THE unnamed writer of the letter “Priestly vows” (CL 3/6/12) makes valid distinctions of the various formal requirements.
Such distinctions have their place but not in the letter I wrote and that is why I did not address them in detail.
My letter concerned both the lay and the clerical state. The chastity of a celibate life, like any vocation to chastity, is a vocation of service.
Chastity’s greatest service is through the giftedness of surrender that it embodies.
This surrender is dependent totally on the Grace of God working with the nature of men and women to reply in turn with an act of openness to God’s action – hence my point that chastity refers to more than a surrender of physical intimacy.
It also requires innately a surrender to the claims of worldly preoccupations and a surrender even of one’s will.
I described these three surrenders as priestly, prophetic and kingly. Whatever about the legalities and the legal forms, we are all called by Baptism to be chaste in all three areas.
St Augustine once said that virginity of the flesh belongs to a few; virginity of the heart must be the concern of all (Commentary: Psalm 147).
Paul Evdokimov (author of The Sacrament of Love) referred to monks and married people as the diamond cutters of heavenly stones; he wrote that “chastity” (Greek: “sophrosyne”) means integrity.
Aristotle wrote that in “sophrosyne” the personality is so harmonised that the right is done without a struggle.
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