24 September 2006

"Make me chaste and continent, but not yet."

I'm about halfway through St. Augustine's Confessions. The communion of saints adds a pretty cool dimension to reading books like this and even Scripture. After learning how St. Augustine experienced a lot of the same frustrations, temptations, and uncertainty about his calling that I do, I've been asking for his intercession to help in my own discernment and pursuit of God. I completely identify with the words he prayed early in his process of conversion: "Make me chaste and continent, but not yet." (I think the more modern translation would be "Make me chaste and celibate...", but you get the idea.)

He knew his old way of life wasn't where he wanted to stay, believed in God enough to pray, and respected God enough to know that God would answer that prayer. But part of his heart remained attached to sin, especially Lust. While my specific experiences aren't anything like his, the same temptations and uncertainties are there. He debated between marriage and celibacy, and like me, wanted the gift to pursue the latter path although he wasn't without reservations.

Ironically, considering what I've just said, what attracts me about marriage isn't the sex, but the incredible challenge it is to be fully devoted to God while raising a family. Priests are kinda expected to be holy, but a married couple living a holy life isn't the norm at all. So I feel like marriage is the greater spiritual challenge. I also heard a quote from some dead U.S. President who was asked by a reporter at what age he thought women were the most beautiful and he said, "The age my wife is." That got me to thinking that one benefit to marriage is learning to see the inner beauty in everything. Unfortunately, it also means having sex. I don't know about that. :)

On the other hand, I was thinking about John Eldredge's book "Wild at Heart" and how the priesthood fulfills the three desires God places on mens' hearts: an adventure to live, a battle to fight, and a beauty to save. The adventure is following this counter-cultural path of chastity, loving God wholeheartedly, and serving peoples' physical and spiritual needs. The battle is fighting to draw people into a closer relationship with God and every prayer made on their behalf. And the beauty to save is the Church, the Bride of Christ, who is made beautiful through faith and the sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation.

And of course, there is Paul's 1st Letter to the Corinthians: To the unmarried and the windows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. About half of the seventh chapter is about the blessings of remaining single and the anxieties of marriage. I am surprised that the vast majority of sincere Christians do not wrestle with these words. I have rarely heard of a Protestant considering chastity for the rest of their lives, which I find ironic because it's so clearly biblical. Baptists love to quote Paul when he's talking about being saved through faith and eternal security, but when it comes to this chapter it seems like they all make the assumption that their calling is marriage and the beautiful alternative is shrugged off or laughed at. This has bothered me for a long time and it's one reason (among many) that I started to seriously consider Catholicism (there's a post coming soon that gets into the other reasons).

Well, that's enough for now... I should do something productive now, like laundry (if only I were married so someone else could do that... ha ha).