So people say our priests are in no position to tell the faithful how to live as dating and married couples because they generally have no experience in these areas due to their commitment to celibacy. But little do they know that falling in love and living in marriage are in many ways similar to our relationship with God. In fact, the two are closely intertwined. So much so, we believe that conjugal love - the love between husband and wife - is a human experience that God gives us so that through this experience we will understand faith - our loving relationship with God -better and live in love with Him.
Due to their special vocational calling, the clergy and those called to consecrated celibacy know faith, i.e. the loving relationship between God and man, in a special and deeper way. They have committed their whole life to this faith and are living it everyday. Since faith and conjugal love are similar and intertwined, what they know about faith enables them to teach the faithful how to deal with conjugal love. Here’s a priest whose profound insights about faith, if properly understood in the context of conjugal love, will benefit many dating and married couples tremendously. To make them simple and understandable, I have summarized them in my own words. In order to show the commonality between faith and conjugal love, the words used by the priest to describe faith (believe, God, faith, etc.) are shown together with the words we normally use to describe conjugal love (fall in love, woman, love, etc.). Such words are italicized and shown in brackets. Also, being male, I use “man” as the subject and “woman” the object. The female readers can certainly change them around. Here we go:
- A man believes (falls in love) not because of scientific evidence but because his heart is touched by God (by the woman he loves). Faith (love) is a matter of one’s personal encounter with God (with the woman he loves) (pp. 19-23).
- Man can do everything else against his will, but he can believe (fall in love) only of his free will (p. 23).
- Believing (falling in love) is the result of a dialogue: God (the woman a man loves) touches his heart, he recognizes the touch, his heart enlightens his understanding, assent follows (i.e. this is the woman I need!). After the assent, the believer (the man) will continue to struggle as part of his faith journey (as part of the love journey) (pp. 24-26).
- Believing (falling in love) is the mind being “captured” to follow the heart. It is captured by God’s (by the woman’s) touch. Once touched, the heart is set in motion to assent, and the mind has to catch up with the heart. Therefore, theology (love) is like a pilgrim journey – a journey in which the mind is constantly chasing the heart, and the heart pulling the mind (pp. 24-26).
Who is this priest who is such a profound and romantic lover? Joseph Cardinal Razinger, who subsequently became Pope Benedict XVI. His theological insights are summarized from his book, Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith – The Church as Communion; and the related pages shown in brackets.