The Love of Your Life
Celibacy as Spiritual Practice
You may not envision being called into relationship with God through a classified ad.
Nevertheless, perhaps God is calling you to live the vocation of singlehood—that is, the vocation of celibacy, of intimate union with the Divine.
‘This is celibacy calling, will you accept the charges?’
As young Catholics we hear about the “calling”to religious life and the “calling” to marriage, but rarely do we hear about the calling to be single, or celibacy. There is the misconception in our church and culture that celibacy just means sexual abstinence.
Instead, the word “celibate means unmarried. It signifies that state of life. In Romance languages the equivalent term, when applied to men, means bachelor” America Magazine , October 28, 2002.
Not only is celibacy a state of being single, but it is a vocation that “nourishes our personal and spiritual life,” says Yvon Elenga, a 38-year old Jesuit priest from the Republic of Congo.
It is a spiritual practice, for both regular lay folk and those in religious orders, that allows us to enter into a deep relationship with God, ourselves, and the world around us.
Rachael Consoli, a 33-year old Emergency Room doctor working in Wisconsin says that celibacy “affects all aspects of my life. I can treat men and women with unconditional love, knowing that they are not objects for sexual pleasure but to know and grow in God’s love through them.”
God’s marriage proposal
How is God calling you to grow and live your life as a young Catholic? Are you called to celibacy? Like any vocation, the call to celibacy may be answered in multiple ways such as:
- Living singly
- Joining a religious order
- Residing in a community of laypersons
- Practicing celibacy temporarily within a marriage or partnership.
Whatever way you chose to practice celibacy, you understand that “I am giving the most precious part of myself wholly to God who is my primary love relationship,” says Mary Elizabeth Clark, a Sister of St. Joseph from Philadelphia.
For better or for worse
Like any relationship, celibacy carries its challenges. Yvon admits that celibacy is not an easy path. He acknowledges that sometimes he questions his call to celibacy but that “I always deal with these questions, not on the level of changing my choice [to be celibate], but seeing my own weakness.” When he realizes his weakness, it allows him to trust that God will give him the grace to fulfill his vows. Through the struggles, his relationship with God is strengthened.
Mary Elizabeth agrees, “When I decided to enter religious life, I had no idea how the struggles of a celibate life would actually make my commitment even stronger.”
Friends without benefits
So what are the benefits of celibacy? As a doctor, Rachael says that celibacy provides her with an “undivided heart” and “more time for serving God’s people.” Similarly, Mary Elizabeth believes that from the commitment to celibacy, “comes the practice of living a life of union with God and with all of creation as an expression of that love.”
So if you are looking for love, maybe it’s time to look someplace new. It isn’t likely that God will call you into relationship through Match.com . But take a few moments and listen. Perhaps God is calling you to celibacy, calling you to a match made in heaven.