Celibate Free for All

I find it fascinating that the central question to being single is focused on the genital expression of love, and lack there of—celibacy.  Celibacy is neither the object nor theme of my singleness—though love is.

To make a decision to be celibate implies sex is something to be surrendered, a giving up to God. I don’t think that offering God a chaste life is always the same as choosing celibacy. A person could desire to express love sexually, and consciously decide to be chaste and not act on the impulse, as in NFP or waiting for sacramental marriage. To choose celibacy is a decision to stop seeking the expression of love genitally and to turn exclusively toward expressing love spiritually.

Lisa Hendy, in her post on Conscious Celibacy asked about the single person and love.

I am looking at the concept of saying, “Yes” to love in our lives. I want to include all kinds of love, including the choice a single, celibate person makes to express love in his or her life…when I look at their lifestyles from the outside, it seems to me that they are people who are living lives filled to the brim with love…are in a better position to serve those around them in their communities…are free of familial encumbrances…have solid friendships and a passion for making the world…a better place.

That’s a lot of assumptions to make. There are a lot of blessings in being single and considerable challenges, especially when not consecrated to a religious life.

There are others who, like me, are “orphaned” in the world—either by choice or circumstances we do not have parents, siblings, spouses, children, or relatives in our lives. We are, as Lisa said, free of familial encumbrances. This perceived freedom carries the weigh of aloneness, and if not careful, can mutate into isolation.

Celebrations remind the single person of their unique status in the world. Often with joy we embrace the love of being included in your family’s doings, and privately we may know a sorrowful longing. We are aware of the value of family on a level those in one may not. I feel grieved when I hear hostility between family members. It hurts the Christ in you and in them, and it breaks down learning the lessons of familial love.

There are many ways to express love. Developing them is often stunted, as Katrina Fernandez writes in her blog, by the defining element of sex. The growth of spiritual love, whether we are single or married, is the same. Families, or close friendships, lead us to change Me to We. In expressing love it’s not “what can I get out of it” but “what can I do to let you feel it.” That last part is what keeps aloneness from becoming isolation; it is the unencumbered love of God beyond one’s self that  keeps us connected.

Having a love of God we all desire to share that love and be of service; its part of the sweetness of the Fruits of the Spirit. To say a single person is in a better position to be of service is presumptuous and unfair—especially if they are a single-parent. But saying yes to love that is not genitally focused is liberating.

I’m not sure how to end this blog. The whole of this topic needs weeks and months of patient prayer to allow the single bloom to open. My saying yes to love, means being open to and accepting of whatever God wills in my life. The lack of family and close friends, the loss of employment, and progressing disability limiting my community service has opened my life in ways I could not have imagined. I am free to pray, to listen, to write, and to know that all is gift. My life indeed brims with love that is spiritual, emotional, and physical and has no need to be sexually expressed.

  • http://evaulian-thebestoftheworst.blogspot.com/ EvaUlian

    This reminds me of what St Paul says, to have sex is fine but if you can do without it that’s better. Frankly I don’t think having sex is second class spirituality or that not having sex is virtuous. I don’t think being sexually active or not has any influence on one’s commitment and love for God- there have been many sexually active people who have become saints. It is only when sex is abused, like all else, that things go wrong.

  • Michelle

    This is beautiful and thought provoking. Thank you for your thoughts. I will pass on the link to your blog to others. Your words need to be heard..

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/prayergardens/ Margaret Rose Realy

      Thank you Michelle.

  • Fr. Daniel Barnett

    A good post; thank you. As a celibate Roman Catholic priest, I would offer one essential observation: it is not a choice between sexual love and spiritual love. The choice is between exclusive, genital expression of love and the non-exclusive, non-genital expression of love.

    Human love cannot be reduced to merely a spiritual thing. Doing so makes it inhuman for the same reason that reducing it to a physical thing makes it inhuman: because humans are a composite of soul and body, we are called to love fully with our mind and soul through our bodies.

    As a priest, I find that the most powerful experiences of love are when I experience the love of Jesus enter others’ through their senses in the sacraments. It gives meaning to the times and the manner in which I touch others, and fulfillment to my humanity. I pray the same is true for my married friends and family.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/prayergardens/ Margaret Rose Realy

      Thanks Fr. Daniel! You are so right.