Lately I’ve come to terms with the fact that I must remain a confirmed bachelor. In retrospect, it’s something that, had I a little more self-knowledge, I should have recognized ten years ago. It surely would have spared me a lot of grief and conflict. My personality, temperament, life story, interests, and values all seem to mark me off as such, and ever since I consciously understood that, my mind has been much more at ease.
Coming to this understanding, though, opens a new series of questions, and brings into relief much that has been at the back of my mind for most of my adult life. (I’m in my mid-30s, by the way.)
I should like to ask if every sincere Catholic whose celibacy becomes fairly secure to him has the obligation and then the responsibility to discern the religious life and/or priesthood. As 98% of those who would be suitable candidates marry, that leaves a rather small pool from which those who’d embrace these saintliest and most perfect of lives can be chosen. Thus, anyone having any belief whatsoever that they might be a suitable candidate ought to consider this.
However, in some of my other conversations, many have reacted to this idea with hostility, insisting that some sort of supernatural confirmation above and beyond the three criteria laid out by St Pius X–right intention, physical and mental fitness, and acceptance by a lawful superior–is necessary. I always respond that inclination is but necessary for someone to make an inquiry, for bishops and superiors won’t come knocking at one’s door, and the ultimate decision is in that bishop’s or superior’s hands. Then, if it is judged that the aspirant may have a vocation for that life, it is the aspirant’s responsibility then to accept or decline.
So few, however, even bother with the inquiry–perhaps largely due to the natural fear of celibacy. One who needn’t worry about this, thus, must be doubly obliged to present himself for judgment as to his vocation–starting with that most perfect state of life, religious life, and if failing there, to the secular priesthood. I’m certainly not rigorist enough to consider it sin if one does not, but I do find myself in agreement with St Aloysius that one who passes on the call, as many do, will the grace to bear his daily crosses somewhat wanting, and might even hazard his soul.
I know my views here are quite traditional, and tend to run at countercurrents to a lot of pop pastoral psychology. Nonetheless, they seem quite well-supported in our Church’s traditions and in the doctrine promoted through her magisterium.
I likely shall be mailing my letters of inquiry to superiors of those institutes of which I’m most fond this week. However, I’d ask whether it would make sense to speak about this in terms of duty or obligation.