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THE PRIESTHOOD


 


 

WHAT IS CELIBACY  

There is celibacy, purity, chastity and continence. For non-theologians, there shouldn't be much difference between them. Let's just say that these are different angles of the same thing. 

But, more specifically, chastity is when reason chastises concupiscence. Chastity is the moderate use of bodily members according to reason for the attainment of supernatural faith.

Purity is an expression of a circumstance of chastity; purity and chastity are used interchangeably.

Virginity is continence whereby integrity of the flesh is vowed, consecrated and observed in honor of God who made both body and soul.

St. Ambrose used the words virginal chastity to describe integrity free of pollution, the essence of which is abstaining from pleasure for the sake of holiness. He used the words virginal chastity because mere virginity without chastity as its goal is useless; in fact, marital chastity is superior to mere physical virginity. It is virginal chastity that is more pleasing to God than marital chastity. Martyrdom and monastic life are also considered superior to physical virginity.

Marriage is inferior to virginal continence and holy widowhood. To say that marriage and virginity are equal is  Jovinian heresy. Christ's preference is clear: He chose a virgin for His mother, a virgin for His foster father, and a virgin for His "beloved" apostle.

Celibacy is the renunciation of marriage for the more perfect observance of chastity. Its essence is the preservation of the innocence of baptism. So Joseph Valokolamsk urged parents to see to it that their children were either married or monks at 15, otherwise they would lose their purity. And they are to blame.

Celibacy was foreshadowed in the Old Testament in circumcision, a symbol of spiritual castration. This consists in cutting-off all carnal pleasures. Virginal chastity, on the other hand, is the angelic life in the New Testament, a way of life over and above the angels, in that the angels obtained their virginity as a gift, man through combat.

Celibacy is witnessing that the perfection of the Gospel is livable. If one Catholic teaching is not livable, then probably the rest are not.

The reason for celibacy is mystical, therefore, difficult to understand and appealing to very few. It is true that it is difficult to practice, even impossible, for one living a life of minimum prayer and maximum exposure to the world.

But majority of priests believe in the need for celibacy. Yes, all priests would like to get married; but most believe that if they are to be of service to the Church they must be celibates.

 

 

 

 

 

(04-05-03)

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