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The Gift of Celibacy – Its Meaning Today

December 20, AD 2012 33 Comments

Woman on dockIf you mention the word “celibacy” on your local street corner today, you will probably not get a favorable response. It will more than likely spark a conversation about recent tabloid news involving sex scandals, homosexuality, or other negative publicity. Or, it may conjure up images of monasteries, cobblestone streets, and oil filled lamps. And if you mention the word “virginity” in today’s sex-crazed society, you can multiply that negative image ten-fold. Why? Because our society has an eroded sense of biblical sexual values as evidenced by the high rates of illicit sex, abortion, and divorce.

However, there are those who have heard and responded to the call of lifetime virginity. They do not all reside in monasteries or conform to one particular church or denomination. In fact, this unique gift (as all others) transcends all genders, ages, cultures, races and economic backgrounds. The celibate gift captures a person’s heart in such a manner that the idea of permanence is embraced wholeheartedly, just as in a Christian marriage. It is radical because it is in direct opposition to world standards, stands in stark contrast to our material and entertainment oriented society, and renounces self-gratification for a different calling. It is a purposefully chosen counter-cultural way of life.

An understanding of marriage is necessary in order to understand the celibate gift. In Apostle Paul’s writings, it is clear that a sexual union is what initiates a marriage—not a marriage license or marriage ceremony (“for it is better to marry than to burn with passion,” 1 Cor. 7:9). Obviously, a flame can be quenched with one drop of water, thereby creating a marital bond in God’s eyes. So it is clear from God’s Word that a past sexual history is not compatible with the celibate gift. In 1 Cor. 6:16, Paul states that: “Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” So, in Biblical times, an unmarried person was a virgin, and this applied to both men and women (even though I will use the term “she” from here forward). There was no recognized state between virginity and marriage. It is reassuring that God’s words are eternal and do not change with the times.

The language used to describe the celibate gift presents a unique problem in today’s society. The term “celibate” is often used today to refer to someone who is abstaining from sex for a period of time or has recommitted to abstinence, and does not capture the essence of virginity. “Permanent virgin” is an accurate description, but generally leaves men out who have this calling, since society’s current use of language associates virginity with women. “Eunuchs for the kingdom” gets right to the heart of it, affirms the permanency of the calling, and is biblical—but it would probably have most people running for their dictionaries. So, I am using the terms “celibacy” and “virginity” to mean one and the same—having never engaged in sexual activity.

Characteristics of the Gift

The spiritual gift of virginity/celibacy is a freely chosen positive response to God to live your life without marriage and without sexual activity, devoted to the Lord in body and spirit. As Apostle Paul describes it in 1 Cor. 7:34: “An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.” And, in I Cor. 7:7 Paul states: “I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift, another has that.” Paul is making it clear that he has this gift and affirms its validity.

A phrase in verse 34 is often overlooked. Paul did not say that the virgin would be “more inclined” to be concerned about the Lord’s affairs, he said she “is concerned”—a statement of fact. A person who has heard God’s call to virginity and has accepted that call knows of no other way to respond, just as a person who is in romantic relationship knows of no other way to respond except “yes” to marriage. Likewise, Paul did not say that a married woman is “more inclined” to be concerned about the affairs of this world. She is concerned. Concern about how to please her husband and provide for her family takes priority over everything else. Even though she can have a Christian marriage and family, she cannot be wholeheartedly concerned about the Lord’s affairs. Note also that Paul never used the phrase “more time” to explain the virgin’s devotion to the Lord, and never attributed free time on her hands to her concern for the Lord’s affairs.

Misconceptions

Some may think that the gift of celibacy is an ability to live alone in the world, or that it is just an ability to repress sexual drive, living a life of loneliness and misery. There are challenges that every celibate will face, just as in marriage. But the person with the celibate gift does not condemn Christian marriage, is not afraid of physical intimacy, is not antisocial, is not irresponsible, is not immature, is not naïve, and is not a “loner.” These are all stereotypes. The celibate lives a life of completeness and fulfillment that is just as real as the life of a married person. The sexual aspect of the gift becomes less and less of an issue as time passes. The celibate gift eventually becomes all encompassing, influencing every fiber of a person’s being, every emotional molecule.

There are some people who may try to rationalize the existence of the celibate based on world standards. This is not possible. The celibate gift is not a reward, not a punishment, not something that is earned, and is not something that can be learned. Those who have received the gift will probably have difficulty explaining their choice, just as most women would have difficulty explaining why they chose their particular husband.

Celibacy—Past, Present, and Future

The gift of celibacy points towards a new frontier, towards eternal life, towards the future when no man or woman will be given in marriage. As Mark 12:25 states: “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” The mere existence of the celibate is a permanent reminder of things to come. Even though the celibate gift points towards a new frontier, it has been around since the beginning of time. Matthew 19:12 tells us that: “For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” “Born that way” refers to those born with genetic anomalies who have absent or malformed sexual organs (or mental anomalies). “Made that way by men” refers to surgically created eunuchs, having historically served as guards for royal women and their jewels and as caretakers for ruling families. “Renounced marriage for the kingdom of heaven” refers directly to the gift of celibacy, someone who has freely chosen to forego sexual activity during their lifetime.

The fact that eunuchs were identified and were held in esteem as uniquely qualified for certain tasks is in direct contrast to our present society—a society where everybody has been there and done that and where inexperience is viewed as a liability. Our society places a high value on experience of all types. Inexperience is seen as a void, a negative trait. The celibate views sexual inexperience as complete fullness, as an integral part of the total gift. When a person first senses the calling to celibacy, I think there is a natural feeling of void—a holocaust of a person’s soul, so to speak. And, yes, I think there is a natural temporary feeling of pain and sorrow, that something has been lost. This is often made worse by holding on to cultural expectations, such as marriage and children. But what is received in turn is an inner strength and sense of purpose in this world. There is a profound sense of contentment and security, security in knowing that you are where God wants you to be, and security in knowing that there will be no regrets, no broken hearts.

The delivery of the gift, though, may not overwhelm your neighbors. There is no public ceremony to mark the occasion, except for certain orders in the Catholic church. There are no wedding showers to plan, no church to decorate, and no cake to bake. All of these are affairs of the married person, affairs of the world that are fading away. The celibate replaces all of these social traditions with higher expectations and delights in making arrangements for eternity’s sake. For most people, the celibate gift it is not an instant awareness, but rather a process. It involves spending time alone, opening up your heart, praying, and becoming acutely aware of God’s intentions for your life. And, just like in marriage, the bond grows stronger over time.

There have been other cultures in history with a rich celibate heritage where the institution of celibacy was held in equal value with the institution of marriage. In today’s culture, the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme to where family concerns have been elevated to the point of representing the pinnacle of Christian values.

Unfortunately, a middle ground that recognizes both set of values does not exist. Churches today are reinforcing this phenomenon. Even if a church identifies its congregation as being open to all, there are usually still strong underpinnings of the earth-bound nuclear family that do not recognize the existence of a state of being between “youth group” and “young couples class.” Most churches today also have “singles groups” which popularly refer to those who are in a holding state until marriage. I view all of this as a challenge for celibacy today.

In today’s society, the term “family” is being used synonymously with the term “Christian.” This is in direct contradiction to what the Bible plainly teaches. In Luke 18:29, Jesus states that: “No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the Kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.” Churches today avoid the subject of celibacy and ride the bandwagon of family values with little regard for the celibate. I have never heard of a seminar, lecture, or retreat on the topic of Christian celibacy offered by any local church. And I’m certainly not aware of any “focus on the celibate” outreach. Realistically, though, I think this gift does affect only a few people, a minority so small that every church would not have the numbers to create special programs. I do think this could be done on a regional basis.

Acceptance

Acceptance was also an issue for celibates in the Bible. There is an account in the Bible of a brother and sister having difficulty in accepting their sister’s call to the affairs of the Lord. Luke 10: 38-42 tells the story of Jesus’ visit to the home of Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary. They lived in Bethany and this was apparently a convenient stop-over for Jesus and His disciples to get a bite to eat. Martha was in the kitchen preparing the eats, while Mary was at Jesus’ feet listening to His every word. Martha complained and said to Jesus: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Martha represents marriage and family values which are temporary and include duty, competition, conformity, compartmentalization, self-fulfillment, pleasing her spouse, providing for her children, earth-bound communication, and other affairs of this world. They are legitimate Christian values. Jesus’ reply was: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Mary represents the celibate gift and its values which are eternal and include the unlimited affairs of the Lord. Her heart is tuned in to His desires, not the desires of a spouse or children. I believe when Jesus said that Mary had chosen what is better, He meant that she had chosen a superior way of life, but not that she was a superior person as valued by Christ. A married person’s heart is divided, a celibate person’s heart is totally devoted to Christ. Mary was there at His feet ready to jump at a second’s notice if He needed anything, no matter how trivial it may have seemed to the onlookers.

But how could Mary’s choice be taken away from her? Could it have been by jealousy on the part of those who did not share the gift, lack of understanding, a society whose value system revolved around family life and children, parents who were anxious to see their faces in grandchildren, a society that condoned sexual sin and perversion, a society that did not make a distinction between family values and celibate values? These forces are just as strong today. Martha complained while Jesus Himself was present in the room with all of His disciples. This should be a major reassurance for celibates today. Even though Jesus is not physically present today when we face those who do not understand, He is still just as alive and near as He was to Mary. When faced with distractors, the celibate can still hear Him say “you have chosen what is better.”

How to Know if One Has this Gift

1 Cor. 12:4 tells us that: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit.” And 1 Cor. 12:11 states that: “All these are the work of one and the same spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” The allocation of different gifts is a divine mystery. But I think there are some common factors that leads a person to the call and acceptance of this mysterious gift. A noncomforming disposition is one factor. Mary of Bethany was certainly noncomforming. I really don’t think Martha’s complaint came as a surprise to Mary. If Mary had been the conforming type, she would have already been back helping make the preparations during Jesus’ visit. She was ambivalent to what others may think. They may have all thought she was lazy and wasting time, but it did not bother her. She was also quick to put herself below the level of others—she was sitting at Jesus’ feet, not looking at His face across a boardroom table.

The celibate person also does not feel comfortable following the masses, generally dismisses cultural norms and expectations, and follows her heart at all cost. Nothing in this world seems to be totally satisfying and she is constantly glancing off to the horizon, meditating on things to come. She has a strong sense of discernment and can see the superficiality in superficial things. She also has a strong sense of identification, an identification that is not derived from a spouse, parents, job, and children. She does not require a husband for her sense of femininity. She also has an unusual capacity to love her neighbor, is more sensitive to other peoples’ needs, can communicate in a way that shows Jesus’ love, and responds with patience and kindness when the world does not understand. With this comes a very strong focusing ability, continual prayer, and awareness of God’s presence. An ability to rechannel energy is also important—a willingness to delve into projects wholeheartedly. I believe an appreciation of creation and beauty is also a common factor. Some of the greatest works of art have been created by celibates throughout history and are on display in monasteries around the world.

How could celibacy be presented as an acceptable option for young people today who are not yet married? Well, I’m not looking for a sign that reads “permanent virgins” or “eunuchs for the kingdom” to pop up on one of the doors in my local church. But I think churches could offer seminars or introductory classes on the gift of celibacy, especially to help those who are in the process of discerning. And, preferably, they should be hosted by people who are living the lifestyle and can represent the celibate gift as a a positive response to God.

Parents should be understanding if their children do not quite “fit in” with the crowd and are not married by a socially accepted age limit. They need to reassure their children that marriage is not for everyone, that there have been many others who have lived long and healthy lives without a sexual relationship, and that the celibate gift is just as vibrant today as it was a thousand years ago.

Summary

So, this unique gift has always existed, is not confined to monasteries, needs a lot more encouragement from Christian communities, is just as Biblically legitimate as Christian marriage, and is taken that seriously by the people who have accepted it. Churches today need to be more aware of their compartmentalization and the negative effect this can have on the discernment of this unique calling. The celibate takes comfort in knowing that social norms on this earth are fading and that her eternal mission cannot be diluted by labels. She does not need to proclaim her calling from a mountain top. Her eternal love knows her heart and that is sufficient.

About the Author:

John is a graduate of the University of Montevallo where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Business Management. He currently volunteers his time as a photographer for various nonprofit organizations including the National Audubon Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Geographic. He's working on a play and several musical compositions. Last year he founded Alabama's INSITE support group for bipolar disorder and depression. He also volunteers his time as a mentor in the local school system. His favorite composer is Franz Joseph Haydn, his favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh, and his favorite author is Fr. Thomas Dubay. John is a lifetime celibate and lives in the Birmingham, AL area.
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  • Nicholas

    We are talking about the consecrated life, yes? Arguably, the discernment of a consecrated life has also been damaged by a modern emphasis on a “vocation to the single life.” Shouldn’t we distinguish between these two things?

    • John Morgan

      Nicholas – I think single life is to the gift of celibacy as a grain of sand is to Jupiter. I think definitions will become clearer one day when husbands and wives find themselves standing before Christ . . . single.

    • John Morgan

      I also meant to tell you that I’m not talking about the consecrated life (nuns, monks, etc). It was mainly written for the ordinary person who is not called to be in a convent or monastary. Instead of having to chose between marriage and a religious order, I am suggesting a third option. I think this gift transcends all religions, denominations, races, sexes, ages, occupations, etc.

      • Nicholas

        I am not competent to argue the position on my own, but many people whom I respect have taken the traditional position that there is no such thing as a vocation to the single life, and that all imagined cases of this are (as J.P. said) “either a transitional vocation or a missed vocation.” That human beings by nature are SUPPOSED to give their whole lives in permanent consecration into a community, whether the community of a marriage or the community of a religious vow. No magisterial document to my knowledge has ever supposed the existence of such a “vocation” to the single life, and AFAIK it is unheard of before the last several decades.

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  • J.P.

    Let’s be clear here that celibacy is a permanent life choice and a complete gift of self in the true sense of what confirms a vocation. This would normally be in the context of consecrated life, whether in a religious order or a lay association.

    I don’t object to what you say about celibacy here, but lets also remember that “celibacy” is not identical with involuntary singleness and there is nothing in common between apostolic celibacy in a life given over to the kingdom and the unrooted Seinfeldian singleness in a “life about nothing” that is all too characteristic of today’s single society, even if there is no sex involved. The singleness of “Seinfeld” and “Friends”is a catastrophic, pestilential visitation on the Church and society in general. It impacts millions of single Catholics of all ages who are deeply unhappy to be trapped in it.

    That’s why I think we do need to be clear that there is no “single” vocation and only apostolic celibacy or virginity for those who are called to a terminal vocation that is not marriage. The Church encourages too many young people today to waste years discerning whether they are called to be single when this singleness is the result of practical circumstances, the dearth of good Catholic spouses, or just plain drift.

    I agree with you that the Church does and should have high regard for committed celibacy; but let’s be clear that is the choice worthy of discernment. There is no calling to be a sexually continent version of Jerry, Elaine, George or Kramer. There is no calling to live a life about nothing–in fact, it is very much the reverse. Those of us who feel called to marriage and family but whom God has permitted to spend years and decades in unwanted singleness bear a heavy cross. For us it is hard to live a that shows commitment to Christ and our faith without a family to anchor it. If celibate feel ignored, we feel positively shut out of family oriented parishes. Sure, there is never a mention of celibacy in sermons, but there is also never a prayer for single people seeking marriage.

    In short, celibacy is good, and marriage is good. But let’s reject the notion that protracted, seemingly perpetual, quasi adolescent, uncommitted singleness is a desirable lifestyle, let alone a true vocation. Some of us are trapped here for reasons we don’t understand and may have to do with redemptive suffering. But it is either a transitional vocation or a missed vocation. There are many who are perfectly happy and live holy lives for the time being as singles, divorced, widows, and widowers. But let’s not say the single state in life is the same as the celibate vocation. The Church could speak more of true celibacy; but it could also do more to promote marriage as an alternative to the non-choice of singleness. We long term single Catholics need more help and support from the Catholic community than we have been getting.

    • John Morgan

      True, the Catholic Church isn’t great at matchmaking and here’s a secret: Protestant churches aren’t much better. But this column is not about unwanted singleness. I never said it was and I think you may have read too much into my essay. Those who are wish to be married – this does not apply to you. I am talking about those for whom the Lord has specifically called to not marry. I may not be consecrated or in the appropriate vocation, but I take my calling just as serious as my Catholic brothers and sisters. Yes – We all need to support each other.

  • As a younger woman (34) definitely called to celibacy for life in singleheartedness for Christ, and no doubt that this is better, I very much embrace that as a gift, and appreciate this article quite a lot.

    I think the Church needs to be better ways to deal with caring for celibate laity through life, including in sickness and old age. Those suitable to join an institute of consecrated life should generally be directed try to do so (I have some disabilities, so in my case this is not entirely clear). I know a lot of devout Catholics locally and I really can only think of one or two other young lay women who specifically embrace celibacy, and one of those is associated strongly with an institute of consecrated life. I am not. I’m on my own. There is no specific formation for such a life, nor support for one’s identity in such a vocation. Never-married Catholic women I know are sometimes austerely alone at the end of their lives. I have befriended and helped one such. There seem to be no Catholic mutual aid/support organizations? Didn’t third orders have something like that as part of their function in the middle ages? They do not now, though something similar could develop. Parishes generally do not now provide that kind of support necessarily. Our lives now are so disconnected. That means vulnerability for the unmarried especially if poor. I am, obviously, willing to be thus vulerable!! But I don’t think I am the only one who perceives a need for organized Catholic help and support of various kinds for the celibates and being Christian family to one another.

    • John Morgan

      Elizabeth – Thank you. You are not the only one. Stay strong and keep your light on.

  • abraham

    where the apostles of Christ celibates as defined in this article or st. paul himself. NO, i think is the answer.
    there was a time in life a resolved to like a celibate life ie in my teens, but in a world where sex is exergerated, i now at 22 no longer appreciate such commitment. i think i need to be helped.

  • abraham

    celibacy is a fine endevour but is it characteristically nature given or can also be acquired?

    • John Morgan

      God given and freely chosen, like marriage.

  • Edwin

    Nicholas, may have missed something if he attended a Cathkolic School. I did from Grade one to graduation. The choice of Celibacy was mentioned often as a choice. It was not pushed as a vocation to the priesthood or religious any stronger. We knew we had a choice. I admire those who chose celibacy as a vocation. I have noted they seem to be very happy and acan devote their full attention to their life choice or vocation as to work.

  • abraham

    I wish one to make a proper evaluatioon of the idea of celibacy as posited in the popular movie “THORN BIRD”, is is a fine picture or a defaced one?

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  • SavedByHisGrace

    I am 19 year old girl, and have recently discovered my gift of celibacy. Ever since I was little I never had the desire of marriage or sexual interactions and those that I talked to about this, thought that there was something wrong with me. I felt like I was doing something wrong for not wanting that and only wanting a relationship with Jesus. Until recently I learned of celibacy and that it is a gift from God.

    As a young woman, most of my peers and family members, do not understand it and therefore it is hard to talk to them or have true friends. But I am very encouraged by this article and to know that there are others out here with this gift. Thank you so much for sharing this, God bless!

  • Chris Dagostino

    I felt as if God was urging me to seek out a mate about four years ago, but nothing good came out of it. I found myself feeling anger and jealousy towards Him and the couples I saw walking hand-in-hand out in public. And that’s not even mentioning the smothering depression that seemed to creep up me at random. It wasn’t helped by the posts I saw online of people who’d been praying and waiting for years for a mate and still hadn’t found one. In fact, one of the last proverbial straws for me was when I called a prayer hotline for emotional support a few months back. I told the kind-hearted lady about my predicament, and she said, “I know how you feel, Chris, because I’ve been asking tne Lord for a mate for 30 years now.” It was like, REALLY?I decided that I couldn’t and wouldn’t wait that long if that’s how long it would take and asked God to just take away my sex drive so that the urge for a mate, and the emotional havoc that I was experiencing as the result of not having one, would all go away. He seems to be listening. Being single and celibate doesn’t sound nearly as bad as it used to.

    • MM

      I know nothing about you other than what you just wrote so maybe this isn’t really true, but just going on what you wrote, it seems like you were wanting to get married just for sex. Instead of saying you thought God was asking you to find a wife you said a “mate”. Animals have mates. People have spouses. Marriage isn’t just about relieving a sex drive. It’s about helping a spouse get to heaven and having children and helping them get to heaven. Maybe God didn’t think it would be good to send you a mate but maybe if you asked for and were open to being a husband and father and looked for someone who wanted to be a wife and mother.

      • Chris Dagostino

        Does it really matter what noun I use, be it mate, life partner, my rib, etc? You know what I meant.

        Marriage shouldn’t be about helping your spouse to Heaven. If you took Paul’s advice and married a believer like he said you should, they wouldn’t need help–they’d already be on their way there when the time comes. And I didn’t wanna get married just for sex; I would’ve married a Russian mail order bride if I did. But again, God tempered my drives and I never really wanted kids, so the MGTOW lifestyle is looking pretty good right now.

      • MM

        OK, you didn’t want to get married just for sex. And you don’t think marriage is about helping your spouse get to heaven. And you didn’t want children. So what do you think the purpose of Christian marriage is and why did you want to get married?

      • christianpundit

        @ MM. Maybe I’m not clear on everyone’s religious views who is posting, but from a Baptist view, nobody can ‘help someone else get to heaven,’ other than sharing the Gospel with them. What of infertile married Christians who are unable to have children, should they just stop having sex? I don’t buy the Christian argument that marriage is for procreating only. I think a big chunk of it is for companionship. God said it was not good for Adam to be alone – not that I understand that to mean companionship can or should be had only in marriage, but it is one avenue to that end.

      • MM

        I am Catholic and this is a Catholic website. Catholic teaching is exactly that: The purpose of marriage is to help your spouse get to heaven and to raise a family. In fact, in order to get married in the Catholic Church the couple has to be open to children. If you don’t want children, you don’t get married. Obviously companionship is also part of marriage but friends will give you companionship. Marriage is more than friends with benefits (sex). Marriage is a covenant mirroring the covenant between God and his people. It’s a sacrament which endows grace on the couple which gives them strength to stay together and strength to raise a family. I believe this guy when he says he didn’t want marriage just for sex. But if he doesn’t want children he is must, in fact, stay celibate.

      • Chris Dagostino

        I didn’t realize that this was a Catholic-leaning site. I believe the Catholic church to be an apostate body, and the sex-for-procreation-only attitude that you espouse is one of the reason why.

        In any event, I deleted my Christian Mingle profile a few days ago. As I said, after realizing how futile my search was and after reading about the effects that Feminism has had on our courts and culture, “going Paul” sounds kinda nice.

      • christianpundit

        Clearly the guy was not saying he was interested in marriage only for sex, with comments such as “the couples I saw walking hand-in-hand out in public” – he expressed feeling depressed and feeling even more discouraged after coming across other Christians who have still not been married, even after 30 years of prayer over it. He comes across as more lonely and sad about being single than a randy guy wanting sex any time.

  • mariao

    Thank you for this cogent explanation of the vocation to apostolic celibacy. It captures every aspect of the life I have been happily living for over ten years now. I don’t know many celibates outside my Opus Dei family so it’s great to discover anew that there are many others who have embraced this call. I pray that you all are able to find the help and support that you need to live this sometimes difficult but always fulfilling way of life!

    • John Morgan

      Mariao – As I interpret Paul in 1 Cor 7, any sexual history is not compatible with the call to celibacy and the concerns of Christ. I know the Catholic Church has the Order of Consecrated Virgins. But I’m not aware of a similar group for Catholic men. .

      • Lagosunshine

        Were the apostles celibates ?

        I don’t agree with you at all that you need to have lived life as a virgin to choose then to live a celibate life.

        Mary chooses the better part – listening to the Word.

        Another Mary sins much, is forgiven much, and because of that forgiveness – loves much – her Lord. Those forgiven little – love little.

        I believe all are called to ‘celibacy’ in the sense that all are called to seek God with all we are, can become – and in that seeking through all life, all experience, all Creation too – are the more found by, know and love God.

        Then the greater we realise that first great commandment in life – the greater we are able to fulfill the second like it – loving the neighbour as the self. In this all the law and the prophets.

        There are no distinctions in Christ. All are equal. The first will be last and the last first. The things of God are such paradox.

        I am not meaning to suggest or imply that a person should not remain a virgin in life – giving this to God. But when you place something above something else – pedestals get in the way of real holiness.

        Someone with a ‘sexual history’ maybe as capable of wholly loving and serving God as the ever virgin. All is grace.

        St Augustine had quite the history and he lived a celibate life thereafter.

        “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you ! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

        K

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  • Alvaro Byrne

    Thanks a lot, I was actually happy after reading this article. I’ve taken the commitment to apostolic celibacy for two years now. I’m 20 years old male! The only place where I found I could live out this gift in the middle of the world was by joining Opus Dei. In the centre were I receive formation and live family life there are 45 others like me, most of them under 30 and the young ones like me are all at university.

    I’m a Spaniard and I found articles similar to this but only in the webpage of Opus Dei and many written in Spanish by members of Opus Dei. It made me quite happy to find one in English and on a different webpage.

    I would like to let you know how the path of celibacy in the world works in Opus Dei, it might open the minds of many of you:

    You ask for admission first, during 6 months you live the same plan of spiritual life as the rest of the members. After that, if one sees that it could definitely be God’s plan for oneself and the directors see that the person has conditions, the admission is made.

    A year after that, if it is still proved that conditions are met and the person continues convinced that this is God’s plan for him/her, the ceremony of oblation takes place (by canon law the minimum age required is 18). This admission is temporarily and only 5 years after the lifelong commitment by the ceremony of Fidelity (one buys a golden ring with the date of the fidelity, it’s like the ring of a married person).

    So as you can see, there’s a process of discernment behind. As they would do in an order or in a seminary. The difference is that Opus Dei is a Personal Prelature. We’re not an order, we’re like any other lay Christian in the world exercising his or her job and duties as a citizen.

    There are more things about Opus Dei that I could not cover. But if you’re interested visit the official webpage of the Prelature:
    opusdei.ca or opusdei.us or opusdei.ie, etc. Depending on which is your respective country.

    Hope this helped and I hope it is clear, I wrote it all a bit on a hurry. I just found it important to mention.