The Fruit of Celibate Love

I’m still praying with the question from Lisa Hendy, of, 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.


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.