When people doubt that celibate men and women can be happy, it is often because they doubt chastity. The two go hand in hand. The fact is that the majority of celibate men and women are witnesses to the reality that a person can be happy and chaste. Often celibates live healthy and balanced expressions of a mature sexuality, though a sexuality that is not expressed through marriage or sexual relations. In a culture that seems to be saturated with lust, teaching about chastity can seem like a foreign concept. To counteract such a culture, the celibate witness is more important than ever.
Such a witness speaks to a truth that love operates on a deeper level than sensual pleasure and fleeting, surface emotions. The Christian expression of love is tied to commitment and sacrifice. This does not mean that Christian love is a kind of rigid obligation that is lived out in a kind of austere vacuum. Christian love has all the spontaneity and freedom that our culture so craves. However, in Christian love, the inner life of the person is brought under the gentle rule of reason. This allows for a more harmonious living of the more sensual elements of our sexuality.
Our need for physical intimacy is not negated or neglected, but within the context of chastity it becomes a means by which we draw closer to God. For celibates, this may seem much more abstract, but it is true for them nonetheless. All of our created nature is redeemed and purified by the transfiguring light of Christ. Are vocation involves a long process of conversion in which we move from disorder to order.
In this way, we are undergoing a constant movement of purification. We are constantly moving from experiencing our sexuality as disordered and unruly to experiencing the same drives and instincts in ways that are in harmony with our common vocation as Christians. This purification takes time and involves mortification and asceticism. This does not mean that we submit our interior life to a tortuous path of self-improvement. Rather, it means that we discern the work of the Holy Spirit and let Him guide us through this path of growth.
The place of such discernment is daily prayer. By meditating daily, we develop a sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit. We also learn to experience our sexuality with openness and gratitude. In daily meditation, we encounter our sexuality in all its richness and its tangled web of drives and impulses. In time, sorting through this leads Christians to great intimacy and fulfillment.