09. The Vow of Celibacy

Read by Br. Keith Nelson

Through our vow of celibacy we offer ourselves as members of a community to be com­pletely available to Christ.  We commit ourselves to remaining single forever, instead of united to another in marriage or partnership.  We pledge to forgo the expression of love through sex, which God has blessed as the means for human partners to become one.

It is our desire to make a vow of celibacy that is the deepest possible expression of trust in Christ who has chosen us to follow this path.  Christ is the creative Wisdom through whom the Father created all things; he is the light who lightens all who come into the world.  Our sexuality, our power to love, our creative energy for relationship and union are of his making.  They reflect the mystery of the triune life and mirror God’s passionate love for all creation.  In our vow we offer these gifts that belong to the heart of our humanity to Christ, trusting that he will bless, shape and use them.  Our faith in Christ as creator also expresses itself by revering our manhood itself as sacred.  If we foster a climate of celibacy in which this faith and reverence flourish, each brother, whatever his sexual orientation, can come to accept fully the particular way the mystery of sexuality has been woven into the texture of his humanity.

Our vow is also a response to Jesus’ own way of life.  His own freedom from ties of family and home, in order to be completely available in the Spirit for the proclamation of the good news, attracted others to choose the same path.  They trusted in his promise that their choice, though full of painful losses and risks, would bring the reward of an abundance of new relationships among those who were awakening to the joy of the Kingdom:  “a hundredfold now in this age – houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children . . . and in the age to come eternal life.”  When we make our vow we affirm our own confidence in this promise.

We make our vow also trusting in the healing power of Christ, the redeemer of human brokenness.  Our capacity for intimacy, our sexual desires, our readiness to be faithful, are all damaged by the confusions and wounds of our fallen human condition.  For us celibacy is a path of healing and redemption, as the vocation of marriage and partnership is for others.  As we make our vow we acknowledge humbly our need for grace to give us that unity and integrity of heart which we can never attain by our own power.  We set out on the celibate way as a path of salvation that gives us the hope of attaining maturity as loving, disciplined and free men.

Our vow flows also from the experience of Christ ascended and glorified dwelling in our own hearts.  Though we have surrendered the fulfillment we may have found in marriage or partnership, the mystery of union and mutual love is truly given to us.  In the emptiness and absence that celibacy opens up in our hearts, Christ waits to make known to us the infinite strength and tenderness of his love.  The exploration of our sexual solitude through prayer will reveal the depth of Christ’s desire to be the one joy of our hearts.  We can find the joy of celibacy only by entering into the mystery of our union with him and returning his love.


  1. Brian Ross on October 15, 2022 at 20:23

    In spite that I am married and now my kids have grown and fathering children is over . Sex is not love and is not required to be a good husband. I want to get closer to Jesus and I see Celibacy as a way for me to devote those feelings or energies to something more rewarding !

    • Mica on January 17, 2024 at 22:24

      I can understand how you feel but in all honesty, taking full care of your state in life is the way to get closest to God and If you are married your body is one with your wife so this would need to be a mutual agreement with both parties acceptance. If not you may risk offending God instead of drawing closer to him.

  2. Daniel Beckham on April 18, 2020 at 17:40

    “The exploration of our sexual solitude through prayer will reveal the depth of Christ’s desire to be the one joy of our hearts.” As a former religious brother and a still-celibate person, I am quite taken with and moved by the beauty of this sentence. As a description of purpose, I think it comes closer to the point than almost any other I’ve read in expressing the meaning and gracefulness of celibacy.

  3. Anne on March 28, 2014 at 09:18

    I find this insight into celibacy refreshing – it does not try to assert that celibacy is a “better” way than marriage or of a loving, committed relationship beetween two human beings.
    But I deeply appreciate the attitude and surrender to a way of life that uses celibacy as a means to be free for humanity through Christ.

    This state can also be related to the Biblical concept of the “anawim” – the remnant, the truly “poor” – who were empty of all but their faith and surrender to God. For me, virgnity in this sense contains all three vows: poverty, chastity and obedience and links them at the heart of the spirit of Mary and of Jesus – the ultimate ANAWIM. In this sense I really do beleive that any human being, whether a member of a religious order or not, even if married, can enter this state. The religious brother or sister as a memberr of a community adds to it the dimension of a loving community lived out as a witness to the love of God – and equally a married couple who live their commitment and also look outward to humanity in love, provide a similar but perhaps less noticebale withness.

  4. William Conway on July 3, 2011 at 04:04

    Throughout the whole SSJE rule a spirit of gentleness, understanding and love inspires me and

    enables me to live as a participant in a life in which the Father and Christ are

    central. This chapter (09) on celibacy has special interest to me as I seek to understand my

    same-sex orientation as a Christian man who has lived a heterosexual marriage for many

    years. The chapter acknowledges differences in sexual orientation and partnership as well

    as marriage. It would be helpful if a reference or footnote which elaborates this viewpoint

    were included for those of us who are seeking to disentangle the personal confusion and

    impact of sexual orientation issues for a Christian like myself who seeks to live a

    committed Christian life.

  5. Polly Henninger on March 6, 2009 at 00:28

    I can not imagine making this vow myself. My sexuality and my children are so much of who I am. And yet, I can see how choosing celibacy frees one to be fully committed to Christ, no one else comes first. There is no “Sophie’s choice.” There is no hard decision. It has already been made.

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