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Fruitful Complementarity

9/1/2015

Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix

A young family with a nun

Editor’s Note: The following text was adapted from a forthcoming address that Cardinal Lacroix will present at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Whoever seeks true happiness and personal fulfillment cannot avoid the question of the meaning of life. At a certain point, we are called to make a life-defining decision and commitment. While most choose the path of marriage, joining with one’s spouse to establish a family, some opt in favor of celibacy or virginity for the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 19:12). Each of these two states of life represents a response to God who calls us to fruitful, self-giving love.

St. John Paul II put it this way: “Christian revelation recognizes two specific ways of realizing the vocation of the human person in its entirety, to love: marriage and virginity or celibacy. Either one is, in its own proper form, an actuation of the most profound truth of man, of his being ‘created in the image of God’” (Familiaris Consortio, 11).

I would like to briefly reflect on these two distinct yet complementary vocations. By avoiding misleading idealizations, we will see how each reflects a call to bear fruitful witness to God’s beauty and to bring creation to completion.

The Vocation to Married Love. The book of Genesis reveals that, from the beginning, man and woman are worthy and equal in God’s design. On the sixth day of creation, as if to mark a high point, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them” (Gn 1:27). Adam and Eve were created in a plan of complementarity and called forth to become “one flesh” (Gn 2:24).

The vocation to marriage is the foundation of the family, a cell where love circulates and spreads from the gift made by a man and woman vowed in love. The spouses are called upon to make this love bear fruit through the lives of their children. The family acts in the image of God the Creator when it allows each member to grow physically and spiritually, and when it empowers them to share the fruit of their talents. In a very real way, the family is, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, “a kind of school of deeper humanity” (Gaudium et Spes, 52).

Celibacy for the Kingdom. Today, in our hedonistic and hyper-sexualized culture, the vocation to celibacy or virginity may seem virtually incomprehensible, if not repressive. What a sadly narrow and impoverished vision!

Pope Francis explains the beauty of this state of life: “Virginity for the kingdom of God is not a ‘no,’ it is a ‘yes’! Of course it involves the renunciation of the marriage bond and of having a family of one’s own, but at its foundation and core there is a ‘yes,’ as a response to Christ’s total ‘yes’ to us, and this ‘yes makes us fruitful.”

Who would question that countless consecrated people, not to mention so many of the great saints, are inspiring models and fruitful by their works? These missionary disciples show us that a vocation to celibacy involves a joyful and life-affirming response to God’s plan.

United in Love. Men and women, married and consecrated people, lay and religious, are given the mutual responsibility of perfecting God’s work whose “creation has been groaning in labor pains together until now” (Rm 8:22). With the dignity of marriage and celibacy, we have the same duty and responsibility to complete God’s plan for the salvation of humanity.

Whether someone has chosen marital life or celibacy, we are first and foremost all parts of the Body of Christ, “but each part may be equally concerned for all the others” (1 Cor 12:25). In family life or as celibate persons, the complementarity of our vocations bear witness to the full measure of Christ’s Body, the Church.

CARDINAL GÉRALD CYPRIEN LACROIX, I.S.P.X., is archbishop of Québec and primate of Canada. He is a member of Charlesbourg Council 6289 in Québec City.