Each of us will pass through different phases in our lives of celibate chastity. At times we will be glad of our inner solitude, which fosters prayer, and the diversity of relationships we enjoy in community and with friends; at other times we will feel loneliness. While others are enjoying the consolations of community life, some brothers may be missing the solace of partnership, the joys of sex and the satisfaction of having a home of their own. There will be seasons of contentment in our singleness; there may be days of testing and confusion if we fall in love, or become strongly attracted to another.
Struggles will come at different stages as we break through to new levels of integration; the challenges faced by young religious will not be the same as those that come with the onset of middle age. Old age may bring its own trials of doubt. Only if we share these different experiences in candor and trust can we offer one another genuine support.
At times many of us will miss having fathered children. We shall need to open the poignancy of this loss to Christ in prayer. He will show us that in union with him our lives have been far from barren. As we nurture others in Christ, and bring them to maturity, we shall discover that fatherhood has found expression in our lives. In prayer, meditation, our thought, our work and our friendships, we are called to fulfill our deep human urge to be creators with God of new life, and to bear fruit that lasts.
The disciplines that let chastity take root in our lives are not mere curbs. Their purpose is to help us live with vitality and spirit. When we meditate we should truly pray with our bodies, and dwell on the glory with which the indwelling Spirit endows them. We are to reverence our bodies and do justice to their need for regular exercise and adequate sleep. Physical sloth and stress from overwork are equally liable to make sexual tension worse. Lethargy makes us more susceptible to the escapism of fantasy.
The disciplines that foster celibacy include those which prevent our spirits from becoming solemn and heavy. We can all contribute to the sanity and balance of our life together by allowing playfulness and humor to keep us in touch with our humanity and to release tension.
Jesus taught chastity of the heart, not merely of outward behavior. The conversion of our imaginations continues all our lives as we seek to make his integrity our own. We shall need to examine our hearts often to test the degree of our emotional honesty in our relations with others, and our faithfulness in honoring our personal boundaries. Whenever we are in perplexity or temptation it is essential to open our hearts to our spiritual directors or confessors; secrecy makes us more likely to deceive ourselves.
It is through friendship that we will be of most support to one another. Celibacy could be unbearably lonely unless we uphold one another with affection. Our friendship with one another does not draw us away from the centrality of the love of Christ in the heart, for that is the very thing we all have in common.