Sometime, back in 2017, my former Spiritual Director was correcting me on an “error” I had published in one of my earlier blog posts. He used to always tease me and say that if I were to ever be a patron saint of anything (God help us), it would be “patron saint of punctuation and grammatical errors”. I smile now because at that point, I had no idea where to properly place a semi- colon, and he never let me forget it. This Director also has his own blog, which unlike my own has a decent number of followers, and because he is a skilled writer and speaker, I took his advice exceedingly to heart.
Around that time, he was so gracious as to have my website posted on OnePeterFive, to generate some heavier traffic, and so it was important that I not only improved my grammar but did not say anything heretical either. On that particular occasion, I had made a video on the vocation of virginity. I made a short pause in the introduction and said, “I will not be speaking on the vocation of marriage today” and immediately upon watching it he said:
Marriage is a calling not a vocation. Celibacy (the priesthood or the religious life) is a vocation. This is not my teaching or own opinion, but the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas [and the actual definition of celibacy].
One of my former sisters in Carmel, relayed such a comical event in her life, before facing her call to religious life. She shared how she wanted to be anything but a nun, and one day after Mass she happened to be looking at a table of brochures and it said:
Signs of a Religious vocation:
1.) You do not want to have a religious vocation.
She turned, scoffed at the brochure, flipped it over and left the table. I laughed whole heartedly at this story because I, more than anyone related to this because I used to pray, begging Our Lord to let me do anything but be a religious. One of the little boys I used to nanny for, some years ago, used to always say: “I am NOT going to be a pwiest (yes, pwiest; he was only four years old at the time)”, and I used to smile to myself and say, “and… he’s probably going to be a priest.” This is indeed a wonder, is it not? That Our Lord habitually and seemingly chooses the very ones who do NOT want to have a vocation to celibacy. But as a priest once told me, usually the very thing we are afraid of, is our ultimate destiny.
The devil wants us to be afraid, because whether we have a calling to the sacrament of marriage or that of the vocation of virginity- we will be placed where we are stretched, tried and pushed out of our comfort zones, because we are called to the very path we must tread, if we wish to become saints. If you run from Our Lord’s will, your soul will never find rest. Christ knows what will satisfy your heart, better than you do, despite the objections you may experience in the beginning; it is only sweetness later. But I believe it is so important to understand that the term “vocation” should not be taken lightly; today it would seem that everyone has a vocation, of some sort, because it is used for everything. “My vocation is to be a college student right now”. That is not a vocation; I find myself mentally rolling my eyes when I see it used the way it is in today’s society.
- Vocation: priesthood, celibacy or religious life. “Refraining from marriage”.
- Holy Calling- sacrament of marriage.
- Office- for example, Peter stood out above the other Apostles and was given the “office” of the papacy, and “petrus” (rock) where the Catholic Church would be founded. An office is a specific function God calls a soul to carry out individually. Blessed John Duns Scotus once wrote a powerful document that explained how some souls have such an important office in the Church that, whether they like it or not, they are forced to carry out Our Lord’s will because the salvation of many, or an event willed by God, depends on the faithfulness of that individual’s obedience (that is an entire other blog post in itself).
Religious life is misunderstood. Not only by the world, but unfortunately by many Catholics who have been improperly catechized. I can attest to this, because up until 2015, I looked at nuns and priests as depressing and non-joy filled individuals who were “settling” because they could not find Mr. or Mrs. Right. I believe I am called to write this, because if religious life is misunderstood, then Christ is misunderstood, and if Christ is misunderstood…we have a problem.
After having gone from wanting to have seven children like Fraulein Maria from The Sound of Music, I finally faced my ultimate fear and built the courage to pursue the very thing that started out as “ghastly” to me. But now, as I write this, I believe it to be the most glorious, rich and powerful vocation of all, that begins on earth and extends to heaven for all eternity: virginity. That’s right; there is power and glory in celibacy. I used to be the very one persecuting the poor chosen souls of the religious, but I too have been faced with hearing, “what a waste of your life [the hermit call is an entire different kind of argument], you must not want kids” or my personal favorite, “you must not like men.” WRONG, wrong and wrong.
Let us explore three simple, yet major reasons, as to why religious life is a special calling and gift given to certain souls:
Reason #1: We are all naturally made for marriage, but it is a singular grace from God to be able to give up the call of family life and choose the state lived by the angels. Of course, I like men, but it is that grace I mentioned, that allows the soul to supernaturally, continue to choose Our Lord as Bridegroom. In heaven we will ALL experience a mystical marriage with Christ because we will be in complete union with Him. Some start this mystical marriage on earth. In sacramental marriage, the two become one, but in this mystical marriage, the chosen soul becomes one with Our Lord’s Sacred Heart. A friend of mine, who is married, referred to the sacrament of marriage in a very practical way:
“It is like a diving board; my spouse is called get me to heaven, but once ‘death does us part’, I will be married to Christ”. Marriage on earth, prepares the couple for the eternal banquet in heaven; once they reach heaven they are no longer married because they will be joined with the Heavenly Bridegroom of their souls. Saint Teresa of Jesus became so in union with Our Lord, here below, that she is one of the few saints who experienced “transverberation of the heart”. This is known as an entrance into spiritual marriage with Our Lord. An actual, literal, flame of love consumed her whole heart. This grace is known to have happened to souls who no longer live to do their own will, but solely that of the will of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity (Again, another blog post worth expanding on, as it is one of my very favorite topics).
Transverberation is a spiritual wounding of the heart. Saints were sometimes rewarded by God for loving Him so much that they offered the Lord total dominion over their heart. Which could come in the form of a physical wounding of the heart by a dart or a flame of love. Teresa’s heart was removed from her body, and people were astonished to see an actual wound from the angel’s spear. Her incorrupt heart is now on display in the town of Alba de Tormes in Spain, and some say they can still see the puncture of the spear in her heart.
I have written on, how fire, is a direct sign of the presence of the Holy Ghost; we see the Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph always being lit up with this fire. This is because they are filled with the constant presence of the Holy Paraclete. Fire, in transverberation, is one of reaching the highest perfection on earth. The Holy Ghost at work with the Immaculate Conception, uses this fire in multiple different stages. At first the fire is used as a purificator; the heart is cleansed of all, that’s right- ALL of its imperfections, before being merged into the Sacred Heart. But once purified, only the fire of love remains. There is a beautiful story of Our Lord appearing to a nun, looking at her as He puts His hand into her chest and takes her Heart out, squeezes it…
Out came puss and other weeds, like a sponge, He purged it to the last drop of everything that was contrary to His Heart. He tells her, He wanted her heart to be pure for Him. My current Director used to tell this story to the nuns during his homilies and he would jokingly say, “something only Our Lord could do; the average person would be dead”. This goes far beyond even that of a religious vocation; not even all religious receive this grace of the burning felt in the heart. It seems to be a true foretaste of heavenly marriage, to be sure. Therese experienced this burning of the heart during the stations of the cross; she had just offered herself as a “victim” of merciful love and shortly after, she described it to be a mixture of pain and delight, which caused her to proclaim, “I should have died”. She in fact did die not long after this experience, at just 24 years of age. Martrydom of the heart?
Reason #2: Our Lord Himself instituted religious life. Yes. The Apostles left everything to come follow Him. Christ’s advice to those whom “would be perfect” were the ones that- “go, sell what they possess, give to the poor, leave houses, father or mother [even the married state] sisters or brothers for His name’s sake to receive a hundred-fold, and inherit eternal life.” (Matt 19:21). Religious orders or hermits, do exactly that, by taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience (if you want to take it further, a fourth vow to Mary).
Adam and Eve were the first to live out earthly marriage, but when Our Blessed Lord came into the world, He introduced something entirely new. A life of perpetual and eternal virginity; spiritual marriage: the very one lived and practiced by none other than the Holy Family. Since the Resurrection, Saint Paul, the Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church have not ceased in spreading the way that seeks to imitate the very life of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. So, if we ever have a Holy Father in office, who says priests can marry, we reject this notion without any scruple whatsoever, and continue to look to Our Lord, Mary and the Apostles, who never gave up their precious state of celibacy.
Quotes on Virginity:
– From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please Him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming (Catechism).
– The celibate life is a vocation to which one must be called, for ‘not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given’ (Matt. 19:11).
-But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: It is good for them if they so continue, even as I. But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to be burnt. (1 Cor. 7:8-9)
– An eminent position among these [the counsels proposed in the Gospel] is held by virginity or the celibate state. This is a precious gift of divine grace given by the Father to certain souls, whereby they may devote themselves to God alone the more easily, due to an undivided heart. This perfect continency, out of desire for the kingdom of heaven, has always been held in particular honor in the Church. The reason for this was and is that perfect continency for the love of God is an incentive to charity and is certainly a particular source of spiritual fecundity in the world (Lumen Gentium, n. 42 § 3).
– The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. (1 Cor. 7:32-34).
– For as Jesus said in response to the Sadducees who questioned him about a widow who had lost seven husbands: ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection’ (Luke 20:34-36).
– St. Cyprian of Carthage, a third-century bishop and martyr, declared of consecrated virgins: ‘What we shall be, you have already begun to be. You already have in this world the glory of the resurrection’ (The Dress of Virgins, 22).
– Now if a man chooses the way of the world, namely marriage, he is not indeed to blame; yet he will not receive such great gifts as the other. For he will receive, since he too brings forth fruit, namely thirty-fold. But if a man embraces the holy and unearthly way, it has more wonderful gifts: for it grows the perfect fruit, namely a hundredfold. -Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, A.D. 373-
Reason #3: Our Lord tells Saint Faustina that priests and nuns, uphold the world. In fact, they are the very heart of the world. As Roman Catholics we are incredibly blessed to have so many resources to prove this. The Church’s arms extend so wide. From Scripture, Holy Fathers, Doctors of the Church, Canon Law, the Catechism, Council of Trent, Church Dogma and apparitions from Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary to keep us on track. Once we see that the Laws of God are meant to save us from ourselves, we will understand that He is the true Father of freedom and liberation.
The problem with protestants is they rely solely on having a “relationship with God”, feeling something and ONLY reading the bible from beginning to end, while failing to understand the texts in themselves, the laws and the chosen lifestyle of Christ. NO, Our Lord did NOT marry Mary Magdalene and NO Our Lady did not have more children after Her “Only Begotten Son”.
These are unspeakable blasphemies which make my blood boil. Why would Our Lord, the Apostles and the Doctors preach celibacy being the more perfect way life, that resembles the angels, if they themselves did not live it? And as I said before, in many of my previous posts, if Saint Paul says one should marry primarily if they cannot practice self-control, I would think it an even greater insult to doubt, even for a moment, that Jesus and Mary lacked self- control… one of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Ghost. Spare me!
The Extern Sister, a part of the Carmel I was in formally, before joining the cloister was in an active community. That is, until she read a study that changed everything for her. She read how when a nun takes solemn vows (solemn vows are reserved for the strictly contemplatives; there is a difference with perpetual vs solem- again…another blog post), at the point of making this absolute and solemn promise of remaining celibate for the rest of their lives, there is no going back. If the soul left their solemn vows and got married to another, in the eyes of the Church the marriage would be invalid to God.
But it was not this that made her choose the contemplative life; it was the very fact that when the soul takes these solemn vows, he or she, has received an extraordinary grace that changes their soul forever, so much so, that they are no longer the same. They cannot be. They cannot get married because their souls are forever elevated to heaven. They are living heaven on earth in the highest way possible, and the soul no longer knows how to live any other way, than that of the angels. It is a permanent grace, much like when a priest is ordained. The discernment is over: he is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. I used to be so jealous of this phrase, but even Saint Paul has a “jealousy of God” for the brides of Christ, when he says:
For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God. For I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2)
The second issue with protestants only relying on scripture is not everything was or will be recorded. Many of them joke and say we Catholics never read scripture, when false, a Catholic in good standing knows and studies the word of God daily: whether in their breviaries, daily Mass or silent reflection, but they do this knowing that Our Lord’s Word extends further than that of the Bible. Our Lord’s first thirty years of hidden life are not recorded, does that mean they never happened? Of course not.
Do you see my point? Even after the Resurrection, it was said that there were many other miracles, which were not recorded, but only a select few so that “you may see and believe”. Our Lord came for several reasons, but one of them was to establish a New Covenant and a Church, namely: the one holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The Body of Christ indeed has a heart, and it lies in the very center of the Catholic Church.
Why was Saint Matthew martyred while celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, if John 6 was meant to be figurative? Why did Our Lord tell Peter, “You are rock and upon this rock I will build my Church” if his body, his very bones would not LITERALLY be found directly under the basilica of Saint Peter’s in Rome, “accidentally” after it was built? Right. Peter truly was, and not figuratively, the foundation of the one true Church of Christ. This was not accidental, but providential that his body was found directly underneath AFTER the building of Saint Peter’s. Truly, he was “rock”.
The official home of the Popes prior to the building of this basilica was Saint John Lateran’s (Mother of all Churches, because it was the first ever to be publicly consecrated, under Constantine, and holds the heads of Peter and Paul). But you see, these beauties and foundations take years to develop. Our Lord’s story does not end with the Book of the Apocalypse. His Church was and is destined to be comprised of priests, virgins, widows and those joined in the sacrament of marriage. But we MUST understand the different roles that make up this glorious Body. I will only end with this: