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How do we live the vow of chastity?

March 8, 2022

by Father Kevin Mannara, CSB

Religious life involves living out our baptism in a more intentional and publicly prophetic way. That is why we take vows, including one to be chaste. All baptized Christians are called to chastity, that is, the virtue of living out one’s sexual life in the proper way: if one is married, to be sexually intimate only with your spouse and, if one is unmarried, to refrain from sexual intimacy with anyone.

The Catechism says “Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. (CCC, #2337) It demands self-mastery that disciplines us to love more freely and broadly.

So, what does that mean practically, and how does it benefit one for religious life?

As with the other evangelical vows, the focus is not on what’s being given up, but what are we opening ourselves up to?

I have found that chastity frees me to make myself available to the needs of the Congregation and those I am called to serve. It opens my heart to love wider. Does that mean I do not miss the love that happens in an intimate relationship with one other person? No. I think the better way to frame it, is to ask how chastity allows me to dedicate myself to serving God by serving His People as a Basilian.

The demands of religious life are many, including fostering relationships with my confreres, maintaining an active prayer life, and making myself readily available to those I am called to serve. Chastity allows me to do that, and to do so with joy.

Pursuing and maintaining intimate, romantic relationship demands time and a lot of energy. It is, in fact, a beautiful life for those called and gifted for it. Living the vow of chastity has set me free from those demands so that I can live the unique life God calls me to. Through that, I hope to attain both personal holiness and fruitful ministry to the mission of Jesus Christ. We cannot “have it all,” but when we are true to our life’s calling, the grace of God empowers us to let go so that God can fill us with the Holy Spirit to live out our own baptismal journey as He has gifted us to.

So, while all Christians are called to be chaste, we vow ourselves to chastity as a public witness that we are remaining single hearted in building the kingdom here as a reflection of the heavenly kingdom we are journeying towards.

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