In other words, the person mature enough to commit to either the married or religious state of life must already have become a free, self-possessed, unique masculine or feminine celibate — for that is precisely what caelebs means: singular and alone!

Conrad Baars

“How does one gauge the degree of maturity of a person on the threshold of making a vocational commitment? It would be impossible to describe here all the positive signs of physical, emotional, intellectual, moral, and spiritual maturity, or the various signs of emotional immaturity, neuroses, psychoses or personality disorders. Suffice it to say that a mature person should evidence a sufficient degree of assimilation of the lower orders of his or her nature by the higher. In a mature person, one can see a rich, balanced emotional life which responds readily to direction by intellect and will without being suppressed in the process, a spiritual life which is ennobled by the fullness of feelings and emotions, a joyful other-directed unselfishness, and an unshakable sense of self-worth and self-love. To a large extent, that person must be the realization of his or her unique natural disposition, possessed of a readiness and capability of going out freely toward the good and opposing the evil, and thus capable of possessing the happiness for which human beings are created.

That person must possess himself or herself lovingly and gratefully as man or woman, as being — in peace and harmony — what in the ultimate analysis each person is — singular and alone. In other words, the person mature enough to commit to either the married or religious state of life must already have become a free, self-possessed, unique masculine or feminine celibate — for that is precisely what caelebs means: singular and alone!

Having been affirmed in the goodness of his or her being by loving parents who respected and treasured their child’s uniqueness and “otherness,” the person who is caelebs has come to love himself or herself unselfishly — so much so that this love overflows toward others (whether one or many) toward God and toward the world. If such a person has been affirmed and at the same time protected from a grave distortion of human nature through repressive training, the truly celibate priest or married person is free to be his or her sexuality as man or woman — free to love others sexually without compulsion to be genitally active. To say it differently, the person is free “to be love” without having “to make love.” In marriage, free to practice periodic continence in the joyful love of restraint. In religious life, free to abstain from genitality with joy and ease. This freedom to be one’s sexuality far surpasses in excellence a freedom to act sexually as one pleases, or a freedom from “being bothered by one’s sexuality!”

Source: I Will Give Them a New Heart: Reflections on the Priesthood and the Renewal of the Church (Amazon Affiliate)