Celibacy is not attractive. In a culture where sexuality is so consistently and vehemently glorified, a lifestyle that is determined by celibacy is not attractive. For most serious Catholics, I think we would pride ourselves on our resistance against the ideology of the secular world. And if we speak about how to approach one’s sexuality, indeed, many young people are waking up more and more to the fact that the secular dream of sexual freedom has not led to freedom at all. However, I think the impact of the larger culture has another layer of influence: most young men and women have an unconscious, unarticulated, and un-chosen, aversion to celibacy as a serious life option. Even amongst serious young Catholics, a half-realized judgment seems to have been made, “Celibacy for the Kingdom really can’t give me satisfaction in this life like marriage can.” This proposition, resting in one’s interior, remains untested for the vast majority of Catholic young people.
I want to propose something different to young people: you would be a fool not to consider celibacy as a real life option for yourself. Why? Because considering it doesn’t cost you anything, and it only expands your options. The Kardashians and the Housewives have given you a narrative about your sexuality, and part of that narrative is that joy only occurs in romantic love. But that isn’t true. Look at our last three popes. Look at St. Theresa of Calcutta. Look at St. Maximillian Kolbe. And look at the train wreck of public personalities that have perpetuated a lifestyle glorifying earthly love beyond all proportion. Joy comes from holiness—a configuration of one’s life to the freedom of Christ, such that no circumstance, no opposition, no earthly power at all can take it away. God calls many people to be configured according to Celibacy for the Kingdom. Opening one’s heart to this possibility can only bring about a good end.
So save your money (don’t give it to the Kardashians by watching their show!). Consider a call to celibacy!
TIPS FOR DISCERNING CELIBACY
Want to test your attraction to a celibate vocation? Here are some tips:
1) Experience solitude
- For real. Extended periods of solitude. This will require you to be bored. Just be ready for it and don’t let it deter you from giving generous allotment of time. It doesn’t count if you bring your iphone! Create solitude to encounter the Lord, not Steven Colbert youtube videos!
2) Maintain a daily prayer schedule
Celibacy is firstly a discipline to open our hearts to the Lord. Consistent prayer goes hand in hand with a celibate vocation. So your own habit of prayer gives you a foretaste of celibacy.
3) Fast from media and other distractions
Multimedia isn’t evil, it is good. In moderation. The instant gratification we receive from it, however, habituates us to a fast-paced, over-stimulated existence that can stunt our ability to pray. Fasting from media will open another dimension of your interior to you.
THEOLOGIES OF CELIBACY
St. Jerome by El Greco
"The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart."
“Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy” (#2339).
“Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal” (Guadium et Spes #17).
Imitation of Christ
Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi
"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
- “[Chastity] shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine state. Chastity is a promise of immortality” (CCC #2347).
- “By the profession of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus—the chaste, poor and obedient one—are made constantly “visible” in the midst of the world and the eyes of the faithful are directed towards the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven” (Vita Consecrata, #1).
The Ecstasy of St. Theresa of Ávila
"Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul."
- “All the baptized are called to chastity. The Christian has ‘put on Christ,’ the model for all chastity. [They] should cultivate [chastity] in the way that is suited to their state of life. Some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner” (CCC #2348 & 2349).
- “In watchful waiting for the Lord's return, the cloister becomes a response to the absolute love of God for his creature and the fulfilment of his eternal desire to welcome the creature into the mystery of intimacy with the Word, who gave himself as Bridegroom in the Eucharist” (Verbi Sponsa, #3)
Kingdom of Heaven
St. Gregory of Nyssa
“The life of virginity is the image of the blessedness that awaits us in the life to come”
“Virginity for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away” (CCC #1619).