Why do religious give up marriage?

“Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away.Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love, he would be roundly mocked” (Song of Songs 8:7- reading from the Common of Virgins of the Liturgy of the Hours).  

“The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1661).  Nuns give up this sacrament to give themselves completely to that Love of Christ of which it is a sign.  They become a bride of Christ.  From the solemn profession of a Poor Clare nun:  “I espouse you to Jesus Christ, the Son of the most high Father, who will protect you.  Receive the ring of faith, the seal of the Holy Spirit, that you may be called the spouse of Christ. Love Him totally who gave Himself totally for your love.”  Virginity imitates the example of Christ and follows His counsel, “Let anyone accept this [renouncing marriage for the sake of the Kingdom]  who can” (Mt. 19:12) and the counsel of St. Paul (1 Cor. 7).

Image result for edith stein woman quoteNuns do not renounce marriage because they think it is a bad thing.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains beautifully:

“Both the sacrament of Matrimony and virginity for the Kingdom of God come from the Lord himself. It is he who gives them meaning and grants them the grace which is indispensable for living them out in conformity with his will. Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other:

Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good” (CCC 1620).  

Nor do nuns give up marriage because they feel no attraction to it.  It is a sacrifice to give up marriage, but Jesus reminds us, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:29).  St. John Paul II adds,

“It is natural for the human heart to accept demands, even difficult ones, in the name of love for an ideal, and above all in the name of love for a person (love, in fact, is by its very nature directed toward a person). Therefore, in the call to continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, first the disciples themselves, and then the whole living Tradition of the Church, will soon discover the love that is referred to Christ himself as the Spouse of the Church, the Spouse of souls, to whom He has given himself to the very limit, in the Paschal and Eucharistic Mystery” (Theology of the Body).

Although nuns will not be physical mothers, they are called to be spiritual mothers in imitation of Our Lady.  The fruitfulness of their union with God brings about the birth and development of many souls in the Life of grace as they live their lives of hidden prayer and sacrifice.  You can read more here in this Vatican Document on Spiritual Maternity.

Image result for st agnes martyr“Christ is my spouse. He chose me first, and His I will be. He made my soul beautiful with the jewels of grace and virtue. I belong to Him whom the angels serve.” – St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

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