Answers to two questions from a Roman Catholic lady

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by Ian Clark

I am now the resident expert at for celibacy/abstinence.  Below is a summary of two questions posed to me there and their respective answers.  

Q:  "Is waiting until marriage a kind of celibacy?"

A:  Abstaining before marriage is a more moral path than average, but it would not be considered celibacy. The Catholic Church defines celibacy as 1. being chaste (having no sexual relations) and 2. not getting married. This definition is explained in this video:

The monastic side is seen here:

No sexual relations includes masturbation. Chastity requires longer periods of continence and the longer the period is, the more authentic it is.

There are two paths for a chaste person: the householder and the monastic or single. The householder must have relations only for  procreation. Householders often have separate bedrooms.

Single is the ideal form which we can truly call celibate.  Marriage is shown as a compromise on this ideal form in Corinthians 7:

1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote to me: it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But, because of sexual immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.... 6 But this I say by way of concession, not of commandment. 7 Yet I wish that all men were like me.....

For Christians, the fundamental reason to be celibate is that Christ Himself was celibate. Half of the apostles were celibate and the other half were householders and still chaste.

Aside from Christ Himself and the passage in Corinthians, we have a lot of scriptural support for celibacy. First in Genesis, it is explained that the virginal state is a paradise, a garden of wonders. God explains in Genesis that the entire garden (i.e., the body) can be touched freely - except for the tree (the genitals).

15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

Once the tree is touched, a person no longer lives in the paradise of virginity. Those who touch the tree and know of its fruits have no place in paradise.

In other sections we find several references to sperm as either pearls or seed. In 1 John 3 there is talk of seed:

9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

A man's seed (sperm) nourishes his brain and most importantly his spiritual perceptions.  He can therefore realize the full implications of sin and truly know to avoid it.

There is also talk of seed in Genesis:

9 Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. 10 But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also.

This seems to be talking of contraception - that it is displeasing to God's life force present in the world, ruinous to a man's perception and ultimately the end of his own life.

Concerning pearls in Matthew 7:

6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet...

Here, the pearls being trampled would be the disrespect for God's seed within us - for men that would be the sperm. And the disrespect could be contraception in the most literal sense, or a general disdain for life in a wider sense.

Q:  "I want to be celibate, but have difficulty finding the strength and courage to do it. How is celibacy possible?"

A:  Celibacy is possible through the control of your body, word, and mind - and in that exact order.

Anyone can control their body. There is no excuse to not control the hands - how we click the mouse, how we choose our books etc. These are all actions which can be controlled even against our will.

Secondly we control our mouth, so our word must be clean, we must never mention our past sins in specific, and we must maintain positive words about our vow.

And third, we must work to clean the astral state - the mind. This is the hardest.

If a priest tells you to pray for strength, this isn't wrong advice, but it is perhaps too advanced. It may be best for you to first work on the action and the word and more or less let the prayer and devotion come naturally.

I use my rosary beads (maalaa beads, "niànzhu1") daily, and I want to use them. I naturally prefer them.

Finally if I may give some advice: it is best to choose your path - celibacy or householding - and make that a vow. If you choose celibacy, then make the vow *now* and for *life*. It will free you so much more. The sadness in your tone will go away. The confusion in your feet will disappear. You can really "give it to God" and make your decisions without compromise. If you choose householding, then pray for the best husband possible - one that will understand your faith, one that will lead you in chastity and good stewardship of your children.