An affair of the heart

I recently read an article called Celibate chastity: one way to be a sexual person by Br Sean D Sammon FMS ( Those who equate celibacy with sterility and denial might be surprised at the lyrical language of love used throughout the article, such as this paragraph

Our spirituality is our path to God, our attempt to understand and love back the one who loved us first, the one who poured passion into our bodies and hearts. If God is the one who lights the fire within us, then our lifelong task is to use our passion and energies to discover and rediscover the face of God in our lives. For some, that happens with marriage and the rearing of children. Others pour their passion into careers and other commitments. And some channel their passion into religious life, with its vow of celibate chastity.

I love his description of the call to celibate chastity as an affair of the heart, but I would go further, and describe the whole of religious life as an affair of the heart. It is about being utterly bowled over by the God of infinite love, about passion and desire, generosity and self-giving. And it is definitely, inextricably, an affair of the heart rather than the head. There is nothing objectively sane or rational about dedicating one's entire life to an unseen God; nothing rational about vows of obedience, poverty and chastity (or the monastic equivalent); about asceticism and hours spent in prayer when it is arid and dark. Our Constitutions say A life of chastity for the sake of the Kingdom is a gratuitous gift of God which surpasses human understanding - something our hearts can comprehend more easily than our heads.

But if God truly is the One who lights the fire within us, the One who we know pours passion into our bodies and hearts, then religious life is not only the most loving, fulfilling, growthful and passionate response, it is also the most logical and the sanest thing to do - however insane it might appear, or even feel!

This is the Year of Consecrated Life, an opportunity for renewal and reflection, and celebrating and sharing our vocation with the Church and the world, while today, Candlemas, is also the World Day for Consecrated Life. For RSCJ, yesterday contained the joy and power of thirteen young sisters making their perpetual professions of vows in Rome, held in prayer by their sisters throughout the world. Today, as the newly professed prepare to return to their countries, still radiant and rejoicing, I pray for them, as they begin this new phase of their affair of the heart, that they may use their passion and energies in discovering and making known the immeasurable love of God, revealed to us in the Open Heart of Jesus.