Chapter One: Grace and Devotion to Mary
Chapter Two: Mary, Holy Objects and God
Chapter Three: Primary Teachings - Mary the Virgin
Chapter Four: Mary and Jesus
Chapter Five: Deeper Teachings -
Chapter Six: Teachings Not Yet Declared Dogmas -
Jesus and Mary
A Mediator with our Mediator
Chapter Seven: Final Thoughts and Reflections
of the Holy Spirit
of Jesus Made Present
and Church Unity
Consecration to Mary Individual and
Litany of Mary's Faith Journey
© Copyright, J. Roy MacIntyre 2009
A good understanding of the Gospel will help us realize that the call to virginity is a higher calling than the call to the married state. Jesus states in Matthew 19:12 that some choose celibacy for the Kingdom of God and invites those who can, to do so. Paul echoes the same idea (1Cor 7:1, 7, 8, and 32-34) suggesting those who marry necessarily must be tied up in some worldly activities. He also warns that all are not called to the virginal state.
There is a spiritual value in virginity that is hard to define. There are some practical benefits to living the single chased life that are more easily understood. We have a glimpse of this in the Gospel text in which for those who have given up home, … wife, etc. for the kingdom are promised many times more in this life and in the world to come, eternal life (Mt 19:29 and Lk 18:29). In other words they will have a fruitful barrenness (1Sm 2:5 & Ps 113:9) as St. Paul had, who was spiritual father of many (1Cor 4:15). Simply put; by being free of marital obligations those called can give themselves totally to the preaching of the Gospel.
Spiritually speaking, a life of celibacy is an abandoning of the world in favour of union with God. The practice of celibacy is a more difficult state without the emotional intimacy, sexual expression and the kinds of pleasures associated with family life. It is a penitential sign in which the person is turning away from the world with the intention of turning totally toward God. It also allows the individual to give his or herself entirely to the things of God – the total service of others. For these reasons, celibacy can be seen as a higher calling, a greater grace. When Jesus talks about being celibate for the kingdom of God (Mat 19:12) he is talking about a higher calling in the service of the kingdom. However it is only for those to whom it is given. This latter point is why Paul warns against those who would forbid marriage (1 Tim 4:3).
Finally, I wish to say something about virginity as a perfect celibacy. It is possible to be married and later enter the consecrated life of celibacy. Virginity means never surrendering to the will of the body but always preserving the body for the beloved. In the case of consecrated virginity and even the single chased life the body is preserved for the Lord, who is the beloved of the soul. There is a value in virginity that seems lost in our secular world where the trend is to try everything. Virginity is like not taking that first cigarette that has led so many to become slaves of nicotine. But, rather to maintain faithfulness to the not yet visible beloved and thereby be a slave of love to the one believed on in faith. Virginity and the celibate state are great signs of hope in a depraved world.
People who turn away from what is offered in this world because of their faith and trust in the next world demonstrate a concrete witness of the truth of the Gospel. Take Dolores Hart for example; she was a successful Hollywood actor in leading roles with several stars including Elvis Presley. At the peak of her career she chose to leave the world and become a cloistered nun. She continues to live in this convent to this day. Her life and her choice are signs of hope that there is more to life than what the world offers. She left the treasure of the world behind for the treasure that never fades.
Mary was called to the virginal state early and there is scriptural evidence that indicates she intended to remain a virgin even though she was betrothed to Joseph. In the first chapter of Luke (1:26-38) the angel tells Mary that God has chosen her to be the mother of His Son, "You shall conceive and bear a Son". Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph and engagement at the time was as binding as marriage. Joseph presumably could have fathered the offspring, yet Mary made a response that invites further consideration; "How can this be since I do not know man?" The most reasonable explanation, it would seem, is that she had already made a commitment to virginity and did not intend to have sexual relations with Joseph or any other man. It is possible that Joseph may even have agreed to a virginal marriage with Mary.
Nevertheless, Mary could have changed her mind about remaining a virgin and ask Joseph to change his mind as well in order to comply with the proposition made by the angel. However, it is more likely that Mary not only received a call to virginity but also must have received a confirmation that this is what God wanted of her.
Since, as I hope to show later, Mary had perfect faith, she believed without wavering that she was called to a life of virginity. So certain of her call to virginity was Mary that she questioned the angel as to how it could be that she, a virgin, could bear a son. We could say that she was "testing the spirit" (1Thes 5:21) to see if the message complied with what she must already have received from God – to remain a virgin. The angel's response to her question showed her that by the power of God she would conceive a Son without the loss of her vocation to virginity (Lk 1:35).