I believe that celibacy and marriage are both callings.
I believe that a Calling is not the same as one’s Status.
In my opinion most people have a calling to be married and end up with the status of married. Next, there are the people called to be married but their status is still single. Next, there are the people called to be single but are forced to be married (far fewer of these in modern times than there once were, thanks in part to bringing human rights to more women). Finally, the smallest group would be those whose calling is celibate and whose status is single. I believe that much unhappiness is caused by the calling and status not being the same.
I also believe that the attitudes of others can influence your own attitudes. It’s absolutely true that marriage, and later parenthood, will rock your world in ways you cannot believe existed. Very much a case of “whoa, I had no idea it was this intense.” That’s fine as long as it doesn’t drift into snobbery, which alas is not unknown.
The single person may – forget “may,” DOES – hear condescending remarks about how they never will be truly grown up until they have a family. I’m not talking about cruelty, which is a separate topic: as in, remarks to a single whose fiancé/e has just died, or a couple whose child was stillborn. No, just daily pat-on-the-head chatter, which is about one-upsmanship.
They also face economic snobbery. Try being a single woman visiting a car dealership, or a bank while holding a mortgage application. We have money too, but the sales department stalls until the “real” breadwinner arrives.
We don’t support celibacy enough, in my opinion. Those with the uniform fare a little better, but that’s not guaranteed. So it makes sense that the plainclothes believer will wonder if they have permission to be celibate.
Because of this perceived difference in status, I sometimes hear single people lament, “I guess I must be called to celibacy,” in much the same mournful tone as “I must be called to dentures,” which, first of all, thanks for the good wishes ; and secondly, they don’t even have them yet!
Not that confirmed celibates are incapable of walking around with their noses in the air. There is a certain attitude in being “married to God” because none of your friends can top it. He’s the greatest, the beloved, is crazy about you, loved you enough to die for you, lives in your heart, is faithful and true, and on top of that He’s home every night. As if mortal suitors aren’t nervous enough already without being held up to that standard. On the other hand, He is perfect, which means that if there’s an argument, you are the one in the wrong. Try being “married” to someone that perfect. But there can be pride right there as well, in pity-party martyr points mostly.
I think James Martin’s Jesuit’s guide to (almost) everything put it more graciously. The confirmed celibate isn’t immune to love, either given or received. But the call is stronger. And it takes a certain type of person to follow that call. The celibate may leave many beloved relatives and friends at a gravesite, but it never will be the same as for the family man or woman. Being celibate, says Martin, includes being at peace with the realization that you will never be the most important person in anybody’s life.
If that sounds horrific to you, my guess is that celibacy isn’t your calling. It might be your status until your love comes along, but that doesn’t make the either the calling or the status bad. Celibacy and marriage are both holy and beautiful callings. My thinking is, do you feel called to be married? Then you are called to be married. The majority of humans are. They are just confusing their calling with their status. That’s why they get scared.
It is a good thing in life when a person’s status matches their calling. But people whose calling and status aren’t the same have to deal with attitudes from others as well as fears from inside themselves. Those attitudes make people feel badly about themselves, and that confuses their perceptions. It’s true that celibate people can be lonely, but I see that as a condition native to oneself rather than to a lack of mate. Some of the loneliest people I’ve ever met were married.
My humongous [technical term] study of What’s behind “Left Behind” and random reviews of other stuff. If that’s too long, I have 3 PDF docs total 20 pages I can e-mail.
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