cannot be understood apart from an understanding of the sacramental vocation of married couples, Cross said.
“Those who are called to the married priesthood are, in reality, called to a spiritual path that in the first place is characterized by a conjugal, family form of life,” he said. Priestly ordination builds on the vocation they have as married men.
Cross urged participants to understand the dignity of the vocation of marriage in the way Blessed John Paul II did: as a sacramental expression of God’s love and as a path to holiness made up of daily acts of self-giving and sacrifices made for the good of the other.