To love deeply, or love broadly?

Every man, woman, and child are called to love. It’s the way we are made. Just look at the misappropriation of this natural desire on television, movies, and music. The rampant sexual immorality that surrounds our culture is due to the misdirection of this desire to love one another and be loved by them.

But what does this mean for a man or woman discerning a celibate lifestyle? The intimacy of sex is an integral part of loving another. Our sexuality is a beautiful and incredible gift from God. Sex is so intimate, in fact, that God calls us to share it with one, and only one, person.

Only men and women called to the vocation of marriage can love in such a deep and intimate way. A love so intimate that it brings to life another person. This gift is meant to be a model of the deep trinitarian love between the Father and the Son producing the Holy Spirit. The deepness of love between a husband and wife is something the celibate can’t imitate.

The consecrated person, however, has a different calling to love. A man who God asks to be a priest is called to love broadly. His family is the people of God. Every man, woman, and child he is canonically a shepherd of is a member of his spiritual family. While he doesn’t get the gift of physical intimacy that married couples do, he still gets to experience his children at the most important parts of their lives. A priest may very likely baptize and witness the marriage of the same person in his ministry. He may be present at the funeral of their parents and baptize their children as well. He could be the spiritual father of over 600 families. While it’s impossible to know each one of these people on a personal level, he has the grace to love each one of them.

So a question to ask in prayer is: How did God make my heart? Am I called to love deeply or to love broadly? Do you tear up at the weddings of strangers? Does your heart go out to the families at funerals who you barely know? Does God give you a sense of joy at baptisms at your local parish? If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask God what He wants you to do with that love. It may be the sign you’ve been asking for.

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