It’s surprising just how much confusion and misunderstanding exists surrounding the religious vows that we are expected to take; and one of the most misunderstood and maligned is the vow of Chastity. There’s many reasons why this is the case. Let’s face it, we live in a hyper-sexual culture. So, to walk away from that is considered very peculiar.
Last week, I wrote about the vow of poverty. So, I thought it was fitting that I spend a little time contemplating and writing about the vow of chastity.
On the surface, the vow of chastity seems pretty self-explanatory. We will be expected to refrain from sex or sexual activity, whether it is with others or as solo endeavor. I will admit, I’ve pondered whether I have the strength to live up to that expectation. Yes, i’m getting older and the urge is less intense as it once was; but it is still there. So, I have to learn how to refocus that energy into something more in line with religious life. I’m sure it will be a challenge, but I’m resolved to meet it successfully.
Still, there is more to consider than the obvious.
If you think about it, sexuality is, at its most basic level, a gift from the divine. Sure, it brings us physical pleasure; but it’s so much more. The act of physical intimacy produces the bonding hormone in our brains. Since sex is also designed for procreation; the sexual act causes us to bond with our partner, ensuring the strength of the family unit, ensuring the survival of our offspring. Of course, being the fallen, broken people that we are, we have managed to corrupt it and turn it into something ugly; however, even in an impure state, it still gives us the hyper-focus necessary for us to be singularly dedicated to object of our affections.
That said, sexuality’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness when it comes to consecrated religious life. As Franciscans, we will be called upon to love all people equally. We won’t be able to do that if we are focusing on a single person. After all, you can’t serve two masters. In my opinion, that’s the biggest reason that the vow exists.
That brings me to a few issues that are troubling me.
As much as I don’t want to admit it, I enjoy physical intimacy. I enjoy emotional intimacy even more than that. So, i’m sure that I will miss that in my life; but that’s not what troubles me the most. I’m scared that I will wake up twenty years from now and wonder if I had been missing out. I’m scared that the fraternal bond will not be a substitute for the special bond that lovers share. I just hope that I won’t end up spending the rest of my life wanting… wishing.