Religious Celibacy: A Charism

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Religious Celibacy as a Charism is a special gift from God[1] which we receive in our religious life. In faith and love we accept this gift and respond to it by living this charism in daily loving commitment to Christ.[2] Consecrated Celibacy involves total self-giving as a response to the call from God[3] to value a plan of life and mission which is primarily the worship and close imitation of Jesus Christ.[4] What is this mission for which a person makes this holocaust of self?[5] ‘He who renounces matrimony confesses publicly his/her trust to find God, fulfilment of his/her needs of love;  he/she attests with his life to treasure and to believe in the promise of the Gospel (Mt 19: 29; Mk 10: 30); to demonstrate  in the person that eternal life is a reality which already has begun on this earth.’[6] The vow of Celibacy is a real holocaust of body and soul (Mt 19: 12), a holocaust made as the most direct and rapid way through the perfection of celibacy. The soul is given through love, the body through Celibacy. It is a joyful and loving acceptance of a celibate chastity as a permanent way of life, out of our desire to imitate Jesus Christ who is the object of our love.[7] Celibacy frees the human heart in a remarkable manner (1Cor. 7:32-35), so that it burns with love for God and all people. One of the greatest contributions which celibates can bring to humanity today is certainly that of revealing, by their life more than by their words, the possibility of true dedication to, and openness towards others, in sharing in their joys, in being faithful and constant in love without a thought of domination or exclusiveness. Consecrated Celibacy brings about a special relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ in that it gives Christ in a real concrete way the central place that is given to the spouse in a marriage.[8] Christ becomes the spouse, the life-partner. Just as genuine marriage takes place only when two people are fascinated by each other’s love, so too, joyful Celibacy is possible only if we are fascinated by Christ’s love. The absolute claim that Christ has on us is made real as possible – martyrdom alone surpasses celibacy in this regard. By actual renunciation, a life of celibacy shows that Christ’s love is real as the love of a spouse. It unites us to Christ because celibacy makes a gift of self to Christ, just as does marriage to the partner in life.[9]

[1] The Rule & The Constitution of the “Missionaries of Jesus”, The Rule and Life of the Brothers and Sister of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis: ‘The Life of Chastity for the sake of the Kingdom,’ Chapter IV, Article 16.
[2] The Rule & The Constitution of the “Missionaries of Jesus”, Constitution of Missionaries of Jesus: ‘Our Life of Consecrated Chastity’ – Our Vow of Chastity, Chapter VI, Article 26, i – iii.
[3] The Rule & The Constitution of the “Missionaries of Jesus”, Constitution of Missionaries of Jesus: ‘Our Life of Consecrated Chastity’ – Call to Chastity from Jesus, Chapter VI, Article 25, i – iv.
[4] The Rule & The Constitution of the “Missionaries of Jesus”, The Rule and Life of the Brothers and Sister of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis: ‘Acceptance in to this Life,’ Chapter II, Article 7.
[5] Anthony Malaviaratchi, Initiation Into Religious Life, ibid., p.94.
[6] Joyce Ridick, Treasures in earthen Vessels: The Vows, ibid., p. 49.
[7] The Rule & The Constitution of the “Missionaries of Jesus”, Constitution of Missionaries of Jesus: ‘Our Life of Consecrated Chastity’ – Means to Live our Vow of Chastity, Chapter VI, Article 28.
[8] The Rule and Life of the Brothers and Sister of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis, ‘Acceptance in to this Life,’ Chapter III, Article 13.
[9] The Rule & The Constitution of the “Missionaries of Jesus”, Constitution of Missionaries of Jesus: ‘Our Life of Consecrated Chastity’ – Fruit of our Vow of Chastity, Chapter VI, Article 27.

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