Tuesday, October 02, 2012
LETTER TO A YOUNG PRIEST WHO WANTS TO MARRY
Dear Father this world so deep in the darkness of the culture of death, of hatred, filled with violence and anxiety, urgently needs the peace and life giving luminosity of chastity. Chastity is essentially a gift offered to us. Catherine Doherty has said: “ I give you joy – the immense joy that He alone can give, and that I hope will fill your hearts from now until you meet Him! I give you a lance, gold tipped like the crown that the magi offered Him, to open your heart to Him in everyone whom you meet. I give you myrrh, the symbol of a soul in love with God, who wants to share His whole life of joy, of peace, of suffering. “ The culture of death does not see our priestly vow of a chaste life, a celibate life, as reception of a gift of joy, a joy which should impel us to grab the lance and plunge it into our hearts so that, like His, our hearts are broken open to all in need of Him, that they may enter. Already living temples of the Holy Spirit by Baptism [cf. 1 Cor. 6:19, 20] there is a deepening of our very physical sacredness with Sacramental Ordination, in persona Christi. Truly chastity, our commitment to the celibate life, is intrinsically about what is given to us. In that light, what we are asked to give in return is a little thing, but it means the gift of our whole selves. When we truly give our whole selves, then our lives are joy-filled. It is when we, intellectually or in any other fashion, withhold a single iota of our self-gift to Him, in return for the lavishness of His Self-Gift to us, then increasingly a sourness and hardening of heart takes hold. The Desert Father Abba Gerontius of Petra, addressing those who struggle with temptation but do not act on it externally notes that: “many, tempted by the pleasures of the body, commit fornication, not in their body but in their spirit, and while preserving their bodily virginity, commit prostitution in their soul. ‘Thus it is good, my well-beloved, to do that which is written, and for each one to guard his own heart with all possible care.’ (Prov. 4:23)” We live in an era where our culture has such a materialist notion of the human person, the body of the human person is presented as a utility object, not unlike our cell phones or computers or any other ‘thing’ we make use of in daily life. Indeed we have lost any deep comprehension of the ‘sacred space’ of our beings and there is, I believe, an interesting parallel between the minimalist approach to sacred space, that is the reduction of most churches to sparse space devoid of statues, votive candles, and the increase of immodesty in dress, the disfiguring of the body with piercings, tattoos, among our contemporaries. Confusion reigns everywhere it seems. Luminous chastity, joyful chastity, like everything which flows in the Christian life of discipleship, for all the baptized, not just priests, means a simple willingness to accept the poverty of the human condition, with intimate confidence in Jesus, in imitation of Jesus: “….the temptation story summarizes the entire struggle of Jesus: it is about the nature of His mission, but at the same time it is also, in general, about the right ordering of human life, about the way to be human, about the way of history. Finally, it is about what is really important in the life of man. This ultimate thing, this decisive thing, is the primacy of God. The germ of all temptation is setting God aside, so that He seems to be a secondary concern when compared with all the urgent priorities of our lives. To consider ourselves, the needs and desires of the moment to be more important than He is – that is the temptation that always besets us. For in doing so we deny God His divinity and we make ourselves, or rather, the powers that threaten us, into our god.” ~ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger The key to luminous chastity, the root of its joy, is intimacy with the Most Holy Trinity. In reality we are talking about a passionate love affair, indeed a type of marriage uniting us and the Divine Bridegroom. It is a choice between the centrality of the one true God in our hearts, or the bondage- worship of a false god. We must daily choose: intimate relationship with the God who gives Himself to us as food of life, or handing ourselves over to be devoured by the evil one, for all false gods ultimately are guises of satan. [cf. 1 Pt. 5:8] “We are those disciples sent throughout the world to spread the “sweet smell” of Christ! To succeed, we too must “shatter” the alabaster vessel of our human nature: we must mortify the works of the flesh, the old Adam which acts as an inner barrier to the rays of the Spirit. The perfume of Christ is given off by “the fruits of the Spirit” (according to St. Paul, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” [Gal.5:22]; if these are in us, then, without our realizing (and of course while we by contrast only smell ourselves giving off the stink of our sins), someone around us may get a whiff of the fragrance of the Spirit of Christ. The world has a great need to smell the perfume of Christ!” ~ Raniero Cantalamessa The Sacred Chrism, with which we are anointed in Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination, is sweet-smelling oil. We are in truth ‘perfumed’ as priests, three times in our lives. Thus anointed we have a critical obligation to struggle mightily, cooperating with grace, that in our lived chastity our purity is not only a luminous witness to Christ – and in baptism we have already become light in the darkness for we are bathed in Christ’s own light poured into us – but also a sweet-smelling testimony. In a word we struggle to be akin to a living thurible. Jesus cries out in the Sixth Beatitude that truly blessed are the pure, the clean of heart [Mt.5:8] for they shall indeed see God. This is not simply a declaration of post death reality for the blessed in heaven, but is a promise of the reality we will experience in this life on earth IF we strive truly to be pure. Again and again the fullness of chaste-joy, the joy which is the essence of our vocation in persona Christi, is participation in His own joy poured into us [cf. Jn.15:11] and is rooted in our intimacy with Christ our Beloved. “If we had a deeper understanding of things, we would be able to comprehend the intimate relation that exists between purity and light, and perhaps we would comprehend with some astonishment that light and purity are two aspects of one same divine reality. The Greeks produced an admirable word to express graphically the idea of holiness: ‘hagios,” meaning without earth. To be pure is to be without earth; that is, to be free of all that is not God……….For souls to be bathed in light, to become light, they need to be purified……For souls to be transformed into the image of God, passing from glory to glory, they must ascend from purity to purity in the continuing effort to become, more and more, glowing crucibles.” Luis M. Martinez Courage Father. Trust Jesus. Cling to our Blessed Mother. All will be well.