Interesting article at First Things about how celibacy, even though not voluntarily chosen, can be a vocation. The author quotes from Pius XII:
[But] this vocation, this call of love, makes itself felt in very diverse ways . . . The young Christian woman who remains unmarried in spite of her own desires may—if she firmly believes in the providence of the heavenly Father—recognize in life’s vicissitudes the voice of the master: Magister adest et vocat te — the Master is at hand, and is calling you. . . . In the impossibility of matrimony, she discerns her vocation.
I like the piece, although it’s more statement than argument. It proposes a way of thinking about celibacy without going very far towards convincing us that we should think of it that way, or showing us how to think of it that way. But that isn’t nothing.
It reminds me of a quotation whose source I can’t remember: Love can always transform necessity into choice.
This comes to my mind most often when I’m in the middle of a depressive episode and the pain won’t stop. I ask myself: “Is this something I would voluntarily take on if I knew it would help my friend [x]?” And if the answer is Yes, then the question of whether it’s voluntary or not becomes moot, since the result is the same: I accept it, I will it, and it bears fruit, both in my life and in the lievs of those I love.
This idea of offering up suffering is so important to my life, and so central to my understanding of Catholicism, that I was astounded to notice Andrew Sullivan, a lifelong Catholic, had apparently never heard of it. I’ve been reading Sullivan’s Love Undetectable, and while my fingers fairly twitch with the urge to respond to a lot of what I’ve read, I don’t want to respond in full till I’ve finished. Still, this passage deserves a look:
Abstinence forever; abstinence always; abstinence not for the sake of something else, but for its own sake…Jesus’ suffering was at least for something [emphasis added], for forgiveness, for universal redemption, remaining in his desperate isolation on the cross a symbol of human brokenness who opened his pinioned arms to everyone. It was an act of eternal solidarity with the suffering, not an arbitrary invitation to the ordeal.1
Dear God, man, every one who’s ever been born has been issued an invitation to that ordeal. And who said it’s arbitrary? And Jesus came, not just to suffer for us, but to present to us a means of lifting up our own suffering. Forgiveness, universal redemption, solidarity with brokenness — these are all things which, because of Christ’s sacrifice, our suffering can mean and does mean. Here’s John Paul II on the subject:
Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.2
As awesome as this is, it’s also Catholicism 101. Where on earth has Andrew Sullivan been all his Catholic life that he hasn’t heard of this?