The Fruit of Celibate Love

I’m still praying with the question from Lisa Hendy, of Catholicmom.com, about Conscious Celibacy and “saying yes to love.”  In a previous post I addressed being single and how celibacy is neither the object nor theme of my singleness—though love is. This question from Lisa about love’s expression and, I realized, inherent reception, stirred up a lot of emotions—all good and begging for release.

I recalled a conversation I’d had several years ago with Pat Gohn, the voice of Among Women, who had asked—challenged—me about happiness. At the time I was in the process of therapy, healing from extended depression. When asked if I was happy I responded “Not yet.” It was the “yet” that was the kernel of hope spoken for the first time in years. And for which I am still grateful to Pat for having teased out of a tangled mess. A Bible verse she had shared was about being a temple of the Holy Spirit…about the indwelling of love (1 Cor 3:16). It took a while, and work with a Catholic therapist, but eventually I understood this spiritually and the ability to love, freely, openly, and physically took root.

Growing in love that is spiritually and physically expressed, and not sexually defined, is the journey I have chosen. This was an obvious path for me, but often too narrow for other singles.

Expressing love that is non-sexual is the same for married or single people. Showing delight in seeing someone, sharing hugs, holding or shaking hands, touching shoulders, all fulfill the need we have as physical beings. Listening and sharing conversations, laughing at bad jokes, crying with someone over sad news are also fulfilling a need for validation. These friendships, in part, fulfill God’s word that “it is not good that the man should be alone.” (Gen 2:18)

I seek these kinds of relational love, wanting to share what the Holy Spirit placed in the temple of my heart. What Lisa said about “a life brimming with love” is more accurate than I previously thought. It feels impossible to not feel joy, even in difficult times, knowing that the love of God is within. This holy, internal love gives rise to a desire for making the world a better place…though my world may be very small, and my service to others limited.

Denying the need for intimacy is foolish, but intimacy is psychological before it is sexual. And here is where solid friendships develop, possibly into solid marriages. Being open to this kind of emotional closeness is precarious. It has the potential of inviting confusion in the person with whom the sharing is taking place. This may be why so many of us have friends, but few intimate friendships.

The uniqueness of my being “orphaned” in the world allows for situations that lack the usual validation from parents, siblings, spouses, children, close friends, or religious community. I turn toward the Holy for affirmation, and it is in this intimacy with the Divine that I find purposefulness and rejuvenating love. As a childless single woman—a distinction necessary for single parents whose time is limited and demands great—I have availability to others. Simple things like sharing homemade soup, offering prayers, letting go of my schedule and listening are all expressions of love found through openness to the promptings of God to love.

Love grows paradoxically to things of earth which when given away decrease. Love is a thing of the Holy that by giving more increase all the more. We all want to share love. Expressing it beyond sexual encumbrances is significant for us who live a celibate life.

The prayer I offer is that Our Lord keeps me from a shallow love that does not cry in joy or sorrow. The depth of my love is proportional to my willingness to receive it. The object of my celibacy is intimacy with the Divine…and this is what I consciously choose.

Thank you Lisa for asking.

 

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About Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB
  • Gia

    The keyword is “choice.” Lots of celibate Catholic singles never chose this — and that’s a different thing altogether.

  • Michelle

    There is a lot here worth thinking about. Especially the avoidance of intimate friendships, which really are at the root of any relationship worth pursuing, human or Divine. So much paradox really . . . you taking the time to point out where your life is not empty but full of joyful loving . . . I know this joy also – and yet, despite my call as a happily married woman, how deeply do I sometimes feel the ache of loneliness. I understand it best by reminding myself that we are not yet home, we are merely passing through down here.

  • Inge Loots

    I think in these kinds of discussions it’s good to agree on definitions. I see a lot of people mixing up being ‘single’ with being ‘celibate’. Celibate is, according to Catholic teaching, a conscious choice to opt out of relationships in order to dedicate one’s life to something else (for example charity, work in the church).

    If you’re looking for a spouse, but are without a relationship at a given time, you’re not celibate. You’re single: if a suitable candidate for a relationship enters your life, you might be willing to invest in it.

    I’m celibate. If people ask if I am in a relationship, I state I’m celibate. 9 out of 10 times the next question is: But what if the knight in shining armor appears? *big sigh*. I don’t want to be in a (romantic) relationship, because I already am in one. With Christ.

    It’s like asking someone who is married: but what if you meet a really attractive person? Of course you don’t break up a relationship every time you see another attractive person…

    It doesn’t mean I avoid intimate (platonic) relationships, though. I can invest more time and energy in them, because I don’t have a responsibility towards a husband and family. I can step in where married friends can’t, because of their responsibilities. The downside is that it also means I have to guard my boundaries more, because people assume I have plenty of time and can be asked to do about anything.

    • Margaret Rose Realy

      Yes, and thank you Inge. Being single and chaste is quite different from being consciously celibate.


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