Although I have been celibate all my life, I will have to take a solemn promise of celibacy if I am ordained to the diaconate, perhaps next June.
Although this is a bit overwhelming, it is becoming more real and more fulfilling than I could have imagined.
It does have a downside, which Fr. James Martin attributes to Father Paul, the abbot, in his recently released novel The Abbey:
His novice director told him that the biggest challenge of religious life lies in knowing that you’ll never be the most important person in anyone else’s life.
That’s humbling – and a bit fearful since I would like to be considered important in others’ lives.
But it is not so much a question as being loved as loving in response to God’s love.
Today I came across this quotation from G. K. Chesterton’s Saint Francis of Assisi, which refers to the saint’s frolicking in the snow:
A man will not roll in the snow for a stream of tendency by which all things fulfill the law of their being. He will not go without food in the name of something, not: ourselves, that makes for righteousness. He will do things like this, or pretty nearly like this, under quite a different impulse. He will do these things when he is in love.
One of the most delightful scenes in the film The Great Silence is when the Carthusian monks frolic in the snow, laughing all the time.
Celibacy should not make us dour and sad. It should give us life and laughter. For a man or a woman will not – or should not – take a vow or promise of celibacy if she or he is not in love with God.
James Keating’s The Heart of the Diaconate is particularly helpful in considering this:
Celibacy is a way of being human; not a way of avoiding our incarnate state. Anyone who chooses celibacy for reasons other than being captivated by the beauty of God and looking into that beauty as one’s chosen pleasure is setting oneself up for disappointment and sadness
It’s a question of falling in love with the beauty of God.
And though he is referring to married deacons, Keating makes it clear that our love and the love of Christ for us are central to any consideration of celibacy – or, I would say, chastity, whether married or celibate:
Celibacy only makes sense in light of one being deeply affected by the Person of Christ; so affected, in fact, that the man receives from him the fulfillment of all desire. This is why one question for all married men seeking entrance into the permanent diaconate must be: Is Christ enough for you? Do you have or are you going to develop a contemplative prayer life deep enough to satisfy your spiritual-erotic needs for self-transcendence? This is mainly a question about vulnerability before the love of God and one’s own capacity for self-knowledge.
And so I ask myself: Am I open enough, empty enough, vulnerable enough to let myself be loved by God – and make him central to my being?
That’s my question today – as I prepare for being installed as a lector at one of the confirmation Masses this weekend in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María, one step on the road to the diaconate.
May God help me love and let myself be loved.