Monday, December 26, 2011

Discerning Vocations: Another Response to Deacon Scott Dodge

Another response to Deacon Scott Dodge on a recent blog entry:

You are still afraid, it would seem, to speak of celibacy as having a "superiority". Before you spoke of it as being "indispensible", which is true, but then so is marriage. Now, you speak of its "excellence", but you fail to mention its "'surpassing' excellence", the term used in Vatican II's "Optatum Totius" in reference to celibacy vis-a-vis marriage (paragraph 10). Once again, I think you merely give "lip service" to the dogma of the superiority of celibacy to marriage, because in practice and in your theology, you seem to take the substance out of it.

Once again, you quote the Anglican Oxford Bible Commentary (with its anti-celibate bias), just as you quoted from a married Orthodox priest. On the contrary, I will quote from Matthew 19:11 of the "Catholic" Haydock commentary, which I think represents the true Catholic position on the "vocations" to marriage and celibacy, which would also be what was taught by St. Thomas, as seen in the book, "Religious Vocation: An Unnecessary Mystery":

"To be able to live singly, and chastely, is given to every one that asketh, and prayeth for the grace of God to enable him to live so ... There are evangelical counsels, to the observance of which it is both lawful and meritorious for a Christian to devote himself, especially for the purpose of employing himself with greater liberty and less encumbrance in the service of his God ... All cannot receive it, because all do not wish it. The reward is held out to all. Let him who seeks for glory, not think of the labour".

In other words, the "call to celibacy" is not for everyone because some refuse to pray for the gift and others do not respond to Our Lord's call to aspire to the "greater gift" of the evangelical counsels, which, as the Church teaches dogmatically, is recommended to all. This is all in the aforementioned book.

I meant to mention this before, but the problem with John Garvey's anecdote that you have just cited again is this: it contradicts the vocational call of St. Teresa of Avila. St. Teresa, as has been well-documented, mostly by herself in her "autobiography", asked the question the young man asked the monk: "Should I marry or become a monk?" But she did not follow the monk's advice to "not be a religious" for asking that question, and that she should only be a religious if being married would "drive her crazy". St. Teresa "desired" marriage, not religious life. But because her Church taught that the surest path to salvation was in religious life, she "forced" her will to embrace it. Deacon Dodge, please tell us whether or not St. Teresa was wrong to pursue her vocation as she did, and explain to us why.


  1. If the grace to live a religious vocation is given to all who ask, then what is the explanation for those people who spend years asking for this grace but are turned away from religious houses, told that they have no vocation?

    I spent my whole childhood praying for nothing more than to become a nun. It was my dearest wish and my daily petition. But God did not call me. I cried for a month when I realized it--I felt rejected, like a bride stood up at the altar. Eventually I accepted my situation and within two weeks I met the man who would become my husband. I believe that God arranged my life this way. He did not intend me for religious life, even though I wanted it very much.

  2. Anonymous, I too was in the same boat. I spent four years convinced beyond any doubt that I was called to be a priest, and spent two years in the seminary pursuing that call, before becoming seriously ill and having to pull out. When I recovered, I contacted the vocations director and told him I wanted to return, but he said "no". I then contacted a religious community I was discerning with before, and once they became aware of the circumstances surrounding my leaving, they too said "no". So I know first-hand what you have been through.

    Now, since leaving and being turned down for a second time, I too have sought marriage. Unlike you, I did not meet the woman I am meant to marry, and I am approaching my eighth anniversary of leaving.

    In the next comment, I will respond to your query ...

  3. This is the way I see our situations: there are many types of religious vocations. In my case, I desired priesthood, in your case you desired to be a nun. We were both told that we did not have the necessary qualities or dispositions.

    However, there was and still is nothing preventing me, and there was nothing preventing you before getting married, from taking vows to be a consecrated single person and taking up a sort of communal residence with other single women of faith, be they consecrated or "single and waiting". But neither of us (correct me if I am wrong) prayed for this. We were turned down from priesthood and religious life respectively and sort of "gave up" on a possible call to celibacy.

    I probably will get married (well, that is, if Miss Right ever comes along). I will be at peace with the decision and it will probably be a happy life, but I will do so fully realizing that I could have embraced a celibate life if I had I pursued it with greater desire.