Religious have “total dedication” to a life of celibacy – Arkansas Catholic


The “privileged” call to live a chaste and chaste life brings orderly joys and challenges

Posted: June 2, 2022

Aprille Hanson Spivey

Seminarian Quinton Thomas, 22, prepares students to meditate in prayer at the start of his religion class at Little Rock Catholic High School on May 13. Thomas said his call to celibacy frees him to devote himself fully to various ministries, including teaching.

At first, Quinton Thomas did not worry about the promise of celibacy when he entered the seminary.

After about a year of priestly studies, the “honeymoon” phase gave way to fears, doubts, and grief over the loss of the life he might be giving up. But today he embraced the call to celibacy as it was meant to be – a gift.

“I’ve discovered now that this is one of the things that excites me the most about being a priest,” Thomas said. “It offers you the opportunity for intimacy with God, an unmediated intimacy with God. It is a privileged calling.

In a gender-focused culture, clergy and religious share their call to live a chaste and chaste life, and the joys and challenges that this brings.

A Higher Calling

“I have now discovered that this is one of the things that excites me the most about being a priest. It offers you the opportunity for intimacy with God, an unmediated intimacy with God. It is a privileged call.

In the simplest of definitions, continence is abstaining from sex or sexual acts, and celibacy is the promise or vow of this life and more. For a person following a religious vocation, it is to abstain from an intimate and exclusive relationship with another person, replacing it with a supernatural connection with God.

In a February 19 Catholic News Service article covering an international conference on the priesthood at the Vatican, he explained that celibacy is not “intrinsic” to the Church, given that during the Church’s first millennium, priests were often married. However, Jesuit Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda explained that celibacy was favored and there were requirements for priests who were married at the time not to have sex.

Diocesan priests make promises of celibacy when ordained to the diaconate, usually one year before their priestly ordination and renew this promise upon ordination. The rite states in “The Roman Pontifical”, in part: “Impelled by the sincere love of Christ the Lord and living this state with total devotion, you will more easily cling to Christ with an undivided heart.” You will free yourself more completely for the service of God and man, and serve more effectively in the work of spiritual rebirth.

Father Jeff Hebert, vocations director for the Diocese of Little Rock, said the church looks to both the examples of Jesus and his mother Mary.

“Our society gives the impression that if you’re not in a sexual relationship, you’re probably going to be miserable. And the Lord has shown us otherwise. He was single himself,” he said.

Misconceptions about the charisma of celibacy can range from suppressed sexuality to “someone just wasn’t good looking enough” to find a mate, he explained.

“I think there has been a gradual loss in Western society of the value of living celibacy, as a witness to the life to come,” Father Hébert said. “Because the Lord has risen from the dead and many times he has said, like at the resurrection, there is no marriage. Nobody gets married (in heaven). And so celibacy or consecrated virginity and religious life are all a testimony of the life that is to come.

In reality, the call to celibacy is distinct from the call to the priesthood.

“I think the biggest misunderstanding is that celibacy is a requirement to be a priest. So if you want to be a priest, you have to be celibate to get what you want. In fact, we don’t allow guys to be ordained who have that understanding,” Fr. Hebert, 39, said. “So it’s a call, it’s a supernatural call, just as the priesthood is a call. And that is in fact – there are theologians who may not agree – the most basic calling. The Church therefore decided that it would call to the priesthood only men already called to celibacy.

Let’s talk about sex… and celibacy

According to a 2015 study by Barna Group titled “The Porn Phenomenon,” half of young adults discover porn at least once a week, whether they seek it out or not. Sex is also consistently depicted in TV shows, movies, and advertisements.

That’s why 22-year-old Thomas explained that his generation might not be as obsessed with the idea of ​​sex as many might think.

“I think people my age are probably more open (to celibacy) because if there was any doubt in our minds about what sexual liberation would be like, it would be gone by now because we’ve really tested all the waters and all the restrictions that we used to embrace, at least outwardly, are gone, and I think we’ve seen how empty that feeling leaves us,” he said. “People of my generation are generally a little more open to this than the previous ones because we have seen that what society has told us about sex is not true.”

Father Patrick Boland, OSB, monk for 16 years and priest for seven years at Subiaco Abbey, made his solemn profession of vows, obedience, stability and conversatio morum or “fidelity to the monastic way of life” , which includes celibacy. He was married from 1992 to 1997.

“If my wife and I were maybe on the same page with natural family planning, I think we might have understood that this bedroom was the ultimate union, to be one in the flesh. “, said Father Boland. “We weren’t emotionally or theologically (invested); it was just, for lack of a better word, sex.

Although he’s not in touch, he admits he loves his ex-wife better now thanks to the understanding and freedom of single love.

“Everyone needs affection, but there are different ways to receive affection. And being single until I was 30, married and then single again, I have more experience of to be ‘alone,’” said Father Boland, 59. “As a result, I learned where my affection comes from. We need to feel loved. There are more ways to feel loved than in the bedroom.

Mother Mary Clare Bezner, prioress of Holy Angels Convent in Jonesboro, was at the forefront of promiscuity as she served nearly three years in the US Air Force at just 19.

“I would still go out and party with them, but I wouldn’t end the night like a lot of them ended the night,” she said, adding that she took a personal vow of chastity. “I think it was like a challenge (for them). I was offered to have my chastity and my celibate lifestyle taken away – specifically, they told me these things outright.

Mother Mary Clare explained that they were “not bad people”, but wrapped up in culture. She is still friends with some of them today.

“Maybe they saw there was something more genuine about the friendship because I wouldn’t allow it to go into that space,” she said.

A Benedictine sister for 15 years, Mother Marie Claire, 45, made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but more specifically celibate chastity.

“Not everyone is called to it and it’s not meant for everyone,” she said of the sex. “It is also something that is not ugly. It is something beautiful. … I am a sexual being, created by God in beauty and a feminine being who has a role because of that on this earth. Each of us is unique in our role of experiencing this.

It takes work

Celibacy takes work, because all sexual desires do not stop or the clergy and religious suddenly agree with solitude often accompanied by a vocation. In fact, Father Hébert said it was a “red flag” when a man considering the priesthood had “no interest in relationships.”

“Christianity is about relationships, primarily with God, but also in communion with the whole body of Christ. So, if someone is not at all interested in human relations, it is a red flag. First, they are not fit for ministry, but that is probably not a call to celibacy either,” he said.

It is natural to feel sadness for the loss of an exclusive relationship with another person. Father Hébert said a crucial part of the formation of seminarians is the cultivation of “affective maturity,” in Church terms, usually referred to as emotional maturity. If they find a particular lay person attractive and realize they are more willing to meet that person because of it, they can be honest and “aware of these soul movements” and talk about it with a spiritual director.

“The purpose of the priesthood and the celibate life is not to try to ignore your sexuality or to repress or repress it. But instead the psychological term would be to ‘sublimate’ it. that is, to redirect it, because at its core, sexuality is a desire for intimacy.And it is a motivator for relationships and even service and self-sacrifice.And so when you understand that in a more abstract sense, it becomes motivation for ministry,” Father Hébert said, adding that it is also about bringing those fears of loneliness to the Lord.

“If he calls us to this life, it must mean that it is possible to live it with joy,” he said.

Father Boland and Mother Mary Clare outlined the truths in Saint John Paul II’s famous compilation of addresses called the “Theology of the Body.” Mother Mary Clare said her heart strings were pulled watching a mother with her child and wanting this for herself, but then she offers it to God.

“I just remember being so happy to learn that I was made for love. But that love would be greater than what the world saw to be love,” she said in a statement. diving into ‘The Theology of the Body.'” I just remember thinking it was so much bigger than they thought. But then realizing it was sacrificial in nature and that’s what love. That it was going to be something I was going to struggle with and wrestle with all my life. I don’t think it’s ever going to be something to say, ‘Got it, check the box.’ It will be something that every stage of my life will bring with a new challenge.


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