Happy Celibacy Awareness Day!

Valentine’s Day card from 1909

Happy St. Valentine’s Day, the one day a year in which all Americans, regardless of religion, build their lives around the Traditional Latin Mass calendar. For those of us using the Ordinary Form calendar, today is the Memorial of Saints Cyril and Methodius, not St. Valentine, a little something I like to call “the celibates’ revenge.” Brantly over at Church POP asked me what to write about Valentine’s Day from a seminarian’s perspective.  Here’s a taste of what I wrote:

I think that perspective is best captured in the nickname that Valentine’s Day has in many seminaries: Celibacy Awareness Day. For those of us committing ourselves to live a life of celibacy, today’s a great day to reflect on the beauties of celibacy, and the beauties of romantic, marital love. [….]

There are a few important connections between marriage and celibacy. The first is that the beautiful view of celibacy depends upon a beautiful view of marriage. There’s a reason that Christ teaches this about celibacy in the midst of teaching about marriage (Mt. 19:1-10) and family (Mt. 19:13-15). 

After all, this kind of celibacy is about giving up something good for God. But that’s not really a sacrifice if you don’t want to get married, or can’t get married for whatever reason, or if marriage is a horrible thing that nobody ought to do in the first place.

St. John Chrysostom says it best, in a passage quoted in CCC 1620:

Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good.

So to understand the beauty of celibacy, it’s critical that we understand the beauty of marriage. But celibacy and marriage are tied together in other ways, too. Priests help to bring about new marriages by witnessing them; parents help to bring about new priests by their own witness to their children.

Fittingly, the life of the real St. Valentine shows the deep connection between the two. He was a celibate priest from the third century, who laid down his life to ensure that his people received Christian marriages (in defiance of the imperial law).

So as a seminarian, I don’t think that Valentine’s Day is a day to indulge in self-pity. Rather, it’s a day to remember the beauty and joys of romantic and marital love, which serve as the foundation of my own sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you’ll check out the full piece. I give a better description of what I’m calling the beautiful view of celibacy and of marriage than in the excerpt quoted here, as well as a few things to watch out for in how we think about celibacy. And on that note, Happy Valentine’s Day!

3 Comments

  1. Joe, both articles are great!

    When I see the Dominican Order priests preaching and talking with the 1st to 3rd graders at our weekday morning Masses I can see how true, and literal, it was that Jesus spoke when He said:

    “Amen I say to you, there is no man who hath left house or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, [30] Who shall not receive an hundred times as much, now in this time; houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions: and in the world to come life everlasting.” (Mark 10:10)

    During the daily homilies, the questions asked to these little children are often very profound, even for the adults in the pews, and it is incredible to hear equally profound answers from the littlest of children. I have commented to my wife many times at such Masses that these 7 year olds have more wisdom than I, not to mention honesty of soul and enthusiasm of heart. And, in marveling over these highly spiritual interactions between the youth and these great priests, I can truly see that they are indeed spiritual ‘Fathers’ to them, and are providing them with incomparable spiritual insights that I don’t think anyone else can provide, even their own parents. It’s just something amazing to witness, and is a proof to the above mentioned quote from the Lord. Moreover, the priests always seem to be very happy with their little audiences, and often seem to glow when talking with them. This might also be a testament to how important Catholic schools are, both for the parish and for the priests that lead it. So in my opinion, many such celibate priests LITERALLY have very large and very happy families, filled with a multitude of children and youth, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, at their respective parishes!

    And I’m sure that you also will make an equally great priest, and father, to all of those who are lucky enough to receive you as their future priest and pastor.

  2. Valentine’ Day is “the one day a year in which all Americans, regardless of religion, build their lives around the Traditional Latin Mass calendar.” I love it. God willing, next Valentine’s Day I’ll have to celebrate a solemn high Mass (pastor willing) since there is an obvious pastoral reason for doing so.

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