Sacred Chastity: Sublimely Fruitful and Creative in Countless Priests throughout History
‘Thou shalt rekindle hearts to the valor of old in a world that grows chill.’ (J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)
Can we be blind to the towering fact that the most momentous event in history, indeed its very axis, occurred because the Incarnate God chose to save the human race as a virgin? The human person closest to Him in the enterprise of the world’s salvation was also a virgin, the ever- immaculate and purest flower of humanity; closely stood the chaste Joseph, guardian of both. Thus the pattern was set.
With these awesome beginnings virginity became sacred, an instrument for holiness and salvific creativity throughout history. From the beginnings of Christianity, men and women embraced virginity as the most natural implication of wanting to be totally of, with and in Jesus Christ. And from the start Christians – and non-Christians – spontaneously gave these celibate Christians the titles of “Father” and “Mother” because they brought new life to those around them.
Corraggio therefore! Your life can be utterly fulfilled through sacred chastity! You can find illustration of this in so many saintly brother-priests who have walked the road before you! Remember: you are not the first! Read their lives and find amidst the extraordinary variety of personalities of men like Peter, Paul, Ignatius of Antioch, Augustine, Leo the Great, Martin of Tours, Benedict, Patrick, Boniface, Columbanus, Bernard of Clairvaux, Dominic, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Philip Neri, Don Bosco those with whom you identify more closely because of temperament or circumstances. Then recall the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola as he lay convalescing in the family castle after the Battle of Pamplona reading the lives of the saints: “If they could become saints, why not I?” “Well, if they could keep sacred chastity, then so can I!” After all, some of them like St.Augustine had fierce battles to fight merely to free themselves from long-standing habits of lust.
Open the lives of the saints, so many of whom were celibate priests or consecrated men and women. Who has known how to love more powerfully, tenderly and poignantly than them? Theirs was not the love of fleeting comets but of the northern star, ever shining to guide fellow voyagers on the seas of time to the harbor of eternity: John, Benedict and his sister Scholastica, Francis, Clare, Catherine of Siena, Francis Xavier, Vincent de Paul, Don Bosco and countless others such as the greatest love poet of the Spanish language, St. John of the Cross.
And what extraordinarily rich and fulfilled lives! These men changed the face of history! More importantly they even changed the face of Heaven by helping to populate it with so many men and women of their age and of the ages after them!
Just think of the seminarian-saints. I have often walked with admiration close to the former hospital beside the Roman Forum where the great seminarian, Aloysius Gonzaga, caught the plague while carrying one of the plague victims. The message on the monument says it all: “Angel of Purity, Martyr of Love”
In our era priests have another reason for being radiant lights of pure love: they can show a fallen world where marriage and the family are being insidiously attacked, where even some priests have given scandal, that pure love is possible! By living as an “Angel of Purity, Martyr of Love” they can be among those leading the way in restoring the true image of the priesthood wherever it has been scarred and by being in person a true “theology of the body”. Where the Culture of Death has conquered, where the honor of the Sacred Order has been broken, the world needs priest-heroes to come on the scene and by their holiness, dedication, courage and generosity to break the lines of dysfunctioning. Like Aragorn, they must reforge the sword! Where only memories of broken homes and marriages and betrayals of trust exist, their example should be like that of a lighthouse over a dark and stormy sea causing all to wonder that in the midst of this decadent society such models of love, purity and goodness have somehow managed to survive. For they must be like ships in a storm-tossed ocean, like exceptional flowers amidst the heights of the Alps….like men who have come from a higher world, as indeed they have: the supernatural world of grace.
And when you finally depart “Middle-Earth” from the Grey Havens and come by God’s grace to the final destination:
“Thou shalt look round about, and see
Thousands of crown’d souls throng to be
Themselves thy crown. Sons of thy vows
The virgin-births with which thy sovereign spouse
Made fruitful thy fair soul….” (Richard Crashaw, A Hymn to the Name and Honor of the Admirable Sainte Teresa)