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Theme Six: All Love Bears Fruit Print
Guest column
Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015 -- 12:00 AM
Beth Ulaszek

In response to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this past September, the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Diocese of Madison is providing a monthly series on a particular theme on marriage and family. Each theme is a chapter in the preparatory catechesis developed for the event entitled Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive, available in paperback from www.osvparish.com or for free online at www.worldmeeting2015.org

The sixth chapter in the Preparatory Catechesis for the World Meeting of Families is titled, "All Love Bears Fruit." It begins: "Not everyone is called to marriage. But every life is meant to be fertile."

This chapter beautifully dispels some notions that I think many of us have about celibacy and challenges married persons and families to form a closer bond with celibate persons.The Preparatory Catechesis says, "Celibacy can be confirmed and permanent, as in vowed Religious life, or someone unable to marry due to disability or circumstance, or only potentially permanent, as in a young person discerning a vocation."

Communion

Throughout the first five chapters, we have explored the reality of man and woman made in the image and likeness of God.

Marriage, of course, is a reflection of the triune God through the marital embrace that creates new life. When we consider celibate persons as made in the image and likeness of God, we cannot forget that they too mirror the trinity.

Perhaps it is simple to see the trinity in a community of brothers and sisters whose communal life is not entirely different from marriage and family life.

But what about celibate lay persons at any stage of life or a parish priest? They too are created in the image of the triune God and are not called or destined to a lonely state of life.

I think of my own parish priest who loves his flock, the families of his parish, as if they are his own blood. He has the same passionate desire for them to know Christ as I have for my husband and children.

The trinity is very much reflected in the relationship he shares with every person in his parish. When the parish and Father truly have a relationship, life is born. People within and outside the parish are drawn into the heart of Christ.

Thus the reality is that permanent celibate persons, lay celibate persons, and those awaiting or discerning marriage are called to bear fruit through the community of the Church. This can and should be lived out in many ways. It requires a spiritual and social alliance between celibacy and marriage.

In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul uses words like distress and anxiety when speaking of marriage. This may seem harsh, but I think any married person would laugh at the truth St. Paul touches upon.

Family life necessarily includes things like diaper changes in the middle of Mass or family Rosaries that get interrupted as baby turns his Rosary into a noose.

What a blessing that as a mom, I can hold up the example of our parish priest, my favorite celibate saints, or single friends that have a relationship with the Lord. All of whom witness to the love of Christ in ways married and family life don't always allow.

This doesn't happen without effort though. As married persons, we must invite our priests, friends, and celibate brothers and sisters into our lives and into the church community.

In this way, children become familiar with the great good of celibate life and celibate persons do not wind up lonely and isolated but are given the opportunity to strengthen and build the family of families, the Church, alongside married men and women.

Spiritual fertility

Spiritual fertility is the great good of celibacy referenced above but is often thought of very vaguely. St. Theresa of Avila and the priests who have been involved in my own life give two different but very concrete examples of how spiritual fertility manifests itself. St. Teresa of Avila, a 16th century nun, is renowned for the spiritual heights she reached and the fruit it bore. Among other miraculous feats, she experienced what is called transverberation of the heart.

Few saints have reached such heights, but they describe it as an angel of God piercing their heart with a flaming spear. Indeed her incorrupt body and heart show that this event truly transpired.

St. Teresa describes the effects with these words, "There was no wanting it to stop, nor is there any contenting of the soul with less than God" (The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, Chapter 19).

I cannot think of a more striking example of the great intimacy with the Lord that celibacy brought to life. And the fruit remains centuries later in St. Teresa's masterful spiritual writings and through the vast reform she led of the Carmelite order. Hers was not a life of loneliness or isolation from the family of families, the Catholic Church!

A little closer to home, there are a few priests whose spiritual fertility has played out in my own life. The sheer joy and love of Christ they experience has been made visible in their interactions with my family in our home and parish.

Our parish priest makes families and children feel especially welcome, which allows us to enter more deeply into the Mass, and the closeness he has to the children creates opportunity for all of the children to witness the unique vocation of a priest.

We have welcomed priests into our home to bless our marriage, children, and house. And finally priests bring the sacraments, the physical presence of God, to us. I cannot imagine a holy and happy marriage without the Sacrament of Confession!

Chapter six sums up the relationship between celibacy and marriage well when it states, "Celibacy is allied to marriage, making a similar interior offering of our whole self to the Lord.

"There are practical differences in every particular individual's vocation, but the internal motion of the soul, the heart's offering of itself, is similar at its core. Wise, mature celibates and spouses are familiar with many of the same spiritual skills."

World Meeting of Families: What now?

A major component of the World Meeting of Families was the congress that included four days of presentations, keynotes, and breakout sessions on a wide range of family-related topics.

The majority of these presentations are being made available for free on the World Meeting of Families website.

For example, the keynote presentation by Bishop Robert Barron on "Living as the Image of God: Created for Joy and Love" is just the start to an excellent list of nationally-known speakers and international leaders of the Church.

Other speakers include Dr. Scott Hahn; Cardinals Luis Tagle, Peter Turkson, and Robert Sarah; Dr. Gregory and Lisa Popcak; and many more. To view these presentations for free, go to www.worldmeeting2015 and click on "Congress Presentation Videos."

Lots of other resources are available at the World Meeting of Families website, including papal homilies and speeches, photo galleries, and more.


Beth Ulaszek is the associate coordinator of marriage and family programs in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Diocese of Madison. She and her husband Doug are the parents of two boys and are parishioners at St. Christopher Parish in Verona.