Or perhaps it’s not uncharted. No doubt we have plenty of meditations from celibate men, but these are priests and religious. Indeed we also have some meditations from celibate laity, but these are almost universally women.
As I’m coming into my mid-30s, little inclined to the diocesan priesthood (at least in my home diocese) or for marriage with the options at hand, and perhaps past my prime for religious life, it’s starting to look like I might have to settle in here. There are some interesting stories regarding all of these, but I digress. Something else also becomes evident: I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.
At the same time, though, a desire to take my role in the world more seriously has become stronger lately. I’m a little tapped out in my work now, so I’m thinking about going out more into the world, maybe finishing my doctorate. My state allows this, and also allows me to set my own schedule and routine. This is a benefit, as it is for young people who all pass through this state of life if only transitionally, and generally use such for education, training, and vocational discernment. My real hope is to find a good order, diocese, or woman in my travels, of course, but God’s will be done.
It’s a funny state that nobody thinks about as a state of life because we’re all so willing to leave it when it seems appropriate. I scarcely even think of it as a particular calling, because I don’t really think I’ve ever necessarily been called here. However, I have been called as a teacher and academic, and that I’ve answered joyfully. In fact, I have even the opportunity to study to progress even further in my field. The celibacy just seems to make the secular vocation somewhat easier.
So keep on devoted to the work? That seems likely. A great way to pour myself out, spend myself. Devise a rule of my own design? I’ll be talking to my director about that, but if I fail to keep it, what is lost? Work contracts are dissoluble; if I’m downsized, what then? Should I simply be taking this almost invisible state with almost no certitude on me as a source of humility and a penance for my pride in the past? I know that, even if I am to move on elsewhere, I won’t be able to get there until I’m comfortable here.
As I said, it seems like uncharted territory, that involves a lot of suffering in ways that not a lot of married people or even priests or religious can understand well. As my title indicates, we don’t even quite have a name for this. And as I also said, the experience might be different for men than for women. There have always been more women than men in the world, and I’m sure we can all think of a spinster aunt or neighbour. But who can think of an old bachelor (who isn’t homosexual or disabled)? We can think of consecrated virgins or widows, but nothing specifically masculine (except perhaps secular priests, who are still something different).
So, what can we say about this in particular? Am I wise for throwing myself further into my work and studies, or should I be doing otherwise?