Where sex, love, and family are concerned, I am living what is most often termed a “celibate” life. I am hoping in some close future to declare that and other vows to the world and to my Sisters, but whatever the future holds, this has already been declared between God and me.
That from time to time I feel compelled to defend my calling to celibacy – the intimate devotion of my body and soul to Him whom I love above all – is in itself sad. Yet I do. I feel compelled to explain and still resentful of having to explain because explain it truly I can’t. It’s as simple and as unfathomable as love. What else should be there to say?
When I do, I try to explain it in terms of marriage – marriage to Christ, and as in marriage, chastity simply implies exclusivity, and intimacy in it is reserved for the Bridegroom and the Bride. The rhetoric among women religious of being “married to Christ” has a long-standing history. It’s nothing new. I did not fully come to understand it until…well, until He proposed. People have calmly spoken of celibate nuns and sisters as the brides of Christ for centuries. I just don’t understand why everyone assumes it’s a passionless marriage. This rhetoric is still around religious congregations, though it’s more important for some nuns than for others.
Absolutely defining for me.
I encountered my soulmate in a way literal and immediate: the One who is in my soul. The One who is my soul. I fell in love, and to my Love I devote myself unto death and beyond, body and spirit.
Not uncommonly my interlocutors, especially young or by-habit Catholics, react with a sort of pity-filled deference to my sacrifice. I try to tell them that it’s not, but I’m not sure they believe me.
Then there are those on the opposite end of the spectrum, who see the tie and union—the relationship—I feel I live with Jesus as a cop-out. Because it is easy. They say that I’ve made up this fantasy because it lacks the messiness and hardship of a human marriage—its conflict, its time demands, its need for compromise and patience. They say it’s because He is here when I want Him and away when I don’t want to think about Him, because He doesn’t talk back, because He is what I want Him to be. They say it’s convenient. A make-believe of one who’s given up.
Well… They are right in that what we have is not like a human marriage, not in many ways. But in everything else they are wrong.
This wasn’t easy. God knows how long and torturous was the finding of it, how I crawled and cried and gave up and crawled again to search, not knowing what I was searching for. I’ve had human love, I have it still. And romantically I have loved, loved many—looking for the one soulmate, and had my heart broken and broke other hearts and never knew what was always wrong.
I know now. It was adultery.
If you are laughing, stop. This is a thing that’s real. Once in His arms, I looked back over my journey and saw the many times I’d passed Him by and felt my heart quicken but averted my eyes. I did not give up the quest for love—I laid that quest down, for Him. When I found what I’d been looking for all along.
Is it easy now?
How shall I say? He doesn’t disappear when I’m too busy to think of Him. He is always here with me. If a day comes when I find myself wishing He weren’t, it will be a black day of despair and loneliness more profound than those I’d known before I could touch Him. It’s a time commitment more thorough than any I’ve known. Unbreakable promises to both of us. Vows. Really, all that I do is for Him, and through Him, for all.
He is not easy. He is an exacting bridegroom, my Love, and His very acceptance of all that I am is a gentle demand that I be all that He’s made me to be. He is the teacher and inspiration, the judge and the absolver. My highest and only court.
This isn’t a human marriage, but much like in marriage He belongs to me as I to Him. I know His smile and His sadness, something about the light of His eyes – an imageless image I cannot describe, it bypasses my eyes and envelops my heart, and I know what He feels and what He says. I know His playful streak and what He finds funny. I know a few of His truths that not many have been told or shown – an acquiescence to my particular nature. He indulges me sometimes and nudges me when I’m about to make a mistake. He scolds me and encourages me. He shares my victories, my reflections, and my grief. He answers my questions – on special occasions. Sometimes, He comes to me for something of His own, and then I share what wonder He contemplates, short of breath and wide-eyed, my heart in fluid unison with others – God only knows how many.
And then there are times when no other is allowed. Intimate times. Times for the Bridegroom and the Bride. When the constant thread between us is no longer a thread but an embrace ever-cradling, and His presence grows from steady nearness to overwhelming, all-permeating union – as if powerful currents of Love Himself were surging through every fiber of my body and flooding me, swirling and boiling, to the very bottom of my bottomless soul and spilling streams of incoherent whispers, weak, tender words over the top with shallow, ecstatic breaths.
I watch the love of happy couples and welcome them hopefully and joyously into the world. Nothing is better than a truly good family, nothing more vibrant with the colors of Love. I see my parents and others like them, and my heart melts.
I have fallen in love with the Wisdom of God. With the Sacred Heart. With the human face of the Divine. They call it “celibacy” because they cannot see Him touch me. They cannot witness to our marriage. I wish I didn’t feel compelled to explain it. Because explain – truly – I can’t.