The Lord's doctrine about the indissolubility and dignity of marriage was so shocking to the ears of all that even his disciples told him: If such is the condition of a man with regard to his wife, it is of no account to marry. And Jesus then proclaimed the value of celibacy and virginity for love of the Kingdom of Heaven, full surrender to God, indiviso corde5, without the mediation of conjugal love, which is one of the most precious gifts of the Church.
Those who have received the call to serve God in marriage are sanctified precisely in the self-sacrificing and faithful fulfillment of conjugal duties, which for them becomes a sure way of union with God. Those who have received the vocation to apostolic celibacy find in total dedication to God, and to others for God, the grace to live happily and attain holiness in the midst of their temporal duties, if that is where the Lord has sought them and left them: ordinary citizens, with a definite professional vocation, dedicated to God and to the apostolate, without limits and without conditions. It is a call in which God shows a particular predilection and for which he gives very specific help. The Church thus grows in holiness with the fidelity of Christians, responding to the special call that the Lord has made to each one. Among these "stands out the precious gift of divine grace, which the Father grants to some (Mt 19:11; 1 Cor 7:7) so that they can more easily give themselves to God alone in virginity or celibacy". This full dedication to God "has always had a place of honor in the Church, as a sign and stimulus of charity and as a special source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world".
Virginity and marriage are necessary for the growth of the Church, and both presuppose a specific vocation from the Lord. Virginity and celibacy not only do not contradict the dignity of marriage, but presuppose and confirm it. Marriage and virginity "are two ways of expressing and living the one mystery of God's covenant with his people".8 And if virginity is not esteemed, the dignity of marriage is not fully understood; also "when human sexuality is not considered a great value given by the Creator, the renunciation for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven loses meaning".9 9 "Whoever condemns marriage," said St. John Chrysostom, "deprives virginity of its glory; but whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and luminous.
Love lived in virginity or in apostolic celibacy is the joy of the children of God, because it enables them in a new way to see the Lord in this world, to contemplate His face through creatures. For Christians and non-believers alike, it is a luminous sign of the purity of the Church. It brings with it a particular inner youthfulness and a joyful efficacy in the apostolate. "Even having renounced physical fecundity, the virgin becomes spiritually fruitful, father and mother of many, cooperating in the realization of the family according to God's plan.
"Christian spouses, therefore, have the right to expect from virgins the good example and witness of fidelity to their vocation until death. Just as fidelity is sometimes difficult for spouses and requires sacrifice, mortification and self-denial, so it can also be for virgins. Their fidelity, even in the face of possible trials, must build up their fidelity.
God, says St. Ambrose, "loved this virtue so much that he did not want to come into the world except accompanied by it, being born of a virgin mother. Let us frequently ask St. Mary that there may always be people in the world who respond to this concrete call of the Lord; that they may know how to be generous in giving to the Lord a love that they share with no one else, and which enables them to give themselves without measure to others.