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Religious Life - Celibacy


Here is a further excerpt from one of our retreat talks given by Fr Michael Fallon in 2011.

Today Michael Fallon MSC began his talk for the fourth day of our retreat by reading two articles from Vatican II's Document on the Church, Lumen Gentium, about Religious Life: 'The holiness of the Church ... is expressed in many ways by individuals who, each in his or heBr Pat Connell renewing his vows in December, 2011.r own state of life, tend to the perfection of love, thus sanctifying others (LG 39)' and religious are 'called by God so that they may enjoy a special gift of grace in the life of the Church and may contribute, each in his or her own way, to the saving mission of the Church (LG 43)'.  Michael's focus here is on love, noting the fundamental question for moral theologians is 'what is the next step of love for me?'. When Jesus chose his twelve apostles he said 'I have chosen you to be with me' (Mark 3:14).

Michael then moved to the topic of celibacy: 'The central love of Jesus' life was his loving communion with God'. Jesus was celibate and the greatest lover people have ever known. Celibacy was not part of the Jewish world. Jesus' celibate love cast into sharp relief the mystery of his communion with God and his life as a Jewish man. Jesus' choice not to marry and have a family led his opponents to make fun of him - of being a eunuch. Jesus made this choice 'for the sake of the kingdom of heaven' (Mt 19:12). Jesus took people into his love. Every child that came to Him was the most important person in the world. None of the apostles was celibate.  Paul was widowed, then celibate as was Barnabas. As disciples of Jesus, each of us is invited to let Jesus love through us. From the beginning, Jesus invited some to love, like Him, in a celibate way.  Paul put it this way: 'I wish that all were as I myself am [celibate]. But each has his or her own special gift from God, one of one kind [marriage] and one of another [celibacy] ... I would like to see you ... give your undivided attention to the Lord.

Michael then gave four motives for celibacy:

1. The person who loves in a mature way as a celibate is a sacrament (sign) of Christ, whose way of loving was celibate.

2. Celibate love is also a symbol and witness of Christ's complete commitment to his mission to 'draw all to myself' (Jn 12:32). Our mission as celibates is summarised by John: 'The bridegroom is the one to whom the bride belongs; but the bridegroom's friend, who stands by and listens, is glad when he hears the bridegroom's voice. This is how my own happiness is made complete. He must become more important while I become less important (John 3:29-30).

3. Celibate love is a symbol and witness of the Church's commitment to Christ.

4. Being a sacrament of Christ's love, even of the very manner of His loving, and a sacrament of the response of the Church whose first love is Christ, celibacy is a sign of love and an impulse towards it.

Finally, Michael addressed the three areas of identity, intimacy and generativity. Mature persons are generative (life giving). They are able to spend their life in creative communion which is life giving, both to themselves and to those with whom they relate. To be generative, a person must have experienced intimacy (with a significant other - if we are in trouble in love, love more not less). To be truly intimate, we must have a sense of our personal identities, each a sense of self that is experienced as being affirmed by another who is significant to us. Those of us who are celibate have been graced to be like Jesus in this way.

John McMahon

Obedience - Listening