Celibacy is not popular. I don't suppose it ever has been, and in the modern world which places so much emphasis on sex, the gift of consecrated celibacy is even more misunderstood and discredited than ever. All the more reason, therefore, for Catholics to be able to explain and defend this important dimension for union with Christ in the Church.
Consecrated celibacy is described by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a giving of oneself entirely to God and to the Church, a "sign of this new life to the service of which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart, celibacy radiantly proclaims the Kingdom of God" (CCC 1579).
This means that celibacy is something
- freely chosen
- a sign to others about the Kingdom of God
- a way of better serving the Church.
The following verses explain how these three aspects of celibacy work and why Christ calls some men and women (i.e. priests, and male and female religious) to accept this charism for the benefit of the Church. It is important to explain that marriage is something created by God himself, and, as such, it is good and pleasing in his eyes. It is an image of the love Christ, the bridegroom, has for his bride, the Church. This means that celibacy is not at odds with marriage - in fact they both require the same love for and commitment to God and his Church. Some people are called to the sacrament of marriage, others are called to the celibate life of holy orders or the religious life. Both charism's are essential for the life and well-being of the Church.
Matthew 19:10-12: "Not all people can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."
In 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, we see St. Paul praising the virtues of celibacy, most particularly in that it allows a man or woman to be free of distractions and worldly cares, so that he or she can serve the Lord more singlemindedly.
Look also at 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, 36-40; 1 Timothy 5:9-12; Revelation 14:3-4.