As the traditional Simbang Gabi reaches its crescendo, the spirit of joy and thanksgiving pervades the family home. Indeed, Christmas always rekindles the warmth of rebuilding family ties. Truly, everyone can exclaim: “it is good to be home for Christmas!”. Amidst the Christmas frenzy, however, a certain group of lay people remain almost forgotten. I refer to the unsung heroes of the spiritual battlefront: the apostolic celibates. Hence, I dedicate this post as my salute to the apostolic front-liners: the celibates.
Interestingly, in the 1930’s, the young Josemaria Escriva started scribbling his inner thoughts on spirituality. Later on, these notes were then compiled into his classic book of aphorisms entitled The Way. In point no. 28 of the book, he, in fact, salutes the apostolic front-liners: the celibates, referring to them as “officers of Christ’s army.”
“Marriage is for the rank and file, not for the officers of Christ’s army. For, unlike food, which is necessary for every individual, procreation is necessary only for the species , and individuals can dispense with it.
A desire to have children? Behind us we shall leave children – many children… and a lasting trail of light, if we sacrifice the selfishness of the flesh.St. Josemaria Esciva, The Way, 28
Reading between the lines, one could sense the nobility of upholding the celibate life. Clearly, St. Josemaria was alluding to the celibate’s abnegation of the flesh for the sake of illuminating society in accord with the Christian way of life. Thus, he speaks of the celibates, who would have many spiritual children i.e. those who are enlightened by the former.
Unsung Front-liners: Apostolic Celibates
As the fourth industrial revolution lifts off, it is not surprising to see the pervasive influence of social media in family life, politics, economics, entertainment, fashion and lifestyle. Clearly, the ubiquity of the internet and mobile phones has exascerbated an alarming trend towards individualism. Consequently, more and more people have become mobile phone-dependents, leaning towards screen-use addiction. In short, inter-personal relationships are waning. When talking about celibates, I do not refer to those people who have turned recluse or antisocial for mundane reasons such as disillusionment with marriage or frustrations in life. Rather, I refer to the few and select individuals who have chosen to live a celibate life in order to pursue the nobler goals of helping society reach the common good. In a word, these people – the celibates – seek to give themselves as an oblation for the greater glory of God.
Charism of Celibacy
Charism, n. a gift freely given by God to a person or community, for the good and service of others in bringing about the Kingdom of God.
Given the fact that human nature is beclouded by concupiscence, a life of celibacy based on sheer human efforts is bound to fail. For example, the preponderance of pornography in the internet has fostered a social millieu of eroticism and self-gratification. Thus, it would be foolhardy to insist that temptations of the flesh can be easily thwarted by sheer human will power. Such a perception is bound to fail. On the contrary, one would need to be gifted with the charism of celibacy to endure such pitfalls. Hence, it is important for one to discern whether or not the charism of celibacy has been given by God. Afterall, it is the key element that will ensure a person’s fidelity to the commitment to live a celibate life.
Celibacy: a Link to Building up the Kingdom of God
Finally, there is much to be thankful for, specially, the hidden and quiet apostolic efforts of the celibates. Without which, our beloved world of today would perhaps be doomed to perdition. In an essay written by Fr. Donald Cozzens, the author succinctly describes the essential nature of celibacy vis-a-vis the kingdom of God. He states:
” For these individuals, celibacy is their truth—the right way for them to live out their lives. Without disparaging marriage and with regard for the goodness and wholesomeness of human sexuality, they sense a mysterious pull of grace toward singleness that seems to fit with their inner life and spiritual journey. As the Dutch theologian Edward Schillebeeckx once said of the celibate: he or she has an existential inability to do otherwise. Celibates sense, moreover, that herein lies the key to their spiritual freedom; and that fidelity to this mysterious, perplexing gift is all-important. Intuitively, they sense that their gift of celibacy is linked to the mission of building up the Kingdom of God. Charisms, by their nature, are not given for the fulfillment of the individual alone but for the welfare and betterment of others—for the sake of the gospel.”Fr. Donald Cozzens, Celibacy as Charism, Reflections,Yale University