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).


Brother Charles said...

Great discernment you're able to do - seeing the possibilities for grace in each possibility - and not just the surface benefits...

Keep it up!

Anna Marie said...

I came upon your blog by accident but found your writings to be so interesting in your discernment. I have done the same in the past thinking of Paul's writing of it better to be single and so I looked into becoming a nun feeling to be married to God and to serve him in such a way was my calling. Yet all they had to do was ask me one question: Do you want to be a mother? I could of answered in so many different ways, ways that has nothing to do with getting married and having my own children but that is the answer I gave which lead me to know I was called to marriage. Thus my search began for my God fearing husband. I met him early but it took ten years for us to be married for he also was discerning becoming a priest and did break up with me to join the seminary. This journey of his took him in and out of missions in which he finally was told by a priest to go home and get married. I could of told him that ten years ago knowing my husband even then as I did but he had to go through it in his own way and I was very hurt during our off and on again courtship of 10 years. In the end a family priest brought us back together (long story but funny story) in such a way I knew it was only through God's will things were moving in such a way. God is so amazing in how he works. Thus we were married October 4, 2008 the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, our patron saint. In searching your decsion I offer up what I have learned through this process and being very happily married now 9 months. Take your time! I wish every man and woman would discern as you do, it is important to find our true calling and being a priest, nun or staying single or marrying are wonderful vocations but all of them especially marriage is work. Secondly if you do choose marriage be completely open to your future wife from the beginning. My husband from day one shared all his journeys with me which is wonderful to say the least but also has given us road blocks to over come. He at times still has one foot in the priesthood and one foot in our marriage which can be very frustrating. We work together to over come some of his past trainings which are again beautiful but also frustrating to me. Yet the love we share is amazing being able to share our faith, goals and know God is in the center of our marriage. I am very happy to be married to my husband, he truly is a special man loved by God and is finding his way in serving him as a married man as I am also. It is easier being single in so many ways espcially in serving God but now I have a partner by my side to help me be better at serving God. He truly has helped me get closer to God, teaching me to deepen my faith. I am sure you will be a wonderful husband and leader of your house if that is God's will. I am sure if marriage is your calling God is preparing a special woman for you. I wish you a blessed journey in finding your way.
God Bless You