Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chastity as celibacy ... and why would you do this?

People really notice this one.

Even if they don't know about poverty or obedience, chastity gets their attention. In our culture, amid scandals in every walk of life, advertising and programming that borders on pornography and rampant pornography itself, this stands out as unbelievable, unlivable or just plain strange.

That's not new, of course. The human race has been disordered, more than a bit, in the area of sexuality since about ten minutes after the Fall. We are indeed a mess.

Part of the reason "Why?" is the same balancing issue as for poverty. If avarice and acquisitiveness are overbalancing a world, the abuse of our sexuality only tips the scale further and more radically. It touches our very persons. Our bodies. Our hearts.

But the love piece comes even more radically to the fore. If I love him enough to give him all my "stuff" - to give up all things to follow - how much deeper the impulse to give him all my love. In the vow of chastity, I say to the Lord: "I love you with all of me. It would not be fair to a man to marry him - you take all my love."

It is normal for a woman to want to husband and children. Not wanting that is no reason to enter the convent. It's just that we are called to an amazing love that cannot limit to one spouse and some few children.

Loving in this way - the love normally reserved for a husband is given to the Lord, completely. The love given to children is empowered and expanded and given over to his people.

We become mothers of the world - of all the sad, and sick, the broken and the confused. We come to love each and every child of the Father of Light.

No, there is nothing negative really about it. It is all about being whooly consumed by love of God and of his people.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Balancing the world

It is amazing to watch television.

I don't do it often. My life is filled with far too many interesting things to spend my time passively watching the kind of programming that is currently available. But, being a Packers fan by adoption, and having predicted that the Giants would win the Superbowl (they beat the Packers, it was a foregone conclusion that they should go all the way), with my community, I watched the Superbowl.

And the commercials.

It is a sort of semi-conscious habit, that when I watch television, I count the number of capital sins that are being advertised. Gluttony, lust, avarice, envy, pride, sloth and anger. The first five usually win out, although sloth usually isn't so blatant and anger gets in around the edges.

In pondering the question of poverty, too, this came to mind. Many people in our culture do not use property moderately. They have and acquire, and have and get (and cheat and steal). It's a bit unbalanced. Okay, it's a lot unbalanced.

Poverty goes a bit extreme on the other side.

If our world is heavy on the side of "stuff," those of us called to freely renounce "stuff" for the sake of the Lord and his people put weight on the other side.

It is not a renunciation so much as a much-needed medicine.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Why poverty?

I have been speaking to many young people recently. Some know more than others about the religious life. They know about the vows: "You can't get married," but one most thoughtful question was: "This vow of poverty. God created the world and all that is in it good. So why is it good to make a vow not to have these things - to use moderately, I mean?"

Why indeed? The question fills me with great hope for the future of the Church. If our teens are asking such questions, the future is bright indeed.

It has to do with freedom and with love - all the vows do.


I want to go directly to God; to give everything to him. It is not a devaluing of the good things of creation, or a rejection of things most helpful, but it is a question of relative value. He is more important to me than "stuff" ... and I want to show him that.


Our culture is all about freedom. Unfortunately, it is, in so many ways, the "freedom" to bind myself so tightly that I cannot move. This freedom is the freedom to move, the freedom to serve.

The exercise was simple: Close your eyes and think of your "stuff." Now, open your eyes. If I asked you to pack all your stuff in a box - how big a box would you need? If you received a phone call that you needed to move permanently to Florida this afternoon (pick any place far away - we were standing in western Wisconsin), could you pack everything and go?

Or pick one thing you have that is nice. If someone took that away from you (permanently), would you be upset? Would it be hard to love that person?

Since they were all normal people in our culture, my point was made.

Freedom. The freedom to move. The freedom to love. The freedom not to be attached to "stuff."

That's "why" the vow of poverty.