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The Unmarried State

1. The unmarried state is better than the married, because those who do not marry have far more opportunity for attending to their spiritual welfare, and can attain a higher degree of glory hereafter.

It is better and more blessed to remain in virginity or in celibacy than to be united in matrimony (Council of Trent, 24, 10). The state of virginity surpasses the married state in excellence as much as angels surpass men. It is as far above matrimony as the heavens are above the earth; it is as much superior to it as the soul is to the body. Marriage is honorable, but virginity is far more honorable. Such is the opinion of the Fathers. The heathen entertained a great respect for those who voluntarily embraced a life of celibacy and chastity; witness the reverence shown by the Romans for the vestal virgins. The richer and nobler the bridegroom, the more a bride is congratulated upon her espousals. How much the more ought those to be deemed happy, who by the practice of chastity have chosen Christ for their Spouse; and for His sake, like St. Agnes of old, despised every earthly suitor, however wealthy and powerful. The unmarried are more free to study the concerns of their soul; St. Paul says: “He that is without a wife is solicitous how he may please God; but he that is with a wife is solicitous how he may please his wife; and he is divided” (1 Cor. vii. 32-34). The unmarried also can attain a higher degree of glory. St. John beheld a multitude “before the throne, who sang a new canticle, that no man could say but those a hundred forty and four thousand; for they were virgins” (Apoc. xiv. 1-5).

2. Our Lord when on earth commended the state of virginity both by precept and example.

Our Lord says that there are some who renounce matrimony for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, adding: “He that can take, let him take it” (Matt. xix. 12). St. Paul also says: “He that giveth his daughter in marriage doth well, but he that giveth her not doth Better” (1 Cor. vii. 38). And again, speaking of widows, “more blessed shall she be if she so remain” (v. 40). The apostles did not marry, and many of the saints took vows of perpetual virginity; of this the greatest example is given us in the blessed Mother of God, as we learn from her own words to the angel (Luke i. 34); it is also the opinion of the Fathers that St. Joseph did the same. Some of the saints, especially in the early ages of the Church, endured the most agonizing tortures and a cruel death rather than break their vow of virginity. It is related of St. Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, who before he received Holy Orders had been married and had a daughter, that while he was in exile he received a letter from his daughter, telling him she was grown up, and was about to be married. He wrote in answer to say that he was soon returning home, and would bring the portrait of another suitor; she could compare the two and choose between them. On his arrival he gave her a crucifix, and exhorted her to consecrate herself to Christ by a vow of virginity. This she did, and shortly after died a holy death. Just before she expired her father said to her: “Behold your celestial Spouse; He has come to take you to your eternal nuptials.” In the pages of hagiology we read of many saints who, although married, led a life of chastity.


This article, The Unmarried State is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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