The Dimension of Celibacy
The vision of celibate lay persons was one of the earliest inspirations of the Founder. There came a time when from the group of his first followers, Fr Preca sent away the married ones and kept those who were still celibate. He gave the latter a tryout in order to test their specific motivation for the celibacy which he wanted them to live as laity: the recognition of the primacy of God in their life for whom they choose to dedicate themselves “fully”. Most probably this was how the Founder chose to encourage the first Members for the vision of celibacy without specifically mentioning it: a form of life in which they remain contemplatively aware of the presence of God for whom the Member is wholly dedicated.
This was the vision that took shape in the heart of Fr Preca. From among other insights, he selected the “Prophecy of St Vincent Ferrer” and raised it as the ideal of the Members of his Society. Interpreted in today’s language, this Prophecy is marked by the enthusiastic longing for God who alone fills the human heart. Hence the Members adopt a way of life which incarnates well this truth. Thereby, while glorifying God, they render a service to fellow human beings by witnessing to and reminding them that life acquires meaning only if lived completely for God and from the viewpoint of eternity.
The Members are conscious that Divine Providence has marked out for them a delightful place (Ps 16 (15):6). They therefore recognise the value of their calling for celibacy which testifies loud and clear for the common calling of all Christians to empty themselves fully like Christ in order not to let anything or anyone come in between them and the Father. In other words, by means of his celibacy the SDC Member is expressing his keen longing for “the one needful thing” (Lk 10:42). Living thus, he witnesses for the calling of all the Christian faithful to live the monasticism of the heart.
Hence, celibate life rests upon a life of prayer without which no one can be present to God, “the sole Object of the heart”, is possible and one would not to able to live coherently one’s celibacy. Embracing celibacy, one is also led to be poor in spirit. In fact celibacy itself is a sign of evangelical poverty. Contemplative prayer and the attitude of poverty form resolutely the Member to live his celibacy joyfully through a committed relationship with God, his fellow Members in the apostolate and other fellow humans. The integration of these three relationships is a sign of a healthy SDC celibate life. By means of his celibacy the Member does not only have more time to be more available for the spreading of the Word, but he would also be re-enforcing his apostolate by the witness of life. While making himself not marriageable for the sake of God’s Kingdom, the Member is so enkindled by the love of God, and he is so fulfilled through this love, that he loves and gives much in return, especially through the most sublime act of mercy, that of teaching others.
To be celibate and live in a sane manner one needs a lot of discernment and self discipline when life in the world presents the Member with so diverse choices. That is why he prays often the grace to “convert truly” to God so as to have that enlightened courage needed in order to be aware of and to contend with the three compensations that might arise if one’s celibacy is not lived in a sound way: a comfortable and independent lifestyle since one is not married; a hardened heart insensitive and emotionless towards fellow humans, and an impulsive work orientation as top self-satisfaction. The danger of these three compensations diminishes according to how much the Member eagerly desires to be united with God, “for the greater the effort the faster the progress he makes in loving God, without feeling burdened or tired. Only those who seek such unity halfheartedly find it hard”.