CHOICE OF A STATE
[continued from yesterday]
...I think the origin of confusion in regard to the Church's teaching comes from misunderstanding her practice as to the taking of vows. She strongly discourages the taking of any vow, and especially the vow of virginity, outside a religious order or congregation.
There is not the same protection for it in the world as there is in religion. The Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, and the Eucharist are all-powerful against the temptation to incontinency, but they are by no means proof against the desire for the Sacrament of matrimony. The practice of spiritual directors therefore is to recommend not a vow but a resolution.
Thus if a girl makes a resolution to lead a single life outside religion, and afterwards receives an offer of marriage which she wants to accept, then there is no difficulty whatever in changing her resolution. Whereas, if she were under a vow she would have to make serious efforts to keep the vow, and could only be dispensed from it on the understanding that she could not possibly keep it.
If, however, this single life in the world be adopted, it must be adopted for the kingdom of heaven's sake. Nor does this mean that it must be lived in continuous contemplation, or in continuous slumming. A certain amount of contemplative prayer will be included in it, and, if one has time and opportunity, a certain amount of slumming or similar charitable work will be helpful to it.
What is meant, however, is that the life shall be lived at least in a state of grace and that effort shall be made towards spiritual perfection.
The renunciation of marriage implies power to remain chaste, and involves the duty of availing one's self of the means to do so. Religion is the only reliable help. We carry our treasure in frail vessels. The flesh lusteth against the spirit.
Therefore the spirit must be continually strengthened by renewed communion with the spirit world.
In marriage the flesh is to a certain extent satisfied. In virginity and celibacy the flesh is mortified. And this mortification is sustained just in proportion as the spirit satisfies its supernatural longing for God. Regular Confession and Communion therefore are the first normal conditions of a chaste life outside the marriage state....
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.