I am writing to introduce you to the vocation of the Single Consecrated Life ( SCL ) which I am living. I hasten to add however that celibacy is a calling as is the state of Holy Matrimony!
The first mention of it in church history that I am aware of was by Tertullian writing in the second century AD. In early Christian communities some people freely chose celibacy as their Christian witness and for the sake of furthering God’s Kingdom. This was one of the first recognised Christian vocations and was associated with a call to a life of prayer as it was thought more likely to be possible to follow such a discipline on one’s own. As time passed, groups of celibates began to form into communities such as monasteries, individual celibates headed for the desert as hermits, and consecrated single persons stayed in society, “in the world”.
The Single Consecrated Life is a bona fide vocation and has been since ancient times. It is recognised in the Anglican, Orthodox and Roman traditions. Currently there are official church guidelines for the vocation, and a prayer in the BAS, Litany # 4, reminds us of the Church’s care for the celibate:
“We pray for those whose lives are bound in mutual love, and for those who live in celibacy: be their joy and their strength.”
Vows are made at the time of Consecration and the life is lived under obedience to the Diocesan Bishop. A Rule of Life is written and followed to reflect the individual life. For those who accept the vocation of the Single Consecrated Life there may be active ministry, or contemplative ministry, or a combination of both. The requirement to earn one’s living and be self-sufficient would also colour the shape of the Rule of Life.
The Rule of Life and the vows I made at the time of Consecration ( Michaelmas, 1996 ) were formed with the guidance of my long time spiritual director, the Rev. Canon David Lethbridge and our Bishop at the time, John Baycroft. I hope this sheds some light on the vocation of SCL.
Here are a few quotes that resonate with me from a book called “ An Experience of Celibacy” by Keith Clark, a Capuchin friar. ( 1982 Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Indiana )
“Celibacy is the ability to regard oneself as sexual …..without experiencing the internal or external demand to do something about it.”
“Celibacy is the ability to cherish and nurture other people’s being and becoming without establishing bonds of mutual emotional dependence with them….it is the ability to establish warm relationships with others by loving them in a non-exclusive and non-possessive way.”
“On the level of social impact, the prophetic level, it is a way of living which seriously challenges the hedonistic tendencies in all of us.”
“…..celibacy is a commitment to enter fully and vulnerably into life’s moments of loneliness because God can be found concrete in such moments. “
“….celibacy is this lifestyle taken up and lived in response to an invitation one has received from God to live as Jesus did. The call to a celibate life is a gift from God…it is celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom.”
I am hoping that this in no way sounds dull; for to enter into a vocation, to answer a call, is to move into the greatest adventure in life. One of the joys of discerning a vocation is the deep and enduring sense of Peace that accompanies it.