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Hey, this is a neat post from the Marriage Matters blog:

I don’t mean that [priests] simply acquiesce to celibacy, but they embrace it with their whole heart. I am not simply referring to men who think to themselves, “Golly, marriage would be good. Women are beautiful. Sex sounds nice. But, oh well.” I’m speaking of men who have stared into the eyes of a woman with the passionate desire to sweep her off of her feet, profess his love and fidelity to her at the altar, make sweet, sweet love to her, and have a huge Catholic family; men who have looked straight in the eyes of an individual, particular, woman with whom he is in love—and who is in love with him–and said, “I choose Jesus. I choose priesthood. I choose celibacy.”

Whole post is here. It’s quick and not overly ponderous, and I liked it for its genuineness.

In other news, the date for moving out is SOON, because I am DYING up in here; also I am taking a long-overdue week’s vacation to go speeding around New England on my faithful iron steed (if she’s out of the shop by then, ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseGod) and see Sal & others; and also I just got back from my first session with a new therapist who, as far as I can tell, really gets it. So I am, relatively speaking, pretty chipper. Hoorah.

71 thoughts on “Embracing Celibacy

  1. just a girl

    You know, that quote is nice, but I never ever like the romanticization of the call to the priesthood or religious life when it hinges on disappointing the perfectly legitimate hopes and desires of some girl. For two people to fall in love, generally some preparation goes into it. That preparation carries some responsibility. When a man forsakes a woman he’s really that in love with, and who is really that in love with him, he’s not doing something awesomely awesome. Of course becoming a priest is awesomely awesome. But let’s not make the “I squandered some lovely young woman’s happiness, and I did it for God!” part of the equation.

    In the current atmosphere (in some circles anyway) of rushing to get any and all Catholic young men to discern their vocation to the priesthood, I cannot TELL you how many stories I have heard where young guys go around being heartbreakers, stringing along their pseudo-girlfriends, “discerning,” until they finally go where they’re called (or, discover they weren’t at all). I’ve heard an anecdote at a dinner party about how one seminarian was engaged to THREE DIFFERENT WOMEN during his back-and-forth from seminary, and this earned a big laugh. It’s too much glorification of self-absorption or at least confusion. It happens, but it’s embarrassing, not adorable. Like single, serious Catholic young women don’t have enough to worry about already! They get to become a prop in some man’s religious psychodrama!

    Note: I did read the post at the link, and I wasn’t annoyed by it. I’m talking about the issue in general. Of course seminarians and priests can fall in love, but from a WOMAN’s perspective, it’s like the conversation about married men being in love (outside of their marriage). The emotional calculus is different (priests aren’t betraying a real woman by falling in love with another one), but for the woman, it’s the same territory.

    I’m not sure how this fits in with SSA celibacy and guarding one’s emotional life… I just wanted to get on my rant box. :)

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  2. Victor

    I am not sure you properly understood, just a girl. As I got it, it is about someone who is in love with a girl and THEN discovers he is called to be a priest. These things happen, and they ARE awesomely awesome. Of course, being a seminarian and discerning one’s calling via dating girls is something else and not very awesome indeed…

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  3. Dan Hogan

    Just right: it”s never a matter of a negative view; rather, it must be a positive choice. It’s not ‘what I won’t do’, but always ‘what I must do’. To think of celibacy as the DENIAL of something is sad; celibacy must be a PREFERENCE for something! I often wonder if this isn’t the seed that grew into the sex abuse crisis!

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  4. Sarah

    Thank you so much for saying that “Just some girl.” My first love left me for the seminary, and I was vilified for a time by many of his friends and family members who thought I’d try to keep him from doing This-Great-And-Noble-Thing. It was extremely difficult, not made easier by the fact that it took him a long time to really let go.

    He’s been in for almost a year and a half now, and he seems happy, so I’m happy for him. But that girl whose eyes he looked into is a person, too, not just some character in his Heroic Lives of the Saints blurb, or some roadblock to his true vocation. And it took her a long time to get over it…

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  5. Melissa

    I know what you’re talking about, Just a Girl – I saw a lot of it at my small Catholic college. It’s absolutely heart-wrenching for the girl.

    And I understand what Viktor is saying too, so I’ll respond to that.The way I see it, a man (or a woman!) should really try to seriously discern whether he/she is called to religious life, BEFORE allowing any relationship to become serious. Because none of us has a right to play with another’s heart, even through sheer carelessness. I’ve known young men who were toying with the idea of priesthood, then began dating, then had massive second thoughts down the road when the relationship became serious – which is a cross the young woman should never have been asked to carry. I believe that is the sort of scenario Just a Girl is talking about.

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  6. Rebecca

    This quote seems to follow the mindset Steve was criticizing in himself in earlier posts: the mindset of thinking somethings better if it’s hard.
    If someone called to celibacy is fully in love with God, and has a deep prayer life,that can satisfy their emotional needs and prevent them falling in love with a girl. Just as being in love with one girl prevents being in love with another. NO girl would want a guy to say “I stared deep into the eyes of another woman whom I am in love with and she is in love with me; but I said no to her and choose to marry you instead.”
    Neither does God want to hear that.
    “They’d rather hear, “You’re the one I’m in love with, and the one I’ll marry.” or
    “You’re the one I will love by following your call to the priesthood.”
    Of course, in the imperfections and pain of human life, we might have to struggle with being in love with the wrong person, but that’s not the ideal.

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  7. Rebecca

    Of course, a priest is supposed to love others, including those who are women, just in a different way. Like my best friend, who’s male and loves me, but differently than he loves his girlfriend.

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  8. Rebecca

    P.S.
    Also, always, our goal should be that God’s Will be accomplished in us. Not to simply choose the objectively higher vocation, but to obey God’s Will. If someone in a seminary realizes God wants him elsewhere, that has the awesomeness of obedience to His Will. “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.” 1 Sam 15:22

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  9. Sarah

    Agreed, Rebecca. I know a lot of priests who joined the seminary very young, had always known the priesthood was what they wanted to do, and had never been in love. Does that mean they embrace celibacy less? Or that their sacrifice is less worthy? I have a priest in my family, and I honestly don’t know if he was ever in love. But I am over at his house four nights a week for dinner, and continue to marvel at the sacrifices he makes on a daily basis, none of which have anything to do with not having sex.

    Anyway, this quote seems almost a bit reductive of eros, anyway. As if, when he says, “I love this person, but I choose *celibacy*, by sacrificing the love of a woman, all he’s really giving up is sex.

    Anyway, I don’t mean to sound embittered or anything, but things like this really hit a very sensitive nerve.

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  10. Ian

    I think I’m a bit too protestant to get on board with this. For me, celibacy is a religious vocation just as much as marriage is. To suggest that a young man’s choice of priesthood is somehow the same as him ‘choosing Jesus’ is really absurd.

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    1. Rebecca

      It’s not about choosing Jesus vs not choosing Jesus. At least it’s a mistake to see it that way. It’s about realizing that He called you to follow Him in this specific way, and obeying that call. Someone called to marriage must also realize that God is calling them to grow closer to Him in a (different) specific way.

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  11. Annette

    Ian- I believe the “choosing Jesus” has to do with choosing to follow the call of Jesus in one’s life. In this case, discerning that Jesus is calling a young man to the priesthood and celibacy, since those go together. One could also be called to celibacy without priesthood, in which case celibacy, too, is a calling. Therefore, “I choose to say ‘yes’ to Jesus, celibacy, and priesthood” might be a different way to word it.

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  12. just a girl

    I’m glad to see some others chime in who appreciated my comment! And I wanted to underline that, yes, I’m not specifically criticizing men who, while going about their business, fall in love with a woman, and then later (before marriage) discover a calling to the priesthood. There’s only so much we can predict and control about our lives, and some people date and fall in love and then find themselves not in love anymore, or not called to commit to marriage with a particular person. That just happens. I was just criticizing some of what we might consider as the “abuses” of the push for vocations and the glorification or spiritual status attributed to the priestly vocation. And Sarah hit the nail on the head — because when these situations happen, who gets the burden socially? Not the young man, who is doing something noble and wonderful for God. Usually the woman, who is not allowed to openly express her totally natural sorrow or feelings of betrayal. And in cases where men leave the seminary to get married, I think it smooths over with time (though I don’t know about this personally), but definitely when you hear people sharing stories, in most cases, there’s a faint or not so faint shadow hanging over the girl. What a temptress! A man who was studying to become a priest had the gall to date and emotionally invest in a woman and then decide to marry her! I’m exaggerating, and not everyone is like this, but…?

    I myself was in something of a similar situation, but pre-seminarian status. It was a pseudo-”relationship” for several reasons, one of which was that he was discerning the religious life and then applying (he was refused) and so on — all while relying emotionally on me. This was bad. It was bad for him, and certainly bad for me (I was much younger and he was also “mentoring” me into becoming a Catholic). I think some young men have been shown all the glory of a life dedicated to God, and have perhaps not been given the appropriate tools to manage their emotional and social lives even BEFORE making this commitment. And sure, this must be a widespread issue, because most young people don’t know how to manage their emotional and social lives. But what people interested in vocations should NOT do is spread the story of the heroic breaker of women’s hearts (where the heartbreaking is a part of the build-up to heroism), and what responsible Catholic laypeople should NOT do is celebrate or dismiss these incidents socially and blame/discount the feelings of the girls involved.

    Again — not really saying this relates to the original post. But it triggered my lecture. :)

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  13. Woodhead

    “..who gets the burden socially? Not the young man, who is doing something noble and wonderful for God. Usually the woman, who is not allowed to openly express her totally natural sorrow or feelings of betrayal.” What about the burden the young man will carry… the burden of having to choose celibacy over the love of a woman because of a perceived call to the priesthood? This sounds like a ‘poor me’ argument; and is it really a burden to give a greater love over to God? Or is it rather a selfish wish that a man might choose a woman over God… and that you might be that woman?

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    1. Steve Gershom

      Oh boy, Woodhead. If I were any of the previous commenters, I would want to bite your head off for that one. Careful of accusing people of self-pity before you’ve been in their shoes.

      Re: “Choosing a woman over God” — sometimes choosing a woman amounts to the same thing as “choosing God”, if the man in question is indeed called to marriage.

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    2. Steve Gershom

      And, seriously: “Is it really a burden to give a greater love over to God?”

      Yes. Yes, it is. Sheesh. Just because an act is unselfish doesn’t mean it’ll be painless.

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  14. Br. Gabriel, OP

    Sorry to break it to everyone but this is life. The discernment of any vocation breaks someone’s heart. It might be choosing one girl over another, one guy over another or no guy or girl for some religious or human cause. Discernment of a vocation is serious business and brutally emotional. Emotional maturity nor relational sensativity is a common trait among anyone in such a situation. Powerful emotions are in play. There is no path to any vocation, be it marriage or religious life or the priesthood that is free from emotional casualties. This is so profound and consistent a truth that I’m nearly convinced that one is incapable of true love until they have suffered a broken heart at least once.

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  15. just a girl

    woodhead — I’m not sure how much further I can explain this. But you sort of illustrate my point. ‘You women, with your clinging emotions, and your desire to have for yourselves the men who rightly belong to God and the Church!’ But they didn’t belong to the Church five minutes ago, when they were staring into our eyes, blah blah blah. A woman who really loves her boyfriend will do her best to offer everything up to God and want the best for him spiritually, yes. You must be either naive or cruel to expect that that emotional 180 happens instantly, or without the natural grief associated with the deepest personal disappointments.

    The “burden” for the man is NOT equal to the burden for the woman, firstly because (as I explained) women are told (implicitly or, in your case, explicitly) to shut up about this, and secondly because IT WAS THE MAN’S CHOICE. You might have noticed that burdens are both easier to take on and more spiritually fruitful when you willingly bear them, convicted of their purpose. Presumably the man entering the priesthood has received this conviction. How nice for him — he reached his point of certainty, and he acted on it. There’s no assurance the woman, who until this point was an *equal partner* in discerning their joint future, has also had the time or grace needed to reach that decision.

    But ONCE AGAIN, my point is not ACTUALLY to criticize the inner emotional workings of particular situations and relationships, which are messy no matter what, but also the private grounds where God does his real work. Self-pity has no place here. What I’m criticizing is the social milieu where women are turned into, as one commenter put it so well, side characters in the Lives of the Saints. Just get over it, just get out of the way — God has great plans for this young man, and you are just proof of the glory of sacrifice! Here, you be the sacrifice, and he’ll get the glory.

    And just because your insinuation rankled a bit: I wasn’t in love with the priest-to-be who pseudo-girlfriended me, and when I finally got him out of my life, I breathed a great sigh of relief. No “poor me” on this end — just a serious acknowledgment of how crappy the situation was and how imprudent and selfish this young man was in his interaction with me (and others).

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  16. Victor

    Two things I would like to add:

    a) maybe you are living in a Catholic bubble, but where I live (present-day Germany), it will be the priest-to-be that will get most of the bad publicity for abandoning that sweet girl for the priesthood. He would have made such a nice boyfriend/husband/dad, and he gave that all away for being a priest! He must be mad! And the poor girl he left for THAT! But perhaps I just have the wrong kind of friends…
    b) Are you familiar with the Swiss saint Niklas von der Flüe? He was a farmer in the Swiss Alps of the 15th century, and after repeated visions he recognized a calling to be a hermit. Since he was married with several children, he didn’t pursue this vocation before he had asked and received his wife’s permission (which she gave). Of course girlfriend does not equal wife, and a romantic involvement is not as binding as a marriage, but I suppose if I thought I recognized a calling to the celibate life (if priesthood, monasticism or simply lay celibate life) while in a serious relationship, I would of course discern that calling with my girlfriend.

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  17. Ingrid

    Well, i’m a girl I’m about to do that to a dude, because I want to become a nun. And yes, I’m in love with him. So don’t worry, guys can get shoved to the sidelines in a female story of Lives of the Saints too.

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  18. just a girl

    Victor – thanks for your POV! (But are you sure that you live in present-day Germany and not, like, 19th century Germany? Just kidding.)

    Of course, the outside-Catholicism view will be totally different! I’m a convert from evangelicalism so my whole family has an instinctive horror of the withering perversity of priestly celibacy and its (supposedly) explicit denial of the good of marriage. I remember a girl telling me as a teen that her father left the priesthood to marry her mom, and I thought bitterly: “Good. As if being some weirdo celibate would have been better than creating a person!” So, yes, there is judgment all around. But in Catholic circles, where people are supposed to be a bit more understanding of these troubles in navigating our vocations, I just cannot stand for the ontological status of consecrated celibacy (which is higher than marriage) to be used as a tool to beat down women — women who are not chasing after lotharios or bad bad men, but good and pious Catholics, the type who become priests. And although it works the other way when women enter the religious life — come on. It’s women who get the sneers if they “get in God’s way.” I’m saying there’s some misogyny implanted in this attitude when it crops up. Of course some people might not agree. But when I hear stories about men leaving their fiancees for the priesthood, what can I say? I’m not saying they shouldn’t have become priests, or even that they are morally culpable for how their ex-fiancee took it. But I think it’s sad. It’s definitely not a joke.

    There were many couples in the middle ages (and after) who separated from their spouses in order to enter the religious life or perhaps be consecrated bishops! :) The absolute binding requirement was (and is) that they receive permission from their spouse. Obviously that’s the hard and fast responsibility that actual marriage vows bring — I’m not saying someone has THAT level of responsibility to their boyfriend or girlfriend. But serious relationships are oriented toward marriage, and if we really want to show care for all of the souls involved, then the almost-spouses of priests deserve just as much concern as the priest! :)

    P.S. Ich bin Amerikaner und lebe in Deutschland für ein Jahr. Ich finde es sehr schön hier!

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  19. Br. Gabriel, OP

    Sometimes I think that the stigma good Catholic women feel in such a situation is mostly self imposed in my experience. Most women I know who feel that way were never told that they had to be happy about it nor were they looked down upon by others. Instead, many just think that they are expected to be okay with everything. Women have said to me that they will feel helpless because they perceive that they are competing with God, the Church, the Blessed Virgin, and they can’t (and probably shouldn’t) compete with them. But, in the end it’s all self imposed guilt. Why someone would feel this way is a far more important issue than complaining about hagiography.

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  20. just a girl

    Interesting thought, Br Gabriel. I don’t think self-imposed feelings are so disconnected with “hagiography,” I guess, if by hagiography we mean the social scripts that float around in cultural communities. I can understand women feeling they are expected to “be okay,” especially if nothing flagrantly bad (cheating, arguing) has happened. Break ups have “acceptable” and “unacceptable” routes – and I think many women are often very concerned with whether they are being socially appropriate, since a great deal of pressure is put on them to be so. But someone becoming a priest is a good thing. This is precisely the issue, because their highest impulse is to rejoice in someone responding to their vocation, and yet it’s all mixed up with their own sense of purpose.

    Maybe this is getting too abstract. What I mean is that being “left for the priesthood” (or just “left for discernment”) has no real script, the way that “being left for another woman” has, or “being left because he’s scare of commitment.” Even in THESE cases, many women struggle with making sure that they didn’t do anything “wrong” to deserve this outcome. More off the beaten track are wives whose husbands come out of the closet after some number of years, and are bereft of the usual methods of dealing with this unusual kind of rejection. Maybe it’s a closer analogy to the issue with the priesthood, since it can’t be said that a gay man (or a would-be celibate) is leaving a woman for a “better” woman. I want to venture that because of the great pressure put on women to understand their worth in relation to being valued by men*, the reinforced script is that rejection is comprehensible when you’re rejected for a “better model” (even if it’s the personally tailored model that Man X likes) — it’s not comprehensible when you’re rejected for a different gender, or for no sexual partner at all.

    Well, and it’s not really “rejection,” is it? But things read on an emotional level even if they are recontextualized intellectually or morally. The dominant script I’m talking about isn’t something I would defend — one of the gifts of religious celibacy is its rootedness in the idea that women DON’T find their ultimate worth in relation to being desired or valued by men (and vice versa). But I think it’s part of what is at work when a woman feels a “self-imposed” sense of shame or guilt or confusion about being jilted for Mary and God and the Church!

    * I mean this as a description of the much wider culture, not only within Catholicism.

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  21. ARM

    Just to back up “Just a Girl,” who seems to be in the hot seat. Yes, this happens ALL the time. (Yes, Viktor, in the little Catholic bubble, but isn’t that where priestly vocations come from?) I could have cut and pasted 95% of her autobiographical comment and quite truthfully posted it in my own name. And the guy in question is no longer pursuing a priestly vocation, anyway – though as ambivalent as he was about it, that’s no surprise to anyone who knows him, except maybe him. And yes, I’m better off without him no doubt, but I could have done without the two years of heartbreak it cost me.

    Sure, maybe he was just being a jerk and an idiot, but the problem is, the Church’s current vocations rhetoric really promotes this approach. With many dioceses in America right now, the script is something like, “You’re a pious guy and there’s no ring on your finger yet? You’ve had a passing thought of the priesthood once? You belong in our discernment house! Otherwise, you’re probably cheating Jesus. Oh, you don’t think you want to be a priest? Well, it’s not about feelings, you know. After all, you don’t have to commit right away; just come and see.”

    A chaplain at my small Catholic college actually used to encourage guys under his spiritual direction to do this. If they said they might feel called to be priests, he’d still encourage them to go out with girls to test their vocations. Then a few months later, they’d break up, also under his orders, “to discern.” Needless to say, most of them were dating some other girl again weeks later. Some of them did it four or five times during college, and always under the holy glow of doing it for Jesus.

    A priest friend of mine calls this the “cult of perpetual discernment.” Personally, I think it’s to blame for a lot of the indecisiveness and delayed adulthood (like, into the forties and beyond) of a lot of good Catholic guys I know. The fact is, doing the seminary thing – whether actually entering or just toying with the idea for years – can be a great way to get universal adulation for putting off taking responsibility for your own life for another few years. (Obviously, many guys enter the seminary for good and noble reasons; I’m just pointing out that there are plenty of less good and noble reasons out there, too.)

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  22. Contemplative in the Mud

    I don’t understand why the only given example of “embracing” something is the example of someone who seriously looked and walked the other way first. That’s just bizarre. It’s like talking about “embracing” holiness (a whole other picture than celibacy, of course) and only mentioning former habitual sinners like Saint Augustine, and not mentioning anyone like Thérèse, who never committed a mortal sin.

    Or Mary.

    Or Jesus.

    That brings up another point: Jesus. What a bizarre piece of writing when Jesus’ total, un-waffling way of “embracing” celibacy doesn’t even appear on the radar, but it is called “heroic” to think about walking the other way first. To walk the other way is given as an example of “embracing” celibacy, but Jesus’ own interior certainty is not.

    Maybe it’s just a matter of the writing. But it’s totally understandable that this could rub someone the wrong way. There is a big defect in the list of examples and explanations. Clearly one can “embrace” something without waffling. In fact, it’s obvious that to embrace something without waffling is the better and more heroic way, too.

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  23. Br. Gabriel, OP

    Contemplative In the Mud,

    The reality is that Christ’s celibacy is categorically different than a priest’s celibacy just as Mary’s celibacy is categorically different than a Sister’s or Nun’s. This is because Christ didn’t suffer from the disordering of the passions. In fact, it would be odd if a man seeking the priesthood didn’t come to it through the discernment of marriage (dating). Marriage is the primary and most natural vocation. Priesthood or Religious Life is less so. It is only natural that a celibate vocation world be discovered in seeking its contrary.

    I think that many people have some pius notion of how the discernment of a priestly or Religious vocation works. I imagine that some implicitly or explicitly think that it happens through a lot of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament or some revelation at Mass or through some devotion. Hopefully, discernment of any vocation happens in the midst of these worthy activities. But one does not come to discover their priestly or Religious vocation on the prie dieu. One discovers it in the regular triumphs and tragedies of life. God communicates his will most readily in the ordinary, not he extraordinary.

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  24. Contemplative in the Mud

    Br. Gabriel, OP,

    “In fact, it would be odd if a man seeking the priesthood didn’t come to it through the discernment of marriage (dating).”

    … Count me shocked.

    I can’t agree to call this “odd”.

    First, you call minor seminarians (who cannot date) who continue to major seminary and, later, ordination, “odd”. I don’t agree with this judgment of a long-standing practice of the Church (albeit one with little practice in North America). I won’t call approved, normal practices of the Church “odd”.

    Also, I don’t understand your opinion of the saints. What about the saints who, in their analogous situations of celibacy, didn’t look the other way: for example, Thérèse? Not because of anything extraordinary, but because she was faithful in the ordinary. And so she knew, little by little, without walking the other way first. One could say the same of Elizabeth of the Trinity or Thomas Aquinas or any number of saints.

    In your words, their lives are “odd”.

    I don’t know what to say to this. I can’t begin to imagine why why anyone would choose to apply such words to such people. You’re calling a lot of good things in the Church “odd”.

    In my own case, you are calling some of my friends, some of the best people I have ever met, “odd”. I know this is unjust.

    I stand by my convictions expressed previously. It actually is bizarre to mention “embracing” celibacy or “embracing” anything and *only* mention and call “heroic” those who walked down another road first. I add to this another claim: It’s even more incomprehensible to start calling “odd” those people who embrace something without seriously entertaining its opposite through experience. If you say this, you start calling saints and long-standing, approved Church practices “odd”.

    [And this is has a certain, additional relevance on this blog, because the author is also talking about people with SSA "embracing" celibacy (see the post above)... Please contrast what I've said with what you've said. Clearly one isn't going to encourage people with SSA to seriously look the other way first; clearly one doesn't call "odd" the person with SSA who doesn't seriously look the other way before "embracing" celibacy. We can't do that.]

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  25. Br. Gabriel, OP

    Contemplative in the Mud,

    Odd is the proper word. Why? Simply because it is not normative and has never been normative that priests and religious were created out of minor seminaries or entered religious life like St. Therese. We know these stories because they are more proximate to us in time and because a couple of big name saints had that experience. Yes, odd. Odd is not bad, it is simply that, outside the ordinary.

    The use of Minor Seminaries is far from uncontroversial. There have always been two mentalities that govern their use. There is the healthy thinking that centers around the formation of the young men into good priests from the ground up. The unhealthy use of them is when they are used to simply “protect” the young men from the temptations of the world. That is when disfunction quickly enters into the presbyterate. But, this practice is really only for Diocesan Clergy and the various forms of Clerics Regular. Religious are never canonically seminarians nor is it ideal that they are formed in a seminary. Also, religious usually enter proportionately later in life than those men who enter the seminary. There is effectively no analogue to a minor seminary for Religious men seeking the priesthood. Since there are more Religious priests in the world than Diocesan priests the use of the minor seminary is also, not normative in the Church.

    One should never confuse the extraordinary with the ordinary.

    Concerning your aside, formally speaking the Church discourages people with SSA from entering Religious Life. The Diocesan Priesthood is more flexible. Discernment of a Religious or priestly vocation for someone is SSA follows a different path because it is already an extraordinary situation. The original article is more concerned with the ordinary.

    My point is simple. It is based in human nature and way way God created us. It is not relying on some extraordinary grace to fulfill some pius ideal. It is also based in a basic philosophical point that a thing is born from its contrary. I’m not really saying anything controversial. I’m simply grounding the ordinary path of vocations in the real world and the wider experience of the Church.

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  26. Contemplative in the Mud

    Br Gabriel, OP,

    When you stop being scandalous, you’ll stop getting scandalized replies.

    >”Odd is the proper word. … Odd is not bad, it is simply that, outside the ordinary.”

    Actually, it is not “outside the ordinary” that a generous young person would hear Jesus saying “let him take it [celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom] who can” and Saint Paul saying “it is better” to have an “undivided” heart, and that such a generous young person would want to live this way. If one wants this and is generous, one prays for it. Maybe God hears these prayers. If God gives the necessary graces in answer to such prayers, then a generous young person wouldn’t look the other way. The generous young person would have no inclination to try dating if they follow this route and God gives them what is needed to be celibate.

    This is just Christian living: hearing the counsels in the Gospel, responding, praying, God maybe answering the prayer positively. This kind of Christian living is possible in any situation, but some situations, like a great Catholic family or a minor seminary, may help it along.

    Again: This is just Christian living. This is “ordinary”. I don’t know why you claim it isn’t.

    What is so “extraordinary” about hearing the Gospel, praying, and God answering prayer (before trying the other option)? This is exactly how the Fathers and Doctors encouraged people to “embrace” the life of celibacy in the first place. It’s not “extraordinary”. It’s how Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, Basil, etc. got people to “embrace celibacy”: listen to God’s invitation, ask with determination for the grace to get there (see and prudently accept what happens).

    Why do you call this “extraordinary”?

    Do you not know generous young people? Have you never met a generous young person who lived in an environment where prayer, simplicity, the Gospel, and wanting to give things to God were normal (e.g., a great Catholic family, a minor seminary)? Have you, an OP, never read Saint Thomas’ vigorous defence of the common practice of his day, of allowing children to enter religious life young and make vows when they came of age? Do you not know that Saint John Bosco, Saint Alphonsus, and Saint Bernard reckon that one in every three or four Catholic children has the right dispositions for celibacy if they sincerely and persistently ask for the graces to fulfil that journey? (Their numbers may be off, of course, and even if their number were ever accurate, the proportion may even change with time. But the point is clearly that this path is not “extraordinary”. It’s also perfectly “ordinary” to *not* go to celibacy through “dating”. And it’s *certainly* more heroic!)

    If you have had none of these experiences, I’m very sorry. I would probably make your mistake, or a far worse one, in your shoes!

    But let me assure you, such experiences are there to have if you want them. One can meet generous young people. One can read Thomas, Alphonsus, the Fathers… I am not talking about anything “out of the ordinary”.

    God is very much alive in the lives of young people, and calling it “extraordinary” and “odd” that someone should go to celibacy without “dating” is either an implicit denial of that truth or an inordinate glorification of whatever “dating” culture you live in.

    >”One should never confuse the extraordinary with the ordinary.”

    I certainly have not made such a mistake.

    >”Concerning your aside, formally speaking the Church discourages people with SSA from entering Religious Life.”

    This has absolutely nothing to do with my “aside”. I didn’t mention people with SSA and Religious Life.

    >”I’m simply grounding the ordinary path of vocations in the real world and the wider experience of the Church.”

    This most certainly is not what you’re doing.

    Reply
  27. Br. Gabriel, OP

    It is this sort of understanding of the life of grace that is backwards. It is more a kin to Protestant radical fideism than Catholic thought on the relationship between grace and nature. As Catholics we begging with nature, that is what allows us to see what is ordinary. In this case, man and woman were created for each other from the beginning. God created us to be naturally inclined to seek a spouse. Matrimony is the natural vocation of all human persons. This is what defines ordinary. Realizing a vocation different than marriage is, by definition, extraordinary. However, we can speak of two degrees of this. First, there are those who would discover this vocation in relation to the natural vocation of Matrimonry since this is the most common to all. Second, would be those who realize their extraordinary vocation through some means less in relation to the common vocation.

    If you can imagine a gradient of what is more natural to the human condition to what is less natural to the human condition it may illustrate what I’m saying. Remember, grace does not destroy nature. Grace build on nature.

    Reply
  28. Br. Gabriel, OP

    Im not saying the Church Fathers are backwards, I’m saying that your perception of them and how discernment works is mistaken. Just look at the Church Fathers themselves. I can’t name one that wasn’t what we would consider a “late vocation” some of them putting away mistresses or illegitimate children or both like Augustine. This is the case for many of the greatest of the Saints.

    Seminaries have only existed for about 400 years. That is not even a quarter of the history of the Church. I’m saying that the vast majority of the experience of the Church with the discernment of a priestly or Religious vocation doesn’t fit the image that you have in your mind.

    Even anecdotally I can only count a few priest who I know who haven’t struggled in discernment of their vocation in light of some girl they loved. This includes the priest who attended the minor seminary. I know a lot of priests from around the world and I can tell you, out of that experience, that most of the guys that I know either discovered their vocation to the priesthood or religious life in the midst of discerning marriage. Even they guys that didn’t have this internal struggle before the became seminarians they faced it while they were seminarians, and those who didn’t struggle with it then eventually struggled with it after ordination or vows.

    My fear is that you are romanticizing discernment and also romanticizing the way God uses the regular, ordinary, beautiful simplicity of average human life to communicate his plan of salvation in and through us.

    I’ve experienced directly the sort of spiritual and emotional damage that can happen through the romanticization of discernment. It is dangerous in any aspect of human life but deadly in spiritual matters.

    Reply
  29. Contemplative in the Mud

    >”I’m saying that your perception of them and how discernment works is mistaken.”

    I’m genuinely puzzled.

    I can only assume you haven’t read the Fathers and Doctors on the subject of the counsels (in particular, the counsel of chastity, a life of embraced celibacy, that we’re talking about). Compared to some Fathers and Doctors are tame, what I’ve said is tame and tepid.

    If you are interested, this web page is a good resource of texts: pathsoflove

    I can’t do much more than simply point this out. The Fathers and Doctors almost unanimously say things like, “God’s good-pleasure is for marriage and in virginity, but because it is more in virginity, the indifferent heart makes [the] choice of virginity…” (And this is from Saint Francis de Sales, the Doctor of Charity in *all* walks of life.)

    If people follow this path of faith, purity, and “indifference” at a young enough age to make a choice before trying anything else (e.g., dating), I don’t see why you feel any justification in calling them “odd” or “out of the ordinary”.

    >”how discernment works”

    Perhaps this is the problem. You seem to have an idea of one way discernment may work. I have several, but one of them just happens to be the most common way found in the Fathers and Doctors, and that’s the one you’re tossing into the dung pile because it doesn’t proceed from “contradictions”.

    >”most of the guys that I know”

    Yeah, lots of people, myself included, are not “indifferent” and pure enough to realize things right away, nor did lots of people, myself included, have good spiritual direction at a young age.

    I’m guilty as charged.

    That means there’s something “odd” about *me*, not about people who followed the teaching of the Fathers and Doctors on the option for the evangelical counsels.

    Personally, of my part and my failures, especially the fact that I was not pure and “indifferent” enough at a young age, though it’s probable the means were available to me, I’m not proud.

    >”My fear is that you are romanticizing discernment”

    I don’t understand your fear at all.

    How can it be “romanticizing” to say, “listen to God’s invitation, ask with determination for the grace to get there (see and prudently accept what happens)”? This is listening to God’s Word and general invitation to “he who can take it”, praying for that grace if it fits our conditions and nature, and applying prudence in trying and seeing if this is for us — like the Fathers and Doctors always taught. I specifically mentioned all these ingredients, including prudence.

    This is hard, tough, and dirty. It’s an active work at becoming pure enough to listen and asking if we have anything preventing us from taking up a particular way of life, or if God’s will in the concrete shows that it’s not for us.

    But because we (myself included!) were not pure and “indifferent” enough to know and try right away, it’s no reason to call “odd” those who were. This truly pains me, and I’m sure it pains the Church of Heaven.

    Reply
  30. Br. Gabriel, OP

    Yes, I have read a lot of Patristic writting. I’m saying, you don’t understand what they are saying. The quote you reference about the disinterested heart is a perfect example. The virtue of disinterestedness is pretty close to what we would currently call being objective. In other words, it is I the deliberation between the goods of marriage and the goods of celibacy when considered objectively one must chose celibacy as the greater good and the will would naturally incline to that greater good. The key point to understanding this properly is multifaceted. First, it is a consideration in the abstract or rather an “all things being equal” scenario. But, in the concrete reality there is no such thing as a purely objective disposition in the consideration of some object. Because of this part of the lesson is to teach that not all chose the higher good but still chose a good and it is not sin. Another consideration is that the phenomenon being spoken about is deliberation. We are already in the midst of discerning between the goods of these vocations. On this level it isn’t in the abstract but in the concrete. It is a choice that a spiritual master is helping the spiritually immature navigate. Again, don’t romanticize, there is always a concrete pastoral concer happening. These councils of the Fathers presuppose the struggle between marriage and celibacy.

    I’m not tossing your position in the dung pile, I’m simply saying that you are mistaken in your u detests ding of the Fathers and Doctors because you are missing the pastoral concer that already exists when they give their council. The pastoral concern is helping a person navigate between the two goods of matrimony and celibacy.

    Reply
  31. Br. Gabriel, OP

    Sorry the iOS spell checker got away from me.the second sentence of the last paragraph should read: I’m simply saying that you are mistaken in your understanding of the Fathers and Doctors because …

    Reply
  32. Br. Gabriel, OP

    Again, sorry, I will go more slowly. I just reread my post and a lot of it makes no sense because of the grammar errors brought about by me and the iOS spell checker messing things up. Ask me to clarify a point if it is unclear. I’ll do my best to be more attentive.

    Reply
  33. Contemplative in the Mud

    >”Again, don’t romanticize”

    I don’t understand why you are saying this to me.

    >”I’m saying, you don’t understand what they are saying.”

    Many Doctors say, “It’s presumptuous to not take the counsels if you are available, by nature and state, to do so, because they are helpful for salvation — and it’s presumptuous to refuse a grace suited to you” (e.g., Alphonsus, Thomas). And Francis says that a vocation is nothing other than the will to have a vocation (of course sustained by grace and prayer). And Alphonsus also says that the lack of impediments is what means one can and should accept a counsel, also implying that it is presumptuous not to take this divine aid (the evangelical counsels) if one is able to.

    Many do suggest discovering whether one is capable, by God’s grace, of celibacy, without first experimenting with dating (or marriage proposals or whatever the cultural equivalent would be for them).

    In the face of these Doctors, why you insist on the normalcy of the experimentation with dating is truly a mystery to me. Can you back it up by just one reference to a Father or a Doctor?

    >”I’m not tossing your position in the dung pile”

    I don’t have “a position”. I am compelled to point out that you are being scandalous: calling “odd” situations of holiness, or even situations of “normal” life, etc. that the Church approves of.

    You call people who choose celibacy before going through (modern Western?) dating “odd”. (Do you realize just how truly separate men and women have lived in some times and places… and how odd it sounds that they should normally have loved a particular someone, or tried dating someone, of the opposite sex before embracing celibacy? Do you not see how unusual this sounds?)

    You seem to think that anyone in a pastoral situation where one is discerning between marriage and celibacy (which is to say, any young person to whom God matters) will, normally, experientially date. I have no point of reference in my life and the lives I personally know, or in reading the saints, etc. that makes this experience a normal, integral part of the discernment process. Sorry. It may be a cultural thing. If so, maybe there’s something more odd about your culture and your experience than you suspect?

    >”On this level it isn’t in the abstract but in the concrete.”

    I have no idea why you think this needs to be clarified. I mentioned people who pray, discern, and applied prudence to their *own* situation, their *own* abilities, their *own* state and condition, whether *they* can do something, whether it fits in *their* situation with God’s grace.

    >”you are missing the pastoral concer[n] that already exists when they give their [counsel]”

    I don’t know where you got this idea.

    >”The pastoral concern is helping a person navigate between the two goods of matrimony and celibacy.”

    Of course.

    But why you think this normally entails trying relationships with particular potential marriage partners through dates — and consider that another procedure, like awakening to a call through the method of being encouraged to become “undivided” for God’s sake (if able), is “odd” — is beyond me! I’d be frankly shocked if someone like Saint Alphonsus or Saint Thomas had any comprehension of your point of view.

    Reply
  34. Victor

    Contemplative, are you a theologian? or a priest? or a man/woman religious? If not, it would behoove you well to show a bit of respect towards a religious, a father, and (obviously) a learned theologian. If you are, you might show it in the way you discuss. Thank you.

    Reply
  35. Victor

    You are discussing, nay, fighting, with a religious who is an ordained Priest in a way that would be inappropriate even if he were “just” a layman. That way, you ARE giving scandal. Please calm down.

    Reply
  36. Contemplative in the Mud

    I’m not “fighting”. If I’ve said something wrong, please give witness to the wrong.

    Honestly, I’m amazed that you have a problem with me but are missing the elephants in the room (for example, the command, “Again, don’t romanticize,” coming *after* I already explained why I don’t think I am in any danger of “romanticizing”).

    Reply
  37. Victor

    I won’t be engaging in your discussion. My point was not being that either of you are wrong but that the tone you used to fight with Fr Gabriel was aggressive, disrespectful and not behooving of a Christian.

    It is a good thing to be passionate about one’s faith. But that doesn’t mean you have to use aggressive language. Again, please calm down.

    Reply
  38. JBT

    Contemplative, three points.

    First, on the intellectual level: it makes an argument difficult to follow when one of the participants gives the impression of uncontrolled emotional involvement. Phrases like “I don’t understand why you are saying this to me” and “This truly pains me” and “tossing into the dung pile” are disruptive of the intellectual focus with which, I assume, you wish your points to be considered.

    Second, on the spiritual level: this is not–or at any rate, ought not to be–a quarrel between opponents, but a discussion among like-minded people who are all trying to get to Heaven and (presumably) also trying to help EACH OTHER to get there as well. Our Lord is not going to ask you at the Gates whether you “won” such and such an argument; He’s going to be much more interested in whether, during the course of your conversations, you treated your fellow human beings with courtesy and respect. Phrases like, “Can you back it up with just one reference,” and “I would probably make such a mistake, or a far worse one, in your shoes,” and “I can only assume you haven’t read &c.” may bring up valid points, but the choice of words is uncharitable.

    And third, on a personal level: Victor’s right, kiddo. You’re talking to a Brother of the Church here. Watch your tone.

    Reply
  39. Sky

    I’m more inclined to agree with Br. Gabriel, honestly, but I’m hearing an awful lot of condescension towards Contemplative. I see nothing wrong with his tone; he’s impassioned, not disrespectful. And we are ALL brothers and sisters of the Church.

    Calling him “kiddo” is not helpful.

    Reply
  40. Contemplative in the Mud

    VICTOR,

    I am not fighting or “using aggressive language”; your inference as regards my “tone” (for which you will not give a source in my own words) is wrong.

    >”My point was not being that either of you are wrong but that the tone you used to fight with Fr Gabriel was aggressive, disrespectful and not behooving of a Christian.”

    If I had actually used aggressive or disrespectful words, then I would already be wrong. In the long run, one can’t be wrong in charity and right in truth.

    JBT,

    >”Phrases like “I don’t understand why you are saying this to me” and “This truly pains me” … are disruptive”

    It *does* truly pain me.

    And I *don’t* understand why someone has commanded me, “Again, don’t romanticize,” after I explained why I don’t see how I’m in any danger of doing so.

    I don’t understand why you have a problem with me saying these things.

    >”the intellectual focus with which, I assume, you wish your points to be considered”

    I’m not opposed to an emotional investment in the content of the Gospel. It doesn’t have to be only intellectual.

    >”this is not–or at any rate, ought not to be–a quarrel between opponents”

    I’m not aware of acting as if it were.

    >”also trying to help EACH OTHER to get there [to Heaven] as well”

    I don’t know why you speak as if I’m not doing this.

    >”the choice of words is uncharitable”

    I’m not aware of it being impossible to read those words in a spirit of charity. I can’t explain why you have not done so.

    SKY,

    Thank you.

    Reply
  41. Contemplative in the Mud

    … In summary of the actual discussion.

    Jesus says, “Not everyone can take it [virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom]; let the one who can take it, take it.” There are young people who hear these words and ask, “With God’s grace, especially obtained in response to prayer, am I now, or could I be at some point, one of those who actually, in their concrete circumstances, ‘can take it’ for Jesus’ sake?” And they set out to answer the question. Answering this question does not require dating or considering particular marriage possibilities.

    I am not denying that there are other ways to find a vocation, to make a choice of state of life, etc. Nor am I saying other ways are not heroic in their way, too. But if one has open eyes and ears, one can find that
    - this way follows very closely the letter and spirit of the Gospel
    - this way is the most commonly found pastoral situation and situation of advice addressed by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church
    - this way is considered so ordinary by some saints (including a saint known for spending time with young people and including at least one Doctor of the Church) that they estimate it can be followed (all the way to choosing a state of celibacy in accordance with God’s Will) by one out of every three or four Catholic young people (not 1/3 of those “with a vocation”; 1/3 of all Catholics — that’s how “ordinary” this way is for saints like John Bosco and Alphonsus)
    - this way relies entirely on grace and simplicity, generosity, simple-heartedness, prudence, and other virtues lived in an everyday, concrete situation

    It is all about the ordinary. An ordinary way to read the Gospel. A way ordinarily found in the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Ordinary virtues lived in ordinary circumstances of life. An ordinary way in which God reveals his will to all and to particular people in their particular circumstances.

    However, Br Gabriel calls this way of discernment “odd” and “out of the ordinary”, and he calls the words of those who defend it “Protestant fideist” and “backwards”.

    This has to be the end of the conversation, unless Br Gabriel wants to add to it a change of mind.

    Reply
  42. Br. Gabriel, OP

    Lets make a few corrections here:

    1) I’m not a priest but I am a consecrated Religious, a Dominican to be exact.
    2) Let’s assume the good all around in the conversation. If everyone had the gift for prose that Steve possesses then we wouldn’t lose much in text only conversations. In this medium we lose the non-verbals to our communication. Sometimes we impose a tone on someone’s writting that is not intended by the author. It is best to assume that everyone is trying to be kind.

    Contemplative in the Mud,

    I think I finally discovered where your interpretation of my statements is flawed. You are assuming that I’m advocating that it is necessary to date in order to attain to a celibate vocation. This in not what I’ve said. I’ve said that given the normal human condition it is extraordinary to have not had some romantic involvement that led one to a celibate vocation. I think you’ve read too far into and absolutized what I’ve said instead of reading it for what it is. Simply a distinction between an ordinary (usual) or extraordinary (unusual) way.

    Reply
  43. Contemplative in the Mud

    Br. Gabriel, OP,

    Thanks for this reply, especially for pointing out that everyone ought to assume kindness (and charity).

    >”I think I finally discovered where your interpretation of my statements is flawed. You are assuming that I’m advocating that it is necessary to date in order to attain to a celibate vocation.”

    This would certainly bring everything to an “Aha!” moment, but… No, I’m not. =)

    (sorry to disappoint ;-) )

    (maybe it helps to adds smileys!)

    Try to look at it this way. If you sincerely believed, like a John Bosco or an Alphonsus, that 1/3 of all Catholic young people could become religious (or in another way take the evangelical counsel of chastity), if they actually persisted in discernment and prayer at a young age so that they (very likely first) discovered if they “could take it”, would you also think it’s “ordinary” to date and discern at the same time/prior to reaching a decision as to a state in life? No, of course not. You’d *put in place* everything to encourage discernment at age-appropriate steps, and you’d hope, through personal interaction, that no one “fell through the cracks” (so to speak) and “presumptuously” (Alphonsus’ word) took up dating if they were in fact able “to take [celibacy]“.

    And you certainly wouldn’t call it “odd” if someone followed the route of never dating! Because, for you, it would be perfectly normal that people interacting with young persons create the conditions in which young persons can discern the main question — whether they are one of those “who can take it” — as a core question of their Christian life and dialoguing with Jesus. If they can “take it”, then they do. If they can’t, then they don’t. If this question is pursued by someone in an environment of practising prayer and the virtues, then a post-dating state of celibacy is more of an outlier than a pre-dating one. (It’s an outlier, but even then I’d not want to call it “odd”, personally!) Why? Because you believe that the way to follow is safe. One pursues the question in dialogue with Jesus. And if one can take it, then one simply does. (It would be presumptuous to refuse a grace suited to us; it would make us happy; Jesus wants it; etc.) If one sincerely follows this route, it’s certainly going to be unlikely that one discovers, at 27 years old and numerous dates or relationships later, that one *could have* “taken it” 10 years previously. Because presumably one answered the question well in the first place. And it’s unlikely that the outliers at 27 years old will be statistically comparable to “1/3 of all Catholics” at 17 years old. Because, if they were, then we might have more celibates than non-celibates… and THAT, I’m willing to agree, would be “odd”! ;-)

    Alphonsus, for example, would attribute any significant statistical deviation from the 1/3 rule (we’re off by a factor of well more than 1000 in real life!) to personal sin, situations of sin, social situations of sin, tepidity (which he says always slides into sin unless remedied), etc.

    One has to admit, if one accepts Alphonsus’ point of view but sticks to your terminology, what’s “ordinary” is made possible by *sin*. And what’s “odd” is made possible by *virtue*.

    This is not a morally neutral judgment of “ordinary” and “odd”! The implications are important: unrestrained sin leads to “ordinariness”; virtue is required to be “odd”. On the view of the Doctors, morality is involved.

    No one should be “odd”, especially in Christian circles, for having had a good upbringing and for themselves acting virtuously.

    (The better way would be to refrain from calling either situation “odd”, perhaps. If I had a brief suggestion on the topic in general, it would be this: We shouldn’t call anyone’s story “odd”, least of all those marked by goodness instead of personal or collective mistakes.)

    >”I’ve said that given the normal human condition it is extraordinary to have not had some romantic involvement that led one to a celibate vocation.”

    Actually, I disagree with this, too (!).

    As far as I’m aware, the “normal human condition” entails social factors that very often lead *away* from romantic involvement at a young age. Based on my own historical reading and based on my personal experience, the best that I can consider your claim is a serious cultural mistake, centred on 20th and 21st century Western experience (? – the last part is total conjecture as to the actual focus — I don’t know where you live, but, based on what you’ve been saying, I strongly suspect it’s a Western country).

    Even in Southeast Asia in the 20th and 21st centuries (this is where I live), your statement would be taken as surprising or a bit of a novelty! If someone goes to seminary even at 20 or 22, it is probable that their parents have been very resistant to dating before that age; among those who can get an education at all (which is the group we’re taking priests, for example, from) parents are, more likely than not, resistant to their children dating until after university graduation (and these children immensely respect and follow their parents — this is another notable cultural difference, and it is a difference in a particular virtue, mind you!). Today. In the 21st century. Because of all this, a priest or religious with no romantic experience is *not* unusual in my world. *Today*. *Even* for “late(r) vocations”. Given that this is *today*, after opposite-sex relationships have changed so much in much of the world, is it really safe to make your assumptions about all time and space?

    My gut reaction is, “No, that’s not safe at all!”

    What I’m trying to say is: I can’t even accept your statement at a “cultural” or “sociological” level. And when I can’t accept that, it gets a bit bothersome, to say the least, to imagine that you are, probably *unintentionally* but *really*, calling other (sometimes Catholic) cultures “odd” and “out of the ordinary”. This is something I can’t accept as fair, even if it is unintended.

    Are you *sure* you’re not jumping to conclusions based on experience that is close to you in time and space? Because my experience, which includes another continent, is throwing up big warning signs about your generalizations.

    (I’m a lecturer, for what it’s worth. Basically, I’m looking at my university students each day and saying to myself, “I know you. No, I don’t think you’re ‘odd’ for having no romantic experience at 22. I can’t bring myself to say this about so many of you. I can see the cultural factors that are different from North America and Europe today (though less different than Europe 100 years ago). I can see the pressures and the traditions. I can see your life. I can see your family’s hopes and fears. I don’t think you’re odd.”)

    At the very least, something to think about! And to be aware that you’re calling other cultures more “odd” than your own. Is this really something that you want to say? Because it is something that other people are going to hear.

    Reply
  44. Contemplative in the Mud

    >’This is not a morally neutral judgment of “ordinary” and “odd”! The implications are important: unrestrained sin leads to “ordinariness”; virtue is required to be “odd”.’

    I should add to this statement that virtue can also lead to ordinariness.

    But the stark contrast that virtue is *required* to be “odd”, and sin does not lead to “oddness”, is the problem!

    Reply
  45. Br. Gabriel, OP

    This may surprise you but I’m very comfortable saying that certain cultures do not share a common history of religious development. Asia is a perfect example. The very unique cultural standards among most Asian cultures is radically different than the European, African, and American experience. Considered in this way, the Asian experience cannot be considered a benchmark for judging the wider, historic experience of the Church.

    However, given this cultural difference I might now understand why I cannot understand your interpretation of the Church Fathers and Doctors. You must remember that the moral state of society during those early years was not much different than the current moral state of the US. The Fathers are preaching an ideal to be strived for. However, it is not an ideal that is expected to be met to perfection. This is why I noted that you are interpreting them in a romanticized way.

    The example you provided in your last post is a “perfect world” scenario. But, we don’t live in a perfect world. We can strive to attain an ideal but we can’t expect it to be realized.

    Let try to express myself in a different way that might help bring clarity to this conversation.

    How o we determine what is the normal (ordinary) (dominant) experience? First we must begin with human nature. God made all of us fundamentally for marriage. Thus, what is most natural a vocation for each of us to seek is marriage. Discernment of marriage is done through dating (unless marriages are arranged – which, by the way, the Church allows but does not consider an ideal). Because all of us, all things being equal, are made for marriage it is only natural that most people would discern this vocation (since it is common to all of us). Those who do not discern this vocation would, rightly, represent a minority. There is no compelling reason to say that this scenario would not also be the case among those who eventually enter a vocation that is characterized by celibacy. Just because the Fathers and Doctors preach something as an ideal does not mean that that ideal will ever or has ever been an actual reality. To romanticize something is to confuse these two things, the reality and the ideal.

    The Church is much larger and older than the experience in Asia. Any read of the spiritual masters and fathers and doctors must include this per-understanding of the European or Mediterranean experience (depending on who is writing) and the manner of their preaching. So, not only the words but also the style must be considered. The hidden presupposition here is that it is impossible to ever reach an ideal in this life. The ideal is preached so that we strive toward it in this life so that it can be experienced in the next.

    I agree that the situation you describe is an ideal. However, I deny that the situation you describe has ever been the majority experience.

    Reply
  46. Contemplative in the Mud

    >”However, I deny that the situation you describe has ever been the majority experience.”

    Since you are so intent — so intent that you had to introduce the words “odd” and “ordinary” in the first place and continue to mention it — that it is “odd” for someone to not actively “date” before embracing a celibate state of life, can you actually support it with evidence? Your idea seems to be driven by statistics. Do you have any?

    Whenever I read a history book, unless they came from a “wild” background and repented, someone (usually) does not date before they enter into religious life; this applies for “saints” and other people. So your assertion that they’re all “odd” is difficult for me to swallow.

    As I have mentioned several times before, my difficulties are based on reading historical books (biographies, etc.) about Christians, not only my experience in Asia.

    If the statistics matter so much to your vocabulary of “odd” and “ordinary”, can you give them to me so that I might at least have a *reason* to understand you?

    >”This may surprise you but I’m very comfortable saying that certain cultures do not share a common history of religious development.”

    Nor does Asia share in the sexual revolution and change in attitudes towards “dating” to the same extent as Western countries. I don’t get your point. We both gave a priori reasons both for and against the “dominant” statistics.

    If you’re going to claim statistics, please provide them. Otherwise, I don’t see why you remain so sure in your claims when someone points out a priori difficulties. And I don’t see why, if you don’t have such statistics, it matters to much that you want to introduce them in the first place.

    >”How [do] we determine what is the normal (ordinary) (dominant) experience?”

    … A bit taken aback.

    Do you claim that “ordinary” corresponds only to “(statistically) dominant”?

    Do you claim that “odd” corresponds only to “out of the ordinary”, i.e., (not statistically) dominant?

    Reply
  47. Contemplative in the Mud

    Could you please also answer the following questions, so that I better understand what the words “ordinary” and “odd” mean to you? (Thank you.)

    Let’s say we have a young man who consciously and deliberately says,

    “Jesus, I hear you asking if I can take an undivided heart for you. I don’t want to find out. I want to try a divided heart first.”

    - Is this ordinary?
    - Is this odd?

    Let’s say we have another young man who consciously and deliberately says,

    “Jesus, I hear you asking if I can take an undivided heart for you. Please, let’s discover this together. I want to know.”

    - Is this ordinary?
    - Is this odd?
    - If such a young man came to you and was uncertain if, in prayer, this was an “odd” way to talk with Jesus, would you tell him it is ordinary?
    - Would you tell him it is odd?

    (This post does not imply that that every person is either consciously and deliberately doing one or the other! But to understand you, I want to ask about such cases.)

    Reply
  48. Contemplative in the Mud

    >”Just because the Fathers and Doctors preach something as an ideal does not mean that that ideal will ever or has ever been an actual reality.”

    That’s nice. But since all your interjections back to the beginning of your interaction with me *claim it hasn’t been*, would you provide the evidence?

    >”Just because the Fathers and Doctors preach something as an ideal does not mean that that ideal will ever or has ever been an actual reality.”

    However, it is definitely what they advised. It is their “ideal”, as you call it: discover if you can do it and go with it.

    Why do you call living a moral, Christ-centric, Gospel-centric ideal “odd”? Are you unaware of the moral implications of your claim?

    >”what is most natural a vocation for each of us to seek is marriage.”

    You often mention a “natural vocation” (words you used before) and “what is most natural a vocation” (words you use here).

    What is a “natural vocation”? How does someone in a state of fallenness and redemption experience a purely “natural” call or vocation? (What are you saying?)

    Why “must” one who lives outside of a state of pure nature “begin” there? What does this mean?

    >”It is only natural that a celibate vocation world be discovered in seeking its contrary.”

    What does “natural” mean? Could you explain it for someone who doesn’t understand you?

    >”Discernment of marriage is done through dating (unless marriages are arranged – which, by the way, the Church allows but does not consider an ideal).”

    I’m not aware that “arranged marriage” and “dating” are the only options. I guess “dating” means something very broad to you, much broader than to me and, as far as I’m aware, to most people. I don’t say this is wrong, but it would have been good to know earlier — for example, when I *asked* if you meant “modern, Western” dating or something else.

    >”Discernment of marriage is done through dating”

    This is one way one can discern a particular marriage.

    >”all of us, all things being equal, are made for marriage”

    What does this mean? What “other things”?

    >”I agree that the situation you describe is an ideal.”

    You call ideals “odd”?

    And when someone is saying that an article would provide more balance, and perhaps additional inspiration and benefit, if it *also* included practical experience of those who more closely met “ideals” (in your words; in this case, didn’t date before determining a celibate state), you interject to call that “odd” and unnecessary?

    I don’t understand you at all.

    What could possibly be so important that, upon observing that someone thought an article might be more balanced and less likely to cause friction if it contained more points of view (points of view which you even consider ideal), you will interject to call those other points of view “odd”?

    >”The Church is much larger and older than the experience in Asia.”

    The Church is larger but she is NOT older than her experience in Asia. The Church began in Asia.

    It’s also a mystery to me why you feel any desire or need to tell me that the Church is larger than Asia. This is not the first time you have done this: tell me things I know and have given you no reason to doubt my memory of.

    Reply
  49. Contemplative in the Mud

    >”This may surprise you but I’m very comfortable saying that certain cultures do not share a common history of religious development.”

    That’s not what I spoke about. I spoke you saying they were “odd”.

    Reply
  50. Br. Gabriel, OP

    Contemplative in the Mud,

    Why seems to be upsetting you is the use of the word odd. Odd does not necessarily carry a negative connotation. For it to carry a negitave connotation it would need to be coupled with the appropriate non-verbals or some supporting negative context in current American English. It is also not simply synonymous with strange (which generally has a negative context). Odd, in the sense I’m using it is simply “outside the norm.”

    This begs the question, “how do I determine the norm?” Unfortunately there is no strong statistical data one way or the other. So, I can only speak of my sense of the norm. The way I’ve broken this down in my mind has been the following questions. 1) What is the majority experience, biographically, of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church? 2) What is the majority experience, biographically, of the major saints (those on the Universal Calendar for the Western Church)? 3) What is my personal experience of the many priests I know around the world both biographically and their commentary about why they perceive to be the norm in their region of the world? Granted, this last one is highly anecdotal. However, I know a lot of priests from every region of the world. But, to be fair, it is reliant on their subjective experience.

    I think these are the best that anyone can do at this point. It is clear, however, that if you look at the biographies of the major saints, fathers, and doctors the majority experience of that class of people show that they were in some way involved with the discernment of the contrary vocation they eventually settled in. St. Anthony of Padua is probably the most representative of the group of men, while St. Theresea of Avila seems to be the most representative of women.

    Let me add that I’m taking into account the cultural norms of the time and place a particular person lived.

    What may have also disturbed you is my use of the term ordinary. Ordinary is distinguished from extraordinary. The examples you provide to try and distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary (odd if you will) is a poor example and mischaracterizes the entire process of discerning between a celibate and married vocation. Neither a celibate nor a married vocation is seeking God with a divided heart. Each, entered into with authenticity, is a complete committment to Christ. So, just because one finds their celibate vocation through seeking marriage does not imply a progression from a divided heart to a unified heart for Christ. Ordinary is simply based upon what is common. The analogy to my use is the same the Holy Father uses for the two Roman Rite Liturgies. There is the Ordinary Form of Mass (2002 Missale Romnum) and the Extraordinary Form of Mass (1962 Missale Romanum). The ordinary is what is common and usual. It is what you would expect. The Extraordinary does not possess those qualities but is not considered less in dignity as a result.

    Let’s stick with this before we move on. I want to make sure my language is clear or else we will simply speak past eachother.

    Reply
  51. Contemplative in the Mud

    >”Wh[at] seems to be upsetting you…”

    I’m not “upset”. I don’t see why you need to or desire to tell me I am. Interacting you is really a strange experience.

    >”Odd does not necessarily carry a negative connotation.”

    You are explicitly talking about moral actions. What is an “odd” moral action? Is it only defined by statistics?

    >”Odd, in the sense I’m using it is simply “outside the norm.””

    Actually, you said, “In fact, it would be odd if a man seeking the priesthood didn’t come to it through the discernment of marriage (dating). Marriage is the primary and most natural vocation. Priesthood or Religious Life is less so. It is only natural that a celibate vocation world be discovered in seeking its contrary.”

    There is clear mention of what is “natural” (whatever this means — I’ve asked and you’ve decided not to answer — it is presumably not a norm).

    You were also immediately speaking about moral situations and actions.

    You can’t purge moral implications from the word “odd” when you purposefully talk about moral situations. Sorry.

    >”Unfortunately there is no strong statistical data one way or the other.”

    Then everything is just based on your impressions. I find it quite amazing that these impressions are so important that you want to or need to marginalize as “odd” other perspectives and moral, Christ-centric experiences.

    >”Let me add that I’m taking into account the cultural norms of the time and place a particular person lived.”

    What does this mean?

    Does this mean you’re no longer sticking to the modern-Western-centric discussion of “dating”? If this is so, why don’t you just tell me?

    >”Neither a celibate nor a married vocation is seeking God with a divided heart. Each, entered into with authenticity, is a complete committment to Christ.”

    A divided heart is not necessarily a heart that loves less or is in any degree uncommitted to Christ.

    But it is divided.

    If you don’t think there’s a kind of practical division that occurs with the responsibilities of marriage, please take it up with Saint Paul and the Church’s tradition.

    >”Let’s stick with this before we move on. I want to make sure my language is clear or else we will simply speak past eachother.”

    I have no idea why, if this is your intention, you decided to ignore the questions that I said would help me understand you on the issue of your vocabulary.

    >”I think these are the best that anyone can do at this point.”

    Actually, the best anyone can do is not marginalize as “odd” other people’s moral and possibly virtuous experience in the first place. I’m sorry you don’t see that.

    Reply
  52. Contemplative in the Mud

    Could you please also answer this? (posted above)

    I cannot understand your use of the word “odd” unless I understand your use of the word “natural”. They were linked at the beginning.

    ..

    >”what is most natural a vocation for each of us to seek is marriage.”

    You often mention a “natural vocation” (words you used before) and “what is most natural a vocation” (words you use here).

    What is a “natural vocation”? How does someone in a state of fallenness and redemption experience a purely “natural” call or vocation? (What are you saying?)

    Why “must” one who lives outside of a state of pure nature “begin” there? What does this mean?

    >”It is only natural that a celibate vocation world be discovered in seeking its contrary.”

    What does “natural” mean? Could you explain it for someone who doesn’t understand you?

    Reply
  53. Contemplative in the Mud

    And a final important issue of vocabulary:

    Although you claim it is statistically uncommon, you call it an “ideal” that someone may determine, first, if they “can take”, for Jesus’ sake, an “undivided” heart, prior to discerning particular marriage partners (if they they decide to do so).

    In what way(s) do you consider it ideal: morally? aesthetically? evangelically (in a Christ-conforming or Gospel spirit)? other (please specify)?

    Reply
  54. Victor

    “I’m not “upset”.”
    Contemplative, just because you say you aren’t upset it doesn’t change the fact that you ‘sound’ VERY upset. At least Br Gabriel and I perceive your state of mind as ‘upset’ – and I don’t think we are alone there. So for the sake of this argument, could you please ‘turn down the volume’? Frankly, I am starting to wonder why Br Gabriel still bothers at all.

    Reply
  55. Contemplative in the Mud

    Victor,

    I can’t control the way people read my posts. It was previously mentioned that it is better to assume kindness, charity, etc. behind every word if possible and not infer any “tone” (or, presumably “sound”) that could be injurious to the other person.

    I don’t understand why this has been left behind.

    Reply
  56. Contemplative in the Mud

    I’d like to add something else, if I may.

    >”There is the Ordinary Form of Mass (2002 Missale Romnum) and the Extraordinary Form of Mass (1962 Missale Romanum). The ordinary is what is common and usual. It is what you would expect.”

    I don’t understand. The Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass are not defined by statistics as regards their actual use. For example, if priests suddenly started using the Extraordinary Form in more statistical numbers, such that there had been considerably more Extraordinary Masses since both Extraordinary and Ordinary existed side-by-side, that would not change which one is the Ordinary and which one is the Extraordinary.

    You’ve just given an example that tells me that “ordinary” has something additional to it besides statistics and numbers.

    I don’t understand what you’re saying that serves to illustrate, rather than throw further doubt upon, your point. What are you saying? :S

    Reply
  57. Br. Gabriel, OP

    Contemplative in the Mud,

    By upset I don’t necessarily mean angry. As Victor says, the volume seems high. I’m using the word upset to mean something like ‘disturbed’. It is obvious that you are disturbed or else you wouldn’t have engaged the issue in this way. I apologize because I’m convinced that my spelling and grammatical errors have contributed to this. I’ve been responding too quickly without throughly reviewing my responses. I’m slowing down a bit to help this problem.

    Let me begin with your question about the word ‘natural’. I’ll try to express its use in the context of our discussion. In Theology we make a distinction between the ‘order of nature’ and the ‘order of grace’. We do this so we can analyze different aspects of the human condition so that we can gain a clearer insight into the ‘nature’ of God, i.e., God’s essence, or ‘who God is’. The distinction is important. If we don’t respect the distinction then we will not fully see how God has acted in the world.

    When I spoke about marriage being the ‘natural’ vocation of all men I had this distinction in mind. So, in other words, without some direct revelation from God a celibate vocation doesn’t make sense according to the ‘order of nature’. This is easily seen when we universalize the vocation. If everyone were to embrace a celibate vocation the human species would quickly come to an end because there would be no procreation. On the most basic fundamental level, the human person is created to propagate the species. Nearly everything we do (just like the other animals) is ordered to the rearing and care of children. Celibacy, then, only makes sense when there is some revelation indicating that it is pleasing to God. This we have, but it’s not that simple. Remember, grace doesn’t destroy nature, only a very few people are called to this vocation because God doesn’t contradict himself. Through revelation we learn that celibacy is not contrary to human nature because it relates not to the natural end of man (happiness) but to the supernatural end of man (beatitude). But, we also learn that it relates to this supernatural good not as an intransitive good but as a transitive good. Let me explain what I mean here:

    Certain things are good in themselves and other things are good because of what they are ordered to. Marriage is both. It is good because it is ordered to procreation, safety, building society, and natural happiness. When marriage is elevated to a Sacrament by Christ it takes on other characteristics: a means of communicating sanctifying grace, a sign of the relationship between Christ and his Church. So, Christian marriage (Sacramental Marriage) makes marriage a good in itself by elevating it to the state of being a Sacrament. Celibacy however, is not a good in itself. It is “for the sake of the kingdom” and thus only possess the nature of a transitive good. It is good in so far as it is a sign of the final state of man in beatitude. Christ lists the three types of celibates, two are disordered states (made so by nature, made so by others) and only one is an ordered state (for the sake of the kingdom).

    Hopefully that illustrates the point. If not, well, we’ll see. But, on this basis alone it is not inconsistent to think that a vocation to celibacy would be discovered after discerning matrimony. Matrimony is, under every consideration except one, a greater good than celibacy. To deny this is to deny fundamental truths about everything we believe as Catholics. The one exception is when we evaluate each vocation according to the final state of man. This is why we speak about celibacy being a more noble or an objectively higher vocation than marriage. But, this is only a small part of the greater teaching of the Church on human sexuality, sacramental theology, ecclesiology, Christology, etc. One of the greatest errors the Church has been trying to correct for the past few hundred years is just this point. Blessed John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Familaris Consortio is a great place to begin if this is something you have never heard.

    So, this is the first reason why it would seem uncommon for someone to consider a celibate vocation before considering a vocation to marriage. In both the order of nature and the order of grace, matrimony is a greater good than celibacy. The human person is made for the highest goods. We are designed by God to seek the greatest good. Thus it is easy to see why I would say this. Simply consider the order of grace. Matrimony is a Sacrament, celibacy is not. Matrimony communicates sanctifying grace, celibacy does not. Matrimony is a sign of the relationship between Christ and his Church, celibacy is only a sign of the ultimate (heavenly) state of man. But, under this same consideration, the married state is temporary whereas celibacy is not temporary. So, in this way celibacy is greater. If the human person is created to choose the greatest good that it perceives then it is obvious that Matrimony is objectively a greater good than celibacy and thus the human person, all things being equal, would seek matrimony before they would seek celibacy.

    This is the case unless there is some intervention by God. This is another reason why the seeking of a celibate vocation is uncommon. Because it cannot be confirmed ordinarily as a greater good than matrimony overall it must be given to an individual that it is a greater good for that individual. Now, it is true that this intervention by God can happen prior to a consideration of marriage (I know some priests and religious that have known that they were called to this sort of life since they were first able to exercise reason), it is still an intervention. So, if you think from universal to particular, the greatest number of people will consider marriage as is proper according to human nature. A lesser number of people would consider celibacy. Then, of that number there would be those who consider celibacy without considering matrimony. In other words it is reasonable to consider that a subset of a subset of a set of people would be less than the sets above it. There would need to be compelling evidence to the contrary to negate such a consideration. Such evidence is not forthcoming because this is really hard to verify so one should assume the reasonable position until it has been falsified.

    Again we return to the notion of romanticism. I have not been clear in where I find your statements overly romanticized. Where it becomes clear is in the claim that the celibate vocation is one that is in relation to Christ in an undivided way and that Matrimony is one that is in relation to Christ in a divided way. This is not the case. St. Paul simply says that it is better to be celibate because it is easier to contemplate God than it is as one who is married. But, the celibate has a lot more to consider than God. Even the monk has a divided heart. The community of a celibate is analogous to his family. Granted, it is a family that is specifically ordered to seeking contemplation while matrimony is not so ordered (essentially). But, it is untrue to see a divided heart among those married and an undivided heart among the celibate as a universal claim.

    What distinguishes a divided heart from an undivided heart is how one loves. In the natural order there are four types of love: storge, eros, philia, agape. Storge is the love of ones natural family. Eros is desire. Philia is the love of friendship. Agape is the love of the other for the others sake. In the order of grace we add one greater than these – caritas. Caritas is the love of the other for God’s sake. Thus, to love with “Christian love” is to love another because God loves them. Another way to put this is, we find our love for others in our love of God. This is a relation to God with an undivided heart. This sort of love is accessible to the married and the celibate alike. It is harder to attain to this sort of love as a married person because of the heavy influence of storge. But, the celibate finds a barrier to caritas because of the heavy influence of philia. But, when all these loves are made subject to caritas then we love God with an undivided heart. If this is unfamiliar to you I would suggest reading Blessed John Paul II’s “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body”. He does an excellent job of synthesizing Patristic thought on love and relationships and develops it further in light of contemporary insights.

    Now I need to ask you a question. I’m unclear what you mean by the term ‘moral’. You see, in technical language, a moral act is every human action done when reason is engaged. We distinguish between ‘a human act’ and ‘an act of man’ in ethical evaluation. A moral act is one that is done with the engagement of the intellect and will (reason) and corresponds to a ‘human act’ while a non-moral action is one that does not engage the intellect and will and corresponds with an ‘act of man’. When we evaluate human acts we don’t apply praise or blame (culpability) to a act until all objective consideration can be reasonably made. When this is done we use the word good/bad or good/evil. These terms speak about the intrinsic or subjective rectitude of an action (the acts consistency with reason). I haven’t assigned these words to my analysis of seeking ones vocation. I used the term odd. If I were to translate the word odd to a technical term it would be ‘non-normative’ which is not a moral evaluation but a sociological evaluation. Normativity is related to culturally acceptable or unacceptable behavior but yet reserves moral judgment. In fact, one of the historic works of Christianity is to separate subjective cultural norms from what is morally good or bad because often a particular culture’s norms are not isomorphic with objective moral evaluation. Thus, much of the work of the Church has been to restructure an encountered culture’s social norms to fit with authentic ethical norms. This has been done with greater or less success over the years. Anyway, I’m asking how you are using the term ‘moral’ and concurrently I’m trying to express how the term I used doesn’t directly correspond to an assignation of praise or blame to a particular act. If you can accept this simple point, we’ve come a long way.

    Reply
  58. Br. Gabriel, OP

    Re: The Example of the two Roman Liturgies

    It expresses my point exactly as intended. My argument is not simply made from a numerical standpoint. My argument is fundamentally based in human nature (as my previous comment should express). Even if, through some extreme intervention by God that everyone who embraces a celibate vocation from this point in time forward were to have been given knowledge of this vocation since the initial stage of their ability to use reason it would still remain extraordinary. It would remain extraordinary because God’s communication of the vocation would occur through extraordinary means. The vocation of celibacy is by its very nature extraordinary in the first place. To receive that vocation without any consideration of what is ordinary adds a greater degree of extraordinariness to what is already extraordinary.

    Reply
  59. Contemplative in the Mud

    Brother Gabriel,

    Please just answer straight. (I mean and say this kindly, a bit sad, tired.) You will save us both a lot of time if you just answer questions and points that are raised, rather than write long letters! (I mean and say this kindly.)

    Are you still saying that it’s odd not to go to celibacy through *dating*? Because *that* is what I have been shocked by since the beginning. You said *dating*. It’s right there to see: dating. You were speaking of people who dated and broke relationships. (I said there would have been more balance, and less friction, if we also spoke about those who didn’t, who went to celibacy without first dating in experience.) In the context, you said *dating*. Dating. Dating. This was the topic. This is what you said is normal, ordinary, not-odd.

    *Dating* prior to coming to celibacy.

    I’m not repeating myself to be upset, rude, or angry. I’m repeating myself, because you have neglected the points I made before: Are you still talking about dating, or have you dropped that line of discussion? I want to make it impossible for you to miss this point again. (I don’t know why it was missed before. I’m not blaming you.)

    You originally said *dating*. Yet everything that you just wrote to me is about the good and truth of marriage (in nature and in sacrament). That makes sense, for the most part, though some things you say I don’t exactly agree with.

    But knowing and considering and being deeply drawn towards marriage, considering marriage, considering that path, is not the same as the act of *dating* a particular person.

    Are you still saying that it’s odd not to go to celibacy through *dating*? If you’re not, then there is no major disagreement. (There are minor ones.) If you are, then your arguments should probably relate to that point, shouldn’t they?

    >”This is easily seen when we universalize the vocation. If everyone were to embrace a celibate vocation the human species would quickly come to an end because there would be no procreation.”

    For what it’s worth, in the City of God, Augustine said to this, “Then the world would end sooner.”

    In other words: “Why universalize anything? It’s in the hands of Providence. Just trust and yourself do your best.”

    Saint Augustine doesn’t see any need to formulate norms in the first place. It’s in God’s hands. It’s a mystery.

    >”Remember, grace doesn’t destroy nature, only a very few people are called to this vocation because God doesn’t contradict himself.”

    Why would that mean “only a very few people” are called? What is a “very few”? And how do they know they, in particular, are called?

    >”Hopefully that illustrates the point.”

    It does. But it’s a point that didn’t need illustrating. Thank you for writing it all. But it’s not necessary. Please just talk to me.

    >”But, on this basis alone it is not inconsistent to think that a vocation to celibacy would be discovered after discerning matrimony.”

    Yes, “discerning matrimony”, considering it in one’s life and in terms of its goods that you keep mentioning, discussing it and learning about it, thinking about it for oneself, considering it… It’s all very broad.

    I see the *link* to dating. But they’re not *equivalent*.

    >”So, this is the first reason why it would seem uncommon for someone to consider a celibate vocation before considering a vocation to marriage.”

    I’m glad you now use the word “seemingly uncommon” rather than “odd”.

    What I find amazing is that “considering a vocation to marriage” is, to all appearances, the same to you as “dating”. Is it? Is it not? You originally told me it’s “odd” to go to celibacy without going through “dating”. Has your story changed? Or is it still the same? Unless you answer me when I ask you (this is at least the second post in which I’ve asked), how can I know?

    >”Because it cannot be confirmed ordinarily as a greater good than matrimony overall it must be given to an individual that it is a greater good for that individual.”

    Perhaps you already know this… but… You disagree entirely with, for example, Saint Alphonsus and Saint Thomas. They both say that celibacy, truly and lovingly embraced as a counsel, is a greater good in terms of spiritual security and spiritual growth (“contemplation” is “easier”, as you, yourself, put it); and we should ideally have counter-indicators (e.g., negative impediments, positive duties required in life) if we are to not take this offered grace. Of course, there are many, many such counter-indicators. And probably far more than either of them considered. But your perspective is still the reverse of these two Doctors. I will simply point this out.

    Given that one of them is Saint Thomas, it gives pause to think whether your long nature-and-grace derivation of argument is water-tight…

    >”This is the case unless there is some intervention by God.”

    Why is an “intervention” required? It’s in the Gospel already: some have become this way for the sake of Jesus himself. If someone reads about a good in the Gospel, why does God need to “intervene” to make him want it? It’s ordinarily there already. It can be chosen like all other things are chosen in a state of grace: “Is it good? Does it suit me?” etc.

    Yes, lots of *other* things are ordinarily in his life, too: his parents, his family, girls, etc.

    But this one is also ordinarily in the Gospel. Why is an “intervention” needed? It’s really already there in the Gospel; it’s already a good proposed to him in his life. I don’t see any need for an “intervention”. It’s really there in his life to choose as good and suitable.

    This is a point I simply cannot understand, regardless of the “dating” issue. Celibacy for Jesus is in the Gospel. Thus nothing extraordinary is required. (It may be given; but it’s not required.) The requirements are just a will, prayer, and ordinary grace. None of your arguments about grace and nature change that. It’s there. It’s an invitation. It can be considered without a further divine “intervention”. Just ordinary workings of nature and grace are enough.

    >”In other words it is reasonable to consider that a subset of a subset of a set of people would be less than the sets above it.”

    Your “subset of the subset” is a group that went to celibacy without considering marriage.

    … What does this have to do with a group of people who discerned celibacy without actively *dating*?

    >”Such evidence is not forthcoming because this is really hard to verify so one should assume the reasonable position until it has been falsified.”

    If that is the case, I would like to see the “reasonable position” that someone discerning marriage is actively dating.

    >”Where [romanticism] becomes clear is in the claim that the celibate vocation is one that is in relation to Christ in an undivided way and that Matrimony is one that is in relation to Christ in a divided way. This is not the case.”

    “A divided heart” is a common expression to summarize what Saint Paul said when he said, “his interests are divided,” since interests are found in the heart. I certainly don’t mean that, in the case of the will and love, there is division in marriage and not in celibacy. In fact, I already said that much. If you didn’t see that I said this, it is not my fault.

    If you have a problem with this expression (“divided”), please don’t take it up with me. Substitute any other expression that shows that, for a celibate, it “is easier to contemplate God than it is as one who is married”. This is the (principal?) meaning, I agree. I assumed it would be easier to stick to the Scriptural word. Apparently it wasn’t. But if we agree on the meaning and disagree on the Scriptural word (I can’t imagine why), that is fine for me.

    >”Anyway, I’m asking how you are using the term ‘moral’ and concurrently I’m trying to express how the term I used doesn’t directly correspond to an assignation of praise or blame to a particular act.”

    “Odd” corresponds to marginalization of experience when it’s used to justify the exclusion of or irrelevance of experiences in a conversation. (As it was.)

    By “moral”, yes, I do mean that it involves human actions in which reason is involved.

    >”To receive that vocation without any consideration of [marriage]…”

    This is entirely your foisting of an opinion on me.

    I’m constantly talking about someone who *does not date in experience*, not someone who acts without “any consideration of [marriage]“. Where did you get an idea that someone would act “without any consideration of marriage”? (Is it even *possible* without divine intervention? I, personally, have difficulty imagining it. How could a child not consider their own parents’ marriage, for example? their human nature? etc. This is certainly *not* something I have discussed: “acting without any consideration of marriage”.)

    But more to the point: Since when was dating synonymous with considering marriage? Would you *please* distinguish between the two, so that you could stop attributing to me opinions that I don’t hold.

    I don’t mean to be upset or angry. But this post is nowhere near the first time that I have asked you to make the distinction or clarify if you were still talking about dating — because, in accordance with your original comment, I still am talking about dating. I’m only going based on the original topic: dating. I am sticking to the topic.

    By repeating myself, I’m not meaning to “sound” upset or angry. But how else can I draw your attention to this point? I keep trying to ask you this question. If there is a gentler way to do so, after you misrepresent my opinions (*because* I’m faithful to your own words, no less), I don’t know it. I’m sorry.

    Please (a gentle please) distinguish between dating and “considering marriage”. Thank you!

    Reply
  60. Contemplative in the Mud

    >”I used the term odd. If I were to translate the word odd to a technical term it would be ‘non-normative’ which is not a moral evaluation but a sociological evaluation.”

    Sorry, but this isn’t faithful to the original context. You used the word to marginalize experiences from a discussion. I said a broader variety of experiences could have helped and generated less friction (there was a lot of friction in the conversation!). You called those other experiences “odd”.

    It’s not possible to disinfect all moral implications. I’m sorry. (genuinely meant)

    Reply
  61. Contemplative in the Mud

    By the way, I did something very bad in not replying to this:

    >”I apologize because I’m convinced that my spelling and grammatical errors have contributed to this.”

    Thank you for the apology, though I don’t think this is in any way a cause of anything except some smiles.

    And I can clarify something here, I hope:

    >”Even if, through some extreme intervention by God that everyone who embraces a celibate vocation from this point in time forward were to have been given knowledge of this vocation since the initial stage of their ability to use reason it would still remain extraordinary. It would remain extraordinary because God’s communication of the vocation would occur through extraordinary means.”

    Of course I agree with this. This is what ordinary and extraordinary actually mean! :)

    But I have to immediately add the following, so that I’m not misunderstood…

    The situation you described is certainly extraordinary. It lies outside the normal regime of virtue and grace. There’s an “intervention”, as you put it.

    However, there are no extraordinary means in a young person, already past the age of reason, reading the Bible, praying, considering marriage, considering celibacy for Jesus, and choosing celibacy based on prayer, prudence, their situation, the Gospel, Jesus, etc. … nothing extraordinary required to do this after reason but *before* *dating*. Even *if* the child lives in a culture where dating often occurs for young adults, there are years of normal, everyday conversations with Jesus in that time! Years of thinking and talking with Jesus. That’s a lot of room for ordinary graces and virtues to lead to ordinary answers and choices.

    It is — or can be — ordinary. The communication of the vocation is through ordinary means: prayer, virtues, Bible, friendship with Jesus, prudence, daily activities, reflection… No extraordinary experiences, graces, or virtues are required; it’s possible; it’s real.

    It’s one “ordinary” way founded in the way things are for Christians.

    Is there anything in this you disagree with? This is what I’ve been saying for ages.

    Reply
  62. Br. Gabriel, OP

    Contemplative in the Mud,

    I have answered you at leat three times. Discernment of marriage is, by definition, dating (or it’s cultural equivalent).

    Augustine is incorrect. This would be a typical place where Aquinas would correct him.

    My position is not contrary to Aquinas (I can speak for the position of St. Alphonses). If you cannot see the distinctions made when considering an object under seperate ratios then I don’t know how to help you understand. I would need you in a classroom. This is a poor forum to teach.

    Maybe the problem is that we have different conceptions of discernment. Discernment is not simply thinking about something or praying about it or the combination of the two. Discernment includes actively persuing a vocation. I often express to young men considering my Order that the have yet to begin true discernment untl they have entered the novitiate. You can’t just consider a vocation in the abstract.

    The word odd does not imply marginalization. What lead you to that conclusion. I don’t know where you are from but current American English usage doesn’t imply this, as I’ve noted several times. It is becoming exhausting explaining this. I feel like I’m having a conversation with someone who claims that Christians worship three gods instead of a Trinity and no matter how hard I explain that the Trinity is not three gods the interlocutor disagrees.

    You don’t seem to be able to distinguish between the order of nature and the order of grace. How can I help you understand this distinction?

    Reply
  63. Contemplative in the Mud

    Brother,

    >”I have answered you at lea[s]t three times.”

    Where?

    >”The word odd does not imply marginalization.”

    I didn’t say it always does. However, in this conversation, originally, “odd” was used to marginalize experiences from the discussion. It’s right there in the text. We were discussing dating and celibacy. I said there are broader experiences and might help to round out the conversation. You contradicted me and said those experiences were “odd”.

    If you think the use can be justified, then you can justify your action: marginalizing experiences from a conversation.

    Or, if marginalization is not your intention, then perhaps you’d be willing to discuss those non-dating experiences as if they are also normal and/or ordinary?

    If you think I’m “disturbed” over a *word*… Sorry. I’ve made it clear that’s not the case. This is about something other than a word. It is the meaning that is the problem. I said “scandal” at the beginning: telling young people that God will not ordinarily reveal a celibate will to them unless they date. If you don’t pay attention, it’s not my fault. I’m really not sure how to be more clear: it’s scandalous to tell young people that God will not ordinarily reveal a celibate will to them unless they date. It’s actual scandal and confusion of the young.

    Sure, God may reveal his will that way. But there are other ordinary paths, too. Confusing young people is not good. Sorry.

    >”(or it’s cultural equivalent).”

    So you’re admitting that your original wording was, at least in some way, wrong or deficient. It took a long time. Could you please make this explicit, rather than hiding it in parentheses? It’s important. Thank you.

    >”Discernment of marriage is, by definition, dating (or it’s cultural equivalent).”

    Not by definition, no.

    But yes, this is one *part*/one *way* of discernment of a particular marriage.

    Similarly, beginning to live with Dominicans is the discernment of that life.

    Reading the Bible and living with Jesus is a basic and general act of discernment as well. (something your definition “dating = discernment of marriage” doesn’t have in it)

    Since we’re talking about celibacy, it’s pretty obvious that, to discern celibacy, I don’t ordinarily need to date (though, of course, I could). One can start to live something and experience it with Jesus.

    Really! Imagine a hypothetical “I”. I live a celibate life. I have experience. I reflect and discern with Jesus. I choose celibacy in light of this living, this experience, this reality, this relationship. What is so “extraordinary”?

    >”Discernment is not simply thinking about something or praying about it or the combination of the two. Discernment includes actively persuing a vocation.”

    Where did I say otherwise? For example, I spoke about living with Jesus through ups and downs and exercising prudence and love and the other virtues. In other words, young people are often living a celibate life already. They can discern *through* those experiences.

    What could you possibly disagree with in this?

    It amazes me that, as far as I can tell, you’re claiming that living a temporary celibate life with Jesus cannot ordinarily be “actively discerning” a permanent celibate life.

    >”You don’t seem to be able to distinguish between the order of nature and the order of grace.”

    I’m not aware of any such problem.

    You express an awful a lot of judgments about what you think goes on in my mind. It’s really very bizarre.

    >”How can I help you understand this distinction?”

    If you think I need any help, I’ve already told you what is helpful to me: to reply to individual comments like a conversation that is shorter and easier to follow (i.e., like I reply to individual statements of yours).

    >”My position is not contrary to Aquinas”

    Yes, it is.

    The Doctors do not agree with you. This is just a fact. Sorry. I truly am sorry in this case. But the facts can’t be changed.

    >”(I [can't?] speak for the position of St. Alphonses)”

    Well, this is much better than when you called the claims of the Doctor of prayer and moral theology “Protestant radical fideist” and “backwards”. ;)

    Reply

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