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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Celibacy is Sacrificial Loving


I promised God twelve years ago that I would live a celibate life as an act of penance. Twelve years later I have kept that penance, albeit for one day when I slipped and for that I went to Confession.

Today I was tempted to lust.  Instead of sinning, I looked at a very graphic picture of the passion of Christ and then prayed twenty minutes for world peace and prosperity.  This made it possible for me to say no to lust.

I know monks pray and fast. I pray three hours daily for humanity.

Can my celibacy be offered to make my daily prayers more effectual, as the monks do with fasting, abstinence and other mortifications?

I am going to repent through celibacy for the rest of my life.


You are going to repent through celibacy?  About what are you repenting?  Do you mean that you desire to offer it in reparation for sin?

Celibacy is a form of sacrificial loving.  It is a precious element of religious men and women who respond to an evangelical calling. The laity can also pursue a life of Christian celibacy but, as with those pursuing religious vocations, it must always be within the context of a life of prayer, service and charity.  This is a hallmark of the celibacy that serves as part of the COURAGE movement founded by my cousin the late Fr. John Harvey for Catholic homosexuals desiring to live a life in conformity with Church teachings.  God will give his grace for such a discipline; however, it is not viewed as something negative but as a positive and virtuous way of discipleship.  Celibate individuals and married couples may both pursue penance and various acts of mortification.  Celibacy itself should be embraced as a joyous gift, not reduced into a difficult means to degrade and to abase the flesh.

Outside of the convent experience, a few women pursue lives as consecrated virgins.  There are a few lay organizations where members take yearly promises of celibacy.  Embracing Christian celibacy may not be understood by the world, but it is a wonderful gift.  More than a lifestyle choice, it is a manner of self-donation.  The person centers him or herself upon a relationship with the Lord.  The two-fold commandment of Christ comes into play.  The love of God uniquely spills over into the love of neighbor.  We all need to love.  Christian celibacy is more than not having romantic relationships and/or sexual relations.  Celibacy is a way of living and expressing our love.  I stress this because it is so much more than penance.  If a person saw his or her celibacy only as mortification or humiliation, then it would not be genuine Christian celibacy.  It cannot be embraced only because the person did not find another of the opposite sex with whom to share his body and life.  It cannot be lived out if the person hates himself and does not see himself as lovable.  It cannot be followed in truth if the person is afraid of relationships and would prefer to flee them.  Celibacy requires strength and courage, not weakness and fear.  God does not want us to suffer for the sake of enduring pain.  St. Paul told his listeners that it is better to marry than to burn.  That is why men called to the celibate priesthood consider the work of a priest and his aloneness and celibate love.  If it be too difficult or robs the soul of joy then it is not the vocation and/or the way of loving that God wants for us.

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