Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Chaste celibacy is possible

An anonymous blogger wrote the following: "...aren't all single Christians called to be celibate? As someone wrote in another post, living as a celibate single seems like an oddity today. It seems like most unmarrieds live together. My own parents (who were married in the Catholic Church), civilly divorced, and my father lived with his girlfriend and thought nothing of it.Most people complain that celibacy is impossible. NO way. Anything is possible when you live in God's Grace. Amen, Father Greg!" Amen, Anon! Thanks for your insights and enthusiasm.

It's important to make the distinction between celibacy and chastity. Celibacy refers to the state of being unmarried. All unmarried Christians are, by definition, celibates. Chastity refers to sexual purity. All Christians -single, married, religious - are called to chastity. So, with regards to your question about what single Christians are called to, we say that they are all called to live chaste celibacy. For most of them, it is not a permanent calling; it lasts as long as they are unmarried.

There's no doubt that the number of single Christians who live chaste celibacy has decreased in recent years. For many reasons, fornication (any sexual activity outside of marriage) and cohabitation (when an unmarried couple lives together) have unfortunately become much more common occurrences among couples. We live in a culture that not only condones such grave sins but actively promotes them. To find evidence of this, just watch a few of today's sitcoms on television at night.

Chastity is an unfamiliar concept to those in our culture, and probably even to many Christians. People may not know exactly what chastity means, but they do know (at least on a basic level) what it represents. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of the Church to "teach all nations" (Mt 28) what Jesus taught, especially in the area of chastity. It is the responsibility of parents (first and foremost), priests, teachers, etc. to teach the Gospel values of chastity and purity. This includes not only defining and explaining what they mean, but how to live them.

I will witness my first full wedding as a priest very soon. Meeting and working with this fine, young couple has been one of the greatest gifts of my young priesthood. When I first met them last year, they were very much in the dark about their Catholic faith, especially in regards to their call to chaste celibacy. They have shown a tremendous openness to God's Grace and experienced a real conversion! It has been awesome to watch them live out chaste celibacy with God's help. They would be the first to tell you that if they can do it, anyone can. For God, all things are possible!

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