By Dave Armstrong (8-17-09)
A soon-to-be formally Catholic member on the CHNI forum made a comment about our teaching on virginity, followed by that of another new Catholic, and I put in my $00.02 worth as well:
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The Catholic Church Visibly Encourages Holiness and Consecration
I am now in RCIA, but that is mainly a formality on my part since I am already a solidly commited Catholic on the inside. However, as a Catholic, I believe in the formalities of the Church as reliable divine channels of God's grace and visible signs of invisible realities to an unbelieving world. Plus I love it! Crazy, huh?
But I am going through trying to capture all that I love about the Catholic Church and one of those things came into focus this morning as I was watching EWTN's Life on the Rock video clip about consecrated virginity.
The Catholic Church visibly recognizes and encourages the longings of our hearts to be wholly God's in whatever path of life or vocations He has called us to, married, consecrated virginity, consecrated religious, etc. And it holds up the lives of the saints as examples. Not only that, but as the representatives of Christ they accept, bless and confirm our consecrations on His behalf so there is a visible, tangible two-way give and take. I haven't learned all the lingo yet so please correct my offering as necessary.
Self-restraint for the purposes of consecration and holiness to God? You won't find much encouragement in that from the world or even from many Christians. As a matter of fact, they may feel threatened by it and hate you for it. Thank you, God, for the Catholic Church and its nurturing of our call to a life of holiness.
I agree with you that the Catholic Church supports and nurtures holiness in all walks of life. It was this commitment that most impressed me when I was studying before my conversion and it still does. I've been a lifelong Christian and in the denominations I was in, holiness was barely mentioned. That there is such an emphasis on it gives me great hope that by the grace of God, I could attain holiness. I've seen it in other Catholics and they drew me to the Catholic Church. There is almost a fragrance to those who are pursuing Christ's image. I am naturally attracted to these examples of holiness and also thrilled at the opportunity to follow in their steps. Thanks for your enthusiastic comments and welcome home.
This is a classic instance of how the Catholic Church takes all of Scripture seriously; it doesn't neglect certain portions because they may happen to be difficult, unpopular, or unfashionable. Consecrated virginity or celibacy is expressly sanctioned by Jesus (Matthew 19) and Paul (1 Corinthians 7). All of the disciples, most or all of the early apostles and Jesus Himself were celibate (Peter apparently agreed with his wife to live a celibate life), and we are commanded to imitate Jesus and Paul.
So why is it a controversy at all? We are simply applying those parts of Scripture, and celebrating a consecrated, sacrificial life, just like the one that St. Paul, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and many others lived. Why is that frowned upon? We get attacked for upholding celibacy and we get attacked for advocating sacramental, indissoluble marriage and having many children. We like married couples having lots of children, yet we get attacked for supposedly being "anti-sex." When criticisms are irrational and self-contradictory to this ludicrous extent, one knows that something is awry in the accusers, not the accused.
The fact is that our outlook is precisely, comprehensively biblical: marriage is a sacrament and a celibate priesthood is also a sacrament. We don't have to get legalistic and puritanical and be unbalanced; we rejoice in the pleasures of life, including physical pleasures, within proper moral boundaries. But we also embrace those who want to fully devote themselves to God by remaining unmarried, by vocation.
The fact that some give up good things in order to serve the Lord more wholeheartedly (1 Cor 7:32-35) does not mean that the good things cease to be good things (either in fact or in Catholic opinion). They are good; that's what it means to "sacrifice" in the first place! This comes straight from explicit teaching in St. Paul and also our Lord. It is really Spirituality 0101 or Bible 0101, yet for some odd reason so many Christians fail to grasp these elementary matters.
Why is there any controversy at all about it? Clearly, fads, fashions, and traditions of men have gotten mixed in with the plain revelation that is there for all to see. All we're doing is abiding by the biblical model.