A few years back, I was in the seminary at ease with the little amount of distraction that girls had to offer; in fact, the only distraction I received regarding girls was from the questions people had about them. They would wonder how a young man of seventeen could be so calm with the life decision of giving up girls or the heavy weight of never fully satisfying that natural sexual desire we all have. At that time, I saw these questions far more difficult to explain than explaining something like transubstantiation; so, it wasn’t long until these questions became very frustrating. The reason is that these questions were asked with different intentions: real curiosity, amazement, disappointment, ignorance, wonder, but what was most common were the cynicism and indirect accusation. Moreover, what really bothered me was that most of the time, the cynicism came from practicing Catholics who went to mass very often, loved the pope, believed in the Eucharist, were pro-life, prayed the Rosary, and loved Our Lady — basically another Catholic person as myself — but when it came to celibacy they were not convinced. It was difficult to reply to them, and so I avoided the issue at best by telling them the history of celibacy rather than talking about what celibacy is in itself.
It wasn’t until I was no longer in the seminary that celibacy became a little bit easier to understand. Discerning the married life enabled me to accept it and see the need for it. So how did this come about? It came about from dating. Naturally, we date people we are attracted to, which is in itself, not a bad thing. Unfortunately, as we all know from experience, this can get out of hand. At a certain stage of the relationship someone will ask “How far can we go?” (physically) which usually means “How much can I get?” This is obviously the wrong question to ask if the goal is to live out a holy relationship. Chastity is needed in these circumstances.
Chastity asks a different question: “How can I give?” It is focused on the other person’s needs instead of being self-centered. It asks for the other person’s well being.
As Christians, we believe that God is the most important need without whom a person will never live well. So it is fitting that chastity adds another person into the relationship: God. Without chastity, God cannot be welcomed completely into our lives and dating is never really a relationship; instead, it is lowered to being just a custom through which each one can easily take what they need. Having God in the relationship, we realize the purpose of all our relationships— and that is— to help the other person learn more about Him and to return His love. This is a true challenge, but we must give the other person the easiest and clearest path to God even if it involves a great deal of sacrifice. Once we accept this role for the sake of the other person, God will teach us how to love with our bodies in the appropriate time and with the appropriate activities belonging in our present state. Having quickly discussed chastity, we can now return to celibacy.
Celibacy is like chastity but more. Celibacy is more because it must perform for a greater number of relationships what chastity does for one relationship. All of these demand from the celibate sacrifices which allow for a clear and easy path on which the people he is serving can find God and return His love. In these sacrifices, God will teach us how to love with His body and experience the love for our own as it is being made more perfect in His image. Celibacy is a bridge for divine intimacy just as chastity is a bridge for true human intimacy between a man and a woman. This divine intimacy is completely channeled to humanity through a celibate priest who has sacrificed his body on the cross of Christ so that the true body of Christ can come down from heaven and be united with His beloved, the Church.