All are called with the same calling. The life of monks and nuns and of celibate priesthood is a higher kind of life than that of the married, not because there are two grades of Christian, but because their form of life is one in which one has a greater chance of living according to truth and the laws of goodness; by their profession, those who take the vows of religion have set out to please God alone. But we lay people are not less called to the Christian life, in which the critical question is: “Where does the compass-needle of your mind and will point?” This is tested above all by our reactions when it costs or threatens to cost something to be a Christian. One should be glad if it does, rather than complain! If we will not let it cost anything; if we succumb to the threat of “losing our life”, then our religion is indistinguishable from pure worldliness.
This is very far-reaching. But in the matter in hand, it means that we have got not to be the servants of our sensuality but to bring it into subjection. Thus, those who marry have, as we have the right to do, chosen a life in which, as St. Paul drily says, “the husband aims to please his wife rather than the Lord, and the wife her husband, rather than the Lord” – but although we have chosen a life to please ourselves and one another, still we know we are called with that special calling, and are bound not to be conformed to the world, friendship to which is enmity to God. And so also we ought to help one another and have co-operative pools of help: help people who are stuck in family difficulties; and have practical resources in our parishes for one another’s needs when we get into difficult patches.
The teaching which I have rehearsed is indeed against the grain of the world, against the current of our time. But that, after all, is what the Church as teacher is for. The truths that are acceptable to a time – as, that we owe it as a debt of justice to provide out of our superfluity for the destitute and the starving – these will be proclaimed not only by the Church: the Church teaches also those truths that are hateful to the spirit of an age.
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