Papal Preacher Focuses on Consecrated Virginity as a Prophecy

Meditation in Preparation for Christmas

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 6, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II attended a meditation preached by Papal Household preacher Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who highlighted virginity as a living prophecy for the world.



The Capuchin friar's reflection, in preparation for Christmas, underscored that consecrated virginity and priestly celibacy are two fundamental vocations for the proclamation of the Gospel.

They anticipate in today's world the state of man and woman in the life to come, he said, addressing the Pope and bishops of the Roman Curia, who attend these reflections on Fridays during Advent. The meditation was in the Redemptoris Mater chapel in the Apostolic Palace.

Father Cantalamessa referred to the uproar in some non-Church circles that criticize or regard with "suspicion" or "commiseration" those who opt for virginity, to the point that the consecrated themselves are sometimes confused.

Now that the "protections" have fallen, which in the past defended priests and nuns in their option for perfection, today the consecrated must be able to face maliciousness without withdrawing into themselves, the preacher said.

"The facility of communications and travel has created a new situation: television, Internet, advertising, newspapers pour the news of the world into the home and, frequently, the world in its worst aspect. They force us to see it, which is a form of violence," Father Cantalamessa explained.

This is why the preservation "of one's chastity is left, to a great extent, to the individual himself and must be based on solid personal convictions, taken from the Word of God," he stressed.

"What word of God?" he asked. "Certainly, to begin with, that pronounced by Jesus in Matthew's Gospel, when he speaks explicitly of the apostles who make themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom."

"In this way, Christ opens, so to speak, a dimension, recognizing in consecrated virginity the one who chooses total service of God and the Church," the Capuchin noted. This vocation is not "more perfect" than the conjugal state, but simply "more advanced," as it reflects the image of man and woman in eternal life, he said.

"Starting from this prophetic character of virginity and celibacy, we can understand the ambiguity and falsehood of the thesis according to which this goes against nature and impedes man and woman from fulfilling themselves as man and woman," the priest continued. "This doubt weighs heavily on the mind of young people, and is one of the reasons that keeps most away from responding to a vocation."

However, according to the Capuchin, celibacy and virginity "do not deny human nature," but rather "fulfill it at a deeper level."

According to the Bible, man is not only what he is at birth, but also "what he is called to be." In other words, there is a spark of vocation in man to which he must respond.

Consecrated virgins -- both men and women -- are those who have understood this response at the highest level, giving themselves for the Kingdom of God, whose diffusion has always found in them the model of effective missionaries, the Capuchin continued.

"The proclamation of the Gospel and the missions have leaned," to a great extent, on the consecrated, he observed. "Within Christianity, progress in doctrine, in thought, has depended on them, especially on some religious orders. They have cultivated new ways of spirituality."

If one looks around, one discovers that it was the consecrated virgins who "have created almost all of the charitable institutions." Therefore, "virginity does not mean sterility but, on the contrary, the greatest fecundity," Father Cantalamessa concluded.