Tuesday, July 31, 2012

We're All Called to Marriage?

Fr. Bryce Sibley, one of my Moral Theology professors in seminary, has an excellent article published over at the Homiletic and Pastoral Review website, on 'Discerning Marriage as Natural Vocation' and the reality that we are all called to marriage (even us celibate folks!). Below are a few highlights, for the full article check out the article HERE. 
It is necessary to clear up some confusion about the nature of marriage as a vocation, specifically in relation to celibacy and the priesthood as such. From my experience as a Catholic priest and university chaplain, this is the fundamental misunderstanding most young people encounter while considering a vocation. This confusion can have some serious effects on the ability to properly discern it, be it to priesthood or to marriage.
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Yes, every priest and nun, even the Pope, is called to marriage, insofar as they are human beings. Theologically, this can best be understood in what Blessed John Paul II called the “spousal meaning of the body.” This means that the ensouled body, the person, is meant for the gift of self, particularly in marriage. Marriage is something to which every human person is called; it is the “default” vocation for all humans. So marriage, at its most basic level, is a natural vocation, a call written into our very DNA, into the very structure of our being. The married person is called to give himself totally to one person in love, while the celibate is called to give himself to all. 
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 Here is the crucial point. Individuals called to celibacy will experience both calls at the same time: the desire for marriage, written into their nature, and the inclination to renounce marriage, which comes as a supernatural grace. They should also feel the natural desire to be a mother or father. I’ve talked to many young people who have thought that if they were called to celibacy, they wouldn’t feel the desire for marriage and children. Exactly the opposite! The person called to celibacy feels both at the same time, and then is called to renounce the desire for marriage.
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We know that we are all called to marriage; we don’t discern it, we presume it. Practically, what needs to be discerned is the possibility of a call to celibacy.