October 17, 2012

Vocation and Pathology

From time to time I'll see something ranting against celibacy, saying that it's a pathological choice or at least can't be healthy, etc. It seems to me that these usually fall into the kind of black and white thinking that doesn't take seriously the work of grace.

Sure, some people take up the celibacy of religious life or the priesthood for imperfect reasons, and even from pathology. And, of course, some celibacies end in disaster and suffering not only for the would-be celibate, but also for others, as we know all too well in our time. In religious life one has the joy of seeing old celibates for whom the charism has worked as advertised, having broken them open to a chaste and non-exclusive love for the world which reflects the love of God in its own particular way. But one also gets to see the celibacies that have gone wrong, leaving celibates dried up in an affective dead-end.

One can say the same things, mutatis mutandis, of marriage, or of any vocation we enter into with every good intention, but as the wheat and weeds of our blessed and broken selves.

The danger is to think that reasons and motivations are all good or all bad. We are mysterious messes, made of the goodness in whose image we are created together with the festering and rotten injuries left by the effects of sin. Can God call us to the vocation he gives us for our salvation--and for our chance to participate in his salvation of the world--as this total person? In other words, can God call us to our vocation with both our good reasons and bad for our attraction to the choice, with both our sanctity and our pathology at work? Yes. It's called redemption.

When it works, when someone succeeds in surrendering to this work of salvation, it's a truly blessed and amazing thing. Pathologies are flipped, turned inside-out--pick your metaphor--by the opportunities for grace and growth that the vocation brings and become gifts given for the encouragement of others and their salvation. Just because it sometimes doesn't work when we don't succeed in surrendering to grace, just because sometimes pathology swallows up what would have been sanctity and uses it for its own rotten and meaningless ends, that doesn't make it the fault of the vocation.

1 comment:

-Lou (Louis) said...

Homerun (or, since you are in Italia--gollllllllllllllllllll :D ), Father!