[quote="TimothyH, post:1, topic:224573"]
Has anyone heard of or know anything about a lay person making a vow of celibacy?
I'm asking this withing the framework of the Church, not just a personal commitment to remain chaste and pure as required by ordinary obedience to the commandments, but a more formal recognition of the call to the state of celibacy and a public commitment to remain in that state until death.
**Is there such a thing as a vow of celibacy for a lay person who is not a member of a religious order, deacon or priest? Is there such a thing as vowed celibate laity? Is this what is called a "Private vow?"
If so, what is the form? Does one stand up at Mass and take a vow or is it a more private affair?
Is there a public form of recognition or recognizable indication that one has made a vow of celibacy? I know that some of the religious orders wear cords around their waist with three knots indicating to remind them of the three vows, priests and deacons wear collars, etc. Is there such a practice for those who make a private vow?**Without getting into my own personal situation too much, I have committed myself to chastity and purity in both body and mind for the past three years and have received incredible blessings and freedom from it. As I become stronger in Christ, I have become aware of how the grace I have been given piques the interest of some men and as I become more open about my personal commitment, it has touched the lives of few men, some of whom struggle intensely against lack of self control.
I really feel called to commit myself in some way out of love for God and in thanksgiving for the grace and freedom he has granted me. I think that doing so would be a way to witness to other men that celibacy is not just for old priests and monks in the monastary and that real self control and freedom is possible for ordinary guys.
Anyone have any information on this subject (other than "Talk to a priest")?
Canonically speaking, there is no vow of celibacy in the Catholic Church. There are several forms of continence.
If you are a secular man who is going to be ordained and are single at the time of your ordination to the diaconate, you make a promise of celibacy. A promise is not a vow and celibacy is not the same as chastity. Celibacy is a promise not to marry. Chastity is purity of heart, mind and body. Secular clergy do not vow chastity.
If you are a novice in a religious or secular order, you make a vow of chastity at the end of your novitiate. A vow is different from a promise. A vow is part of a way of life. Obviously consecrated religious live the common life, and they do not marry. Brothers and sisters in secular orders do not live in communities, even though they belong to communities. They can and often do marry. The vow of chastity is a commitment to live according to the Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” The vow of chastity is not a commitment to remain celibate; it is a commitment to live purity in one’s respective state: single, married or consecrated religious.
Consecrated virgins make a vow of virginity, which has as effect celibacy, but the commitment is to the life of virginity. This consecration is only available to women. They can be lay or religious.
In the history of the Church, there have been men who have made vows of continence, which obviously implies both celibacy and chastity. These are private vows, even if they are made in the presence of a congregation. They are private, because they are not part of a way of life that is recognized by the Church. That does not mean that it is less binding than the vow of chastity made by a religious. It simply means that it is lived in the private life of the individual. If the person changes his or her mind, he or she must request a dispensation, which can be granted by the confessor, unless the local bishop has reserved such dispensations for himself.
A person who believes that he or she is called to a life of continence should go through a period of discernment guided by a spiritual director. The Spiritual Director may be a layman, religious, deacon, priest or bishop; but it has to be a person who is knowledgeable about the ascetical life. Continence is a form of asceticism. The spiritual director will then guide the person to discern if this is truly his or her vocation. If that is the case, then the person may be referred to Church authority, such as the local pastor or the local bishop.
Happy New Year!
Br. JR, OSF :)