As I may have mentioned in my last blog post, Sr. Gretchen and I have started on our study of the vow of chastity... religious celibacy. And while we're not even 1/2 finished with this time of study, I have grown so much in my understanding of this vow and what it means for my everyday life in concrete situations. Yet, the more I learn, the more I see that there's so much room for growth on my part! Isn't that always the case, though... the more you learn, the more you realize that you really don't know? *smile* That's been my experience... in almost every area...
Currently, one of my favorite authors on religious life is Fr. L. Patrick Carroll, SJ. I've read "bits and pieces" of his book: To Love, To Share, To Serve: Challenges to a Religious. Most recently, of course, I've read parts of his chapter "Becoming A Celibate Lover." In this chapter, he discusses the fact that religious are called to be loving people - indeed, to love as God loves... or to try to. He states, "There is no virtue in simply being celibate, unmarried.... There is deep virtue in loving, or even trying to love, as God loves us: freely, deeply, broadly, unpossessively." Then to drive his point home he discusses how people who try to live celibate lives can fail in two ways... "We can be too careful, too distant, too cold.... Or we can love unwisely, insensitively, possessively, manipulatively."
Okay... just a few more quotes, then I'll go on... Carroll states,
"So, the project of our vow of celibacy is not just to love God and not just to stay celibate, i.e. unmarried, without intercourse. The project is to love and yet remain honest, free, mobile, able to carry the Lord's love where it is needed next and most."
"What the world needs, the witness we are called to place alongside the sacramental witness of committed married love, is that there is a human possibility of loving and not having to possess or be possessed, a human possibility of loving and not holding on or being held on to. We are called to witness to a love that is one facet of the love of God for his people..."
"No one can fulfill in any successful way the project of becoming a celibate lover without a deep, enduring life of prayer."
Now, the really important thing isn't what I've read, but what it means to me and how it touches me, challenges me, affirms me and calls me to deeper commitment. I can read some great things, and I have, but if what I've read doesn't in some way become a part of who I am, it's all for not...
So, of course, me being who I am, I've been in reflection mode about relationships. Every book I've read written after Vatican II about religious life talks about the importance of good, intimate friendships in the life of a religious. Also, however, there is an emphasis on the health of one's community life, prayer life and relationship with God. One author (I believe it was Fr. Quentin Hakenewerth,SM... Marianist priest) states that if a friendship causes someone to withdraw from community, lose their "appetite for prayer" and/or if the relationship becomes exclusive to the point that a third person feels unwanted... then the relationship should be questioned.
These are all new insights for me... in a way. While it all makes perfect sense, I've never REALLY considered any of it until now. And so, I consider how important my friends are in my life (and how GRATEFUL I truly am for their support and love)... I also have to be willing to ask myself the tougher questions about how I relate to people and the effect those relationships have on my commitment to live this life.
Not easy things to consider to say the least! But, I really believe it's necessary to live this life as authentically as I am able with God's grace.
So... what about the quote at the top? One of the books I was reading (I couldn't tell you which) reminded me of this quote from Scripture... that it's God's call and then my response. There is no other rationale for being a religious. And it's a reminder that the call is to love... to love as deeply, freely, honestly and unpossessively as God loves us.
One final note... last week I couldn't remember exactly where to find this quote from John's Gospel, so I Googled it. In the search I came across a website : IChoseYou.com. It's a vocations/discernment website out of the Diocese of Lexington. Check it out sometime. It's a good site.
Many blessings to all who read this!