Summary of And You Are Christ’s – The Charism of Virginity and the Celibate Life by Fr. Thomas Dubay

And You Are Christ’s – The Charism of Virginity and the Celibate Life by Fr. Thomas Dubay, Ignatius Press, 1987. 

Dubay states that his book “aims to meet the needs of young people who wish to give themselves entirely to God… and those of their elders who wish to grasp more adequately what their consecration means” (13). 

1. Vocation, Not Career

1. A vocation is a result of both God’s divine initiative to a state in life and our searching for the divine will. A career is simply a matter of looking about and “choosing what I would like to do in life.” 

2. A vocation is a love matter, a self-gift to another. A career is a means of securing a livelihood by giving advice, time, concern, expertise, but not the person. 

3. A vocation is a permanent, full-time matter. A career is temporary, part-time. 

2. Premises for Gospel Virginity

We will appreciate the surpassing beauty of gospel celibacy ONLY when we appreciate the premises on which it rests…

1. You and I are thirsts for God.”

“We are thirsty with a thirst that nothing, absolutely nothing finite ever quenches. Every single choice we make all day long proves that we seek, we desire, we want, we lack. Nothing is enough. We are thirsts in the flesh, incarnated thirsts. We are born this way and will die this way. Yet we will differ in how we seek to slake our thirst. Any vocation must respond to the need for quenching. Chrisitan celibacy can be seen as the most effective way to quench our thirst (see Luke 18:29-30), for it is intimately connected with drinking at the divine Fountain, here and hereafter” (27).

“There is no resting, no fulfillment, no enthrallment, no completion anywhere short of an immersion in the Triune life. Virginity takes this for granted” (27). 

2. You and I are to be head over heels in love with God.”

This is why the Christian virgin is to be a lover before anything else. Only one who is in love gives up everything for the beloved.

3. Our discussion on celibacy must attend to our relation with human sexuality.

because a person’s sexuality extends to every level of his being – each of us feels, thinks, wills as a man or as a woman.

4. Celibacy does not extinguish one’s sexuality, but rather sublimates it to a higher purpose.

Celibacy is a rechanneling of unique sexual gifts – from its immediate goal to serve a higher, more beautiful purpose. 

3. What is Gospel Virginity?

1. “Gospel virginity is a privileged sphere of the sacred.”

Fulfilling the ancient Hebrew understanding of holy or sacred, qadosh, we are chosen by the Lord to be set apart from the ordinary creation, consecrated in a special manner “for the sacred sphere of a complete preoccuption with God” (33). 

“A virgin is a woman (or man) who is selected by the Lord himself from the generality of all other human beings to enter into the transcedental sphere of the utterly Sacred One in a new and exclusive manner, a manner that becomes a permanent state in life” (33). 

“The virgin who fully lives her vocation is vibrantly alive, much more alive that she could be with an earthly husband, for her Beloved is infinitely more alive than any mere man could be: her heart and her flesh sing for joy to the living God (Ps 84:2)” (34). 

2.Gospel virginity is a radical readiness for and pursuit of the kingdom.” 

“The charism of celibacy changes a person from within. It readies a woman or a man in a radical manner for the ultimate purpose of all human life. We should note the key word radical, for baptism readies everyone for eternal life. The virginal consecration deepens this readiness, and it offers a way of life that senstizes one to the operation of the Holy Spirit and for the more prompt pursuit of the kingdom that appeared in Jesus” (35). 

“The main idea behind frugality and celibacy in Jesus’ teaching is not freedom for apostolic work, important and valid as that is. Neither Jesus nor Paul speaks of the external apostolate when dealing with virginity for the kingdom. Rather they refer to a deepened state of being, of total availability to the Lord’s person and his enterprise, of a being sensitized to the new creation… The three great emptyings of pride, material goods, and earthly marriage – emptyings which Jesus himself embraced – liken a person more fully to his mode of life and consequently produce a root preparation for what he is about” (37-38).

“After the model of Jesus himself, the celibate man and woman are thus to be consumed by nothing but doing the Father’s will (Jn 4:54). They have no other desire, no other ambition. They are utterly free for the kingdom, completely available for their sole love” (39). 

3. “Gospel virginity is an immediate, ecclesial, bridal union.” 

There is no most apt and normal image of an intimate, total self-gift between two in love than the spousal one. The Bible attests well to this (see Is 62:2-5, Hos 2:16, 2 Cor 11:2, Eph 5:25)… What the whole Church is to be, the individual virgin does by vocation and with no merely human spousal intermediary. 

“We see an immediate consequence of this truth: a communion of love, deep prayer, and absorption in the Beloved must be the primary purpose of the virginal life. Neither Jesus nor Paul says a word about work to be done in reference to virginity, but they do speak about being in harmony with the kingdom, about focusing on the Lord in undistracted communion” (42). 

4. “Gospel virginity is the fulfillment vocation par excellence.

Consecrated virginity is superior to marriage as a way of life because it is a direct path vocation to the Fountain from which we all thirst, a straight line with no detours or distractions to transforming union. 

5. Gospel virginity is an excluding fullness.

“The young woman (or man) with the celibate charism possesses a love-gift from God that so orients her person to him that she “cannot” give herself to another in a marital manner. This “cannot” is a special cannot. The young woman could reject the charism and marry, but she cannot reject it without doing some violence to her being” (49). 

“The celibate person does give up an earthly marital relationship, but she is first described by the even greater relationship and fullness that she receives” (51). 

4. Understanding the vocation

The following are signs a celibate woman and man can know that they do see their vocation in a living experiential way (and not merely conceptual):

1.  A joyous non-reluctance regarding the sacrifices implied in the renunciation of all things for the sake of the kingdom” (55). The sacrifices of marital love, home, family, and property are felt of course, but the surrender is joyfully made. 

2. “The celibate is unable to give to the world the attention that marriage requires. Even if the celibate is at a considerable distance from heroic holiness, he should feel at least something of being captured totally by the Lord for the concerns of the Lord” (56). 

3. “An ability to see through the superficiality of superficial things” (56). 

4. “A consequent freedom from being caught in compensation compromises” (57). Since virginity is the love vocation par excellence, one who is full of love has no need of substitutes, no desire for frivolities, no inclination to superfluities. Examples include absorption in a hobby, excessive recreation, useless reading, idle chatter, an ardent pursuit of culture or social contacts, workaholism, overeating, or turning any respectable activity into an end. 

5. “The most important of the signs is a love for prayer, a devotion to contemplative communion” (58). People in love are drawn to communion with the beloved. The model of all celibate dedication “would habitually go off where he could be alone and pray” (Lk 5:16).

5. Permanent Fidelity

Consecrated virginity demands a permanent fidelity because it is a vocation (not a career), a total self-gift (not a part-time duty), a love matter (1 Cor 13:7-8), a radical following of Christ (Lk 9:62), a sign of the unbreakable bond between Christ and His Church, and it answers the deep human need for stability, focusing, and direction.

6. Virginity and frugality

Consecrated virginity demands gospel frugality because “the celibate lord himself freely chose to unite a drastic poverty to his consecration” (68), “chastity requires poverty if it is to grow, blossom, persevere, and endure” (69), “there is something deeply abnormal in a man or woman who gives up the great interpersonal good of marriage and then pursues mere nonpersonal things” (70), “there is an intercausality between celibate love and evangelical poverty, for each contributes to the existence and well-being of the other” (70). 

“Diocesan priests are invited to live a voluntary poverty, and they are told, not simply invited, to give away to the Church and charity the money that remains after their needs are cared for. In other words, priests are to have no superfluities (PO, 17)” (69). 

“Celibate men and women who live comfortable, self-indulging lives make themselves look foolish if and when they proclaim the self-denial and mortification of the gospel… What happens, of course, in many cases is that worldly celibates, being conscious that their life contradicts the gospel, simply refrain from talking about self-sacrifice and unworldliness” (71). 

7. Virginal human love

Celibate human love is:

  1. divinely motivated: God pours out genuine love into our hearts (Rom 5:5) so that we may love others as Christ loves them (Jn 13:34-35).
  2. universal: Unlike married love, celibate love is non-exclusive, unlimited: “The virginal heart is a large heart, too large to be satisfied in focusing on one man or woman” (75).
  3. feminine or masculine: Celibate love is not some sort of neuter reality. 
  4. affectionate: Although celibate love is prudent, it is still warmly shown, not cold. 
  5. a sublimation of sexuality: Celibate love redirects sexual drives from a genital expression to a wider freedom for universal affection and profound prayer-love (77).

Some other important points about celibate love:

  1. Compatible with special friendships: Celibates, in imitation of Christ, have authentic human friendships that are: thoroughly immersed in God, deepen celibate dedication, are non-exclusive and non-possessive, deepen prayer life and commitment to it, and are not excessive in the amount of time spent in each other’s company.
  2. Leads to deepening human love: A celibate’s primary orientation to deep prayer and undivided attention to the Lord should make loving one’s neighbour easier, warmer, indeed even tender, because one sees with new eyes as God does – with divinized eyes.
  3. Apostolic availability: Although service is not primary, it remains an important secondary element in the lives of many who embrace gospel virginity as a way of life, giving complete freedom for apostolic commitment. That being said, Dubay emphasizes once again: “The apostle is supernaturally effective precisely to the degree that he has a deep relationship with the Lord of grace: “Without me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5)” (88). 
8. Who is a Consecrated Woman?

The consecrated virgin must be seen in the midst of God’s people, for she is an ecclesial woman with an ecclesial charism:

  1. A woman of the word: Consecrated virginity liberates her to ponder the divine proclamation at greater length and with less distraction (see Luke 2:19, 51, 10:38-42). 
  2. A prophetic woman: She proclaims the undiluted will of God in life and word by living in the flesh fully and obviously what the Church herself is, a society of prayer. She proclaims that God is not just her first choice, but her only center of being. She proclaims a freedom from many conformisms in our world, from the tyranny of social prestige, sexual domination, and financial power-seeking. 
  3. A free woman: The virgin’s chaste and frugal life more easily attains the enlarging liberation we all seek and unfettered from the limitations of family life (see 1 Cor 7:32, 2 Peter 1:9, 2 Cor 6:10). 
  4. A woman in love: The Christian virgin is a woman whose heart has been captured by her Beloved and gives her undivided attention to Him (1 Cor 7:34-35). 
  5. A woman of prayer: Because she is literally in love, the consecrated woman is before all else a woman of prayer so that she can more easily experience what mystics wrote about… A breathlessly beautiful love affair with God, a prayerful enthrallment in him, a being lost in love, immersed in it. 
  6. A poor pilgrim: She is free, detached, content with the bare necessities, a stranger to this world (Heb 11:13-16, Mt 6:31-33). 
  7. A woman of the Church: The consecrated virgin lives in a new and unique way what the Church is. She lives and images both the bride of Christ (2 Cor 11:2) and the Church’s motherhood (1 Cor 4:15) through prayer-love, works of service, and sacrificial giving. 
  8. An image of Mary: “Only a virgin can remind us of her who combined in her person the two feminine glories of virginity and motherhood” (106). 
  9. Reflection of deepest feminine beauty: She reflects the most important aspects of feminine charm, inner goodness, love, fidelity, innocence, gentleness (1 Peter 3:3-5).
  10. A figure of final fulfillment:  The virgin lives the paschal emptying from her youth and anticipates the final completion – the risen body glorious with Christ. 
  11. A woman of totality: She responds to our Lord’s great demands to be perfect and pray always wholeheartedly and with a total yes (2 Cor 1:19). 
8. Prayer/Love

The primary reason for virginity is a freedom for prayer and love. To focus on the things of the Lord, to give him undivided attention (1 Cor 7:34-35). Neither the celebate nor anyone else will live the gospel fully without deep prayer. Also, the effectiveness in bringing people to God is measured first of all not by the amount of time we spend with them but by the quality of our presence. We are affected more deeply toward God by a ten-minute visit with a saintly person than we are in ten years spent with a mediocre individual.

9. An Integrated Lifestyle

Since consecrated virginity is a valid vocation and way of life, it possesses an inner coherence – a consistent mode of life – that leads to a definite goal. 

Ways to live consecrated chastity: Private dedication, hermit life, order of virgins, secular institutes, active religious institutes, societies of apostolic life, cloistered religious orders. 

10. Prayer/Love

The primary reason for celibacy is a unique freedom for prayer and love – an exclusive, deep, direct immersion in God. 

Prayer is the overriding necessity, the biblical “one thing necessary”, for any human person because: “drinking from the divine Fountain is the only genuine fulfillment” (120), “living the gospel fully will not happen without it” (121), apostolate cannot occur wihtout the inner grace of God opening hearts to the outer word of the Church.

“The final reason prayer is the overriding necessity is that effectiveness in bringing people to God is measured first of all not by the amount of time we spend with them but by the quality of our presence. We are affected more deeply toward God by a ten-minute visit with a saintly person than we are in ten years spent with a mediocre individual” (121). 

11. Virginity and Totality

All men and women are called to an utter fullness of God. The primary purpose of virginity is a readier path to it. St. John of the Cross gives the following 5 points with regards to the universal call to transforming union in prayer:

  1. “God places no restrictions on his gifts,
  2. Whatever he gives he gives fully,
  3. in the same manner as the sun shines indiscriminately on everything, so the Lord has no small favored elite,
  4. There are no two ways, no two classes, for God loves everyone,
  5. One condition only is required, namely, that each person is determined and prepared to provide room for the gift to be given” (128).

“O souls, created for these grandeurs and called to them! What are you doing? How are you spending your time?” – St. John of the Cross

For the saint, the reason there are so few who reach this high state of union with God lies entirely on the human level… “he finds so few vessels that will endure so lofty and sublime a work” (St. John of the Cross). God forces himself on no one. If we refuse to be purified and to live the gospel with complete generosity, we do not advance in prayer. If “the soul frees itself of all things and attains to emptiness and dispossession concerning them”, God “will enter the soul that is empty and fill it with divine goods”. 

“Virginity is not only the fulfillment vocation par excellence. It is also the vocation of totality: entirely of self-gift in exchange for plenitude of return, the ‘much more'” … she is a virgin for the sake of the transforming union” (133).

12. Signs of vocation

Ordinarily the indications of a vocation to celibacy are neither flashy nor extraordinary. Here are some of the following signs:

1. A strong attraction to God.

“The young person called to consecrated chastity will have a greater than usual bent toward God, an attraction to him. This young person will often readily see that a mere earthly existence is insufficient, fundamentally unsatisfying, basically empty. He may indeed enjoy parties, dances, dating, but they invariably leave him with a sense of incompleteness. Young women attract him but he senses that none of them, no matter how beautiful, will ever fill his heart. He wants more, much more” (135-6).

2. An attraction to a particular celibate lifestyle and/or persuasion that God wants him in that form of dedication.

3. Sound motivation.

“The virgin does not have a negative view of sexuality, nor is she fleeing the sacrifices of marriage or the responsibilities of life in the world – these motives are inadequate. She is a woman in love and she is pursuing her Beloved with a greater freedom” (137).

4. Final sign is capability – the physical, mental, and moral health necessary to actualize it in a specific lifestyle.

13. Witness

Gospel witnesses must always be authentic (Mt 5:19, Acts 4:31, 6:4) because “if he is not, the sham will eventually be found out, even if at the beginning a few did not detect it” (140). 

Assuming that the consecrated virgin is living the vocation generously and fully, the celibate individual is a living witness: to the primacy of God in life, to genuine love of others (Jn 13:34-35), to the reality that we are pilgrims and should live like pilgrims not of this world (Heb 11:13-16, Jn 17:16), to the hard asceticism that leads to life (Mt 7:13-14), to fidelity in the midst of a faithless generation (Mt 12:39), to radiant peace and joy (Phil 4:4, Jn 15:11), to the only source of final fulfillment and eternal enthrallment. 

14. Charism

“This complete self-gift to the divine Beloved, therefore, not only brings the hundredfold to the individual person, but it literally adrons the Church of God, herself richly described in Scripture as his virgin Bride. The celibate woman and man are persons whose whole attention is focused on Beauty, ever ancient, ever new, persons whose raison d’être is none other tahn a profound love covenant and communion with the Word and his Father through their Holy Spirit” (148). 


  1. Great summary! Thanks for sharing the wisdom of Fr. Dubay. He really makes this charism attractive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: