Our lives of committed celibacy can act as a powerful sign of the reality of God’s grace. As we grow in our understanding of the meaning of our vow we are called to become more aware of our role as witnesses. The celibate life is a risky one. If it is lived as a cowardly way of avoiding intimacy and commitment, it can wither the soul. But if as celibates we embrace our sexuality as a divine gift, and draw upon it as a source of energy and creativity, we can bring hope and encouragement to many who meet us.
Our singleness of life awakens the need to discover within our own selves the mystery of the male and female dimensions of the divine image. If we are courageous in this exploration, and cooperate with the converting power of the Spirit, we can bear a significant witness to both men and women. Women will find encouragement if they encounter in us not only the security that comes with deep respect, but also empathy of soul. Men will find encouragement if they encounter in us confident forms of masculine identity that do not depend for their vigor on force or competition.
Our fidelity to this vow can be an encouragement to those who are united in the sacrament of Marriage; like them we depend on divine grace to help us remain steadfastly together until death through all the changes and trials of life. Some partners of the same sex who have made a covenant of faithfulness in Christ may find inspiration in our loyalty and perseverance.
We are also witnesses to those who for many reasons live single lives. Much of the confusion and pain in fallen humanity’s struggle with sexuality stems from the illusions that sexual activity is essential to wholeness, and that other forms of intimacy are inferior to the sexual bond. We can help people by the example of our lives to honor the depth and fullness to be found in the intimacy of friendship. We can bring inspiration and support to the struggles of those who seek to find meaning and purpose in their singleness. In our ministries, especially of hospitality, our celibacy gives us a special freedom to provide a setting in which single people of all ages and walks of life find respect, welcome and affirmation.