Father Jose Maria Montiu de Nuix, Doctor in Philosophy, offers this article on the meaning and beauty of ecclesiastical celibacy, choice of love.
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The highest vocation is the vocation to sanctity, the vocation to the love of God, amor Dei. The greatest ideal, the most beautiful, the loveliest, the most poetic, the most sublime, the most wonderful, the most attractive, is to give one’s whole heart to love God. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind (. . .)” (cf. Luke10:27).
This doesn’t mean to choose a thing, but a Person, a Divine Person, Christ. It’s not only to choose a love but to choose the One who is Love, the Love of loves, infinite Love. It’s not to choose something, it’s to be more ambitious and choose all.
It’s not to choose a finite treasure; it’s to choose the treasure par excellence, to possess the infinite treasure, maximally bright and enchanting. It’s not to choose something beautiful; it’s to choose Beauty, infinite Beauty, the most attractive and the One that most enthuses. It’s not to choose a wonder; it’s to choose the wonder above all wonders, greater than anything thinkable or desirable.
It’s not only to choose something that pleases; it’s to choose happiness, the soul’s desire, the aspiration of the human heart. It is to choose the One in whom infinite thirst is satiated. It’s the song of the soul!
It is proper for youth to be a person of ideals. A young man wants the moment to arrive in which his journey is done in the company of another person, with the union of affections, of sentiments, of desires.
The Lord gives some the vocation to the priesthood, to others, the vocation to marriage, it being clear, of course, that the common vocation of all the baptized is to love God with all one’s heart and with all one’s strength.
It goes without saying that the most perfect for each soul is to follow his/her vocation, as the best thing is to do God’s Will. Moreover, the Sacrament of Marriage is a great Sacrament, a sign of Christ’s love for His Church.
It’s also true that, in itself the most beautiful is that all affection be for the Lord, without any division. There is nothing more beautiful or more attractive! Analogously as to how the most beautiful of flowers is lovelier than a daisy. Especially patent in a rose is that the Lord’s hands are recent, close. Saint Paul says in this regard: “The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:32-33). It’s very evident that it’s much more beautiful to give all one’s affections to the Lord than to have divided affections between the Lord and a wife. A life in which all the heart’s beats are for God, without being shared with someone, is the most beautiful of wonders. Therefore, celibacy is a much greater and more beautiful ideal than the vocation to marriage.
Ecclesiastical celibacy does not consist in staying single. It’s a choice of love, a true spiritual marriage. It’s the soul’s espousals with God, infinite beauty, which is much more beautiful than marriage with a woman, a finite and mortal being, whose beauty languishes and disappears in comparison with that of God. Ecclesiastical celibacy is only understood with the eyes of love. Celibacy is embraced out of love for the Kingdom of Heaven, out of love for Christ, for Mary Most Holy and for the Church. It’s to beat with love! The celibate is one in love, in love with God. Ecclesiastical celibacy configures one much more to the Beloved, Christ the priest, celibate.
It’s true that the Sacred Eucharist is the greatest, as it contains all our good, Christ, God, and Saviour. But it’s also true that it’s something very mysterious, as it contains God hidden. But to go to give oneself out of love to another person is something that is inserted in the youth’s itinerary itself. It’s something that opens gradually in a natural way in his heart. Therefore, I dare to say that not a few young men, with a priestly vocation not yet discovered, discover the sublime beauty of celibacy before great profound reflections on the grandeur of the Eucharist.
The present discipline of the Latin Church establishes that whoever has a vocation to the priesthood, will have to promise to observe celibacy to be able to be a deacon and, again, to be a priest. Therefore, at present, ecclesiastical celibacy is an integral part of the priestly vocation. Whoever has a vocation to the priesthood, by the mere fact of having such, also has a vocation to celibacy. Not to promise to be celibate would be to give up the priestly vocation, to give up God’s call. This has very important consequences.
First consequence: celibacy is a rule that must be observed, but it’s not just a rule but a wonderful way of living. In his fantastic encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, Pope Paul VI shows the great good that comes from keeping the ecclesiastical discipline of exacting celibacy from priests as, through celibacy, great goods come to the Church.
Second consequence: celibacy can be lived. Having from God the mission to live in keeping with celibacy, God will give all the necessary means to be able to live it. As celibacy is a gift and present from God, it doesn’t add problems to sexual questions, but the soul, in being more elevated by this gift of grace, is better disposed to be able to achieve victory. Celibacy dilates, enhances spiritual paternity. Moreover, celibacy elevates the soul to great fineness, to great heights of spirituality. Celibacy is not a problem, but a fantastic gift of God.
Third consequence: marriage and celibacy illumine and reinforce one another mutually. They learn much about how to live their love: the priest from the one who has contracted the Sacrament of Marriage, and the latter from the former.
In short, from the eyes of faith, priestly celibacy isn’t a problem, but a wonder of wonders, a great and most beautiful ideal!
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester