In preparation for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015 and the visit from Pope Francis, a catechism on family life titled “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” has been prepared. Each month CatholicPhilly.com presents a reflection on one of the 10 chapters of the catechism. Previous monthly reflections are online here.
“Love is our mission” for everyone — not just those who are married. Catholic marriage is a beautiful sacrament, but it is not necessary for a fully human life. In any society, many will be marginalized if marriage is seen as mandatory, as if one needs a sexual partner in order to be complete. Celibacy in the Church resists this misleading idea, insisting that life outside of marriage is also meant to be beautiful, social, and sacramental.
Catholic celibacy and marriage have the same inner rationale, for in both cases, love commits us to service and joins us to the cross. A life of celibacy may be lay or ordained. Celibacy can be chosen, as in vowed religious life, or the result of being unable to marry, due to disability or circumstance.
There are many ways of being celibate, each with important distinctions, but to be fruitful, they all require a similar internal motion of soul, an offering of our heart to the Lord. Wise, mature celibates and spouses practice many of the same spiritual skills.
Celibacy and marriage both proclaim that sexual intimacy cannot be a temporary experiment or conditional audition. Both celibacy and marriage create solidarity between the sexes, rejecting sex in the context of what Pope Francis called the “throwaway culture.” To create communities where unmarried men and women experience joy and live their mission is something Christians need to do for one another.
These teachings have further implications for family and parish life – see chapter six in “Love Is Our Mission” for details.