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Seven Silver Rings: Seven Celibates Tell Their Story

seven silver ringsIn ‘Seven Silver Rings’ seven celibates from the Jesus Fellowship tell their very varied stories – why and how they chose celibacy, the trials and joys, the vision and outworking of the gift. The stories are interspersed with chapters on  topics such as the biblical foundation of celibacy, celibacy in history, celibacy today and some FAQ.

Here are some quotes from three of the contributors:

‘Celibacy is reckless in its devotion to God! It’s giving up the best and the first for stuartGod – not the leftovers.’ Stuart

‘Celibacy is an amazing gift of love that has the power to enhance all you do in living for Jesus. I have many heroines who have trod this way before me who have really inspired me – Mother Teresa, Basilea Schlink and St Teresa of AvilaVanessa amongst others. Their greatest influence upon me has been to show me the need for a consistent contemplative and prayer life that matches my service for God. This, for me, has been one of the real secrets of how I keep going and how I keep discovering more of Jesus. Prayer is the oxygen for my celibacy. If I stop communing with God, I die spiritually.’ Vanessa.

selina‘In my gifting as an evangelist I’ve found celibacy to be central, especially with messed-up young people. In many young people’s lives there has never been love without a price tag of some kind. I’m aware that when you’re a celibate there’s a quality to your love for people. This love is unconditional, centred upon them and shows respect, rather than fulfilling some need in yourself. Celibacy is not for yourself – it’s for others! Pouring out the love that is within is what fuels the celibate gifting. If you stop loving and being among people, the gift dies!’ Selina

A review of this book can be found on the Single Consecrated Life (SCL) website (Anglican).

http://singleconsecratedlife-anglican.org.uk/silver_rings_20.html

Partial copies of Seven Silver Rings are available on google books; full copies are available via Jesus Army website:http://www.jesus.org.uk/books

 
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Posted by on Fri 3rd May 2013 in Books

 

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Reality Verses Romance: Attaching Our Hope to a God-given Vision

Alison Moore lives in London and has been a committed Christian celibate since 2006. She writes about her experience of coming to terms with her past, leaving aside ‘unreal’ dreams and attaching hope to a solid vision God has given her.

Ask most men what kind of film they like to watch and they will tell you that the fast-paced movies with plenty of action and adrenalin appeal to them.  Movies like Fast and Furious which portray a successful tough male persona are popular – it is the strength of the man and his ability to affect the situation around him which is significant.

As for us ladies, well – the majority of women identify on some level with characters like Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice and her desire to win the unruly Mr Darcy. It is her beauty and its capacity to affect others which counts.

Why do these stereotypes appeal to us? They appeal to us in a very healthy way to demonstrate positive behaviour and can provide healthy role models. Strength for men can be character strength and leadership, not just brawn, and beauty for women can be grace, humour, determination and so on.

Yet sometimes fiction can function as a substitute for us and instead of leading us into reality it can trap us ouFast and furioust of it. Sometimes a painful event can stop us from moving forwards.

When I was a teenager I rebelled and got into going out with boys, getting drunk and staying out. My behaviour resulted, after a few years, in me getting pregnant, having the pregnancy terminated and losing the love of my life. For many years I just couldn’t get over it – the whole thing was just so devastating and I didn’t have a clue how to get over it. Nothing helped.  My life was totally destroyed.

Because the reality of my life had hit a brick wall, my only option for a while was to take refuge in my imagination and somehow that imagination seemed to offer me hope. In my imagination I would have a second chance, fall in love, get married and have children.

The trouble with my dream is that it just wasn’t real. And it took a very long time before I could let go of the fact that deep down I was still in love with the father of my pregnancy and face the fact that my dream was never going to happen. It can be very easy for us to nurture things which are not real because we kid ourselves we can get something for nothing and we can comfort ourselves or put a lot of hope in these things. We can substitute the hope for the reality of doing anything about it.

Anything which is not real is not of God. God is in the business of reality and the plan He has for us is 100% real.  He has created us and everything which is for us. It is only what He has created us for that will satisfy because these are the things we are made for.

Maybe we think one day we will get married or have children or be a great leader or plant a church or something but if the origin of it is not from God and we are just ‘dreaming’  or we are still hanging on to things from the past which have themselves moved on, then it doesn’t happen.  When it doesn’t happen we get sick, frustrated, older and just don’t fulfil our potential in life – we get ‘stuck’.

Lots of people like to watch films because they identify with a deep need in us to be beautiful or to be strong.

Imagination can be a very powerful thing because we attach hope to it and that hope gives direction for our future.

But – as a friend of mine quoted –  ‘entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy’.

It took me a long time for me to realise that my dream wasn’t going to happen. And, when I did that, I needed to repent of my dream and turn away from it. That was a very difficult thing to do because then I had to face the devastation again because that was my reality and it was still there – just the same many years later. Reality doesn’t change without us in it – that’s the amazing thing and that’s what makes it our reality. The only way I could face that devastation and loss was with someone else who had been there before me and that person was Jesus. But I found oupride and prejudicet very quickly that He was there to bring me healing from the old wounds and so much joy as I realised that God’s love had been there with me all along.

How powerful it is when we attach our hope to a vision God has given us.

As one of our pastors was saying last night – ‘What is the dream God has placed in our hearts? What is the dream that God has placed in your heart?’

Do we need to repent of hopes which are not of God to make room for the ones which are?  How amazing and how wonderful that would be.

 
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Posted by on Fri 26th Apr 2013 in Contemporary

 

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The Mystery of Love For The Single: Fr.Dominic J. Unger

Lisa Gee Book review by Lisa Gee

“The Mystery Of Love For The Single.” Fr. Dominic J. Unger, O.F.M. Cap.

The sub-title is “A Guide for Those Who Follow The Single Vocation in the World.”

 First published in 1958. Republished by TAN BOOKS in 2005.

This book is unique because it speaks to singles that plan on living their lives in the world but remaining single for the kingdom. Some of the topics covered include:

  • The mystery of man’s love for God
  • The single vocation in the world
  • Spiritual nuptials through perfect chastity (one of my favourites)
  • The manner of dedication
  • Careers and home life
  • Some basic helps in safeguarding purity

Fr. Dominic writes of a joyful life for those choosing a celibate lifestyle: one that blesses the church, the world at large and the person living this call to the utmost. He writes, “One does great honour to God and, besides, such a vow to live chastely brings stability to one’s life and adds strength, psychologically”.  (P60)

mystery of loveIn most books about celibacy the bent is toward those in religious orders; this is not so with “The mystery of the love for the single”. From the first chapter to the end it speaks to modern people who come to this call in a variety of ways.  It gives practical advice such as for careers, housing and social life. The chapter on ‘manner of dedication’ is full of wisdom in taking this call step by step, recommending a temporary promise for the first year then evaluating one’s own heart before making a final promise. It supplies different prayers and ideas for the dedication.

The chapter on ‘safeguarding purity’ is most helpful.  A quote worth remembering is “moderation always”

Here are a few more quotes

 “The Heavenly Spouse cares with special solicitude for those who follow Him in virginal and perfect chastity, He protects them, consoles them, helps them, rejoices their hearts.” (P81)

  “Single people in the world are ..freer than priests and religious. They do not have to wait for the counsel or command of superiors before taking care of urgent works of mercy.” (P68)

“Precisely because such single men and women are so beneficial to the Church and are such a power for the church’s apostate do the heretics oppose them and persecute them.” (P39)

“All this excellence and reward of virginal and perfect chastity adds up to one thing: a life of genuine peace and joy already in this world, and of hope for even better things in the next.” (P94)

I am unsure if I am doing this book justice.  For me I was struggling in this calling, like walking in the dark, often feeling out of step with the world around me. Then I found this book which I almost didn’t buy because I didn’t like the cover!

I have re-read this book often and learn something new each time. I will end with what I wrote on the inside cover when I first finished it “A great book! A gift from God, the author of all that is good”

 
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Posted by on Tue 23rd Apr 2013 in Books

 

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The Celibacy Myth: Loving For Life: Part 5

Continuation of the outline of the book: The Celibacy Myth: Loving for Life; Charles A.Callagher and Thomas L. Vandenberg. St Paul Publications. England. 1987

This is an excellent book written mainly for Catholic priests but it has relevance for all celibates.

Chapter 5: Contract or Covenant?celibacy myth

Callagher and Vandenberg tell us that it is not the job a priest does that is important so much as who he is and how much he loves. It is not a contract that unites the priest with his congregation but rather a covenant of love (in the same way that marriage is a covenant of love and not just a contract).

We must look at the way Jesus treated His disciples and follow Him.

“I am in your midst as one who serves you (Luke 22:28).

“I call you friends (John 15:15).

Relationships were of great importance to the apostle Paul. It is love that must be central to the life of a priest.

Being faithful in marriage is not just about abstaining from sex with another person. It is something positive, a real giving of one’s self to one’s partner with enjoyment. Celibacy is the same – it is something positive, a gift lived out with joy.  It is delight in one’s people. It, like a faithful marriage, goes far beyond duty. Celibacy should not be a burden.

Chapter 6: Fellowship or Communion

We can have intimacy in relationships without sex. “Intimacy involves … the willingness to disclose oneself to others, to become somewhat vulnerable by being honest about one’s self … and a willingness to let others become a part of and an influence on one’s own life.” Joseph Bernardin: Towards a Spirituality of Marital Intimacy. Origins 10/18 (16 Oct 1980).

Living celibacy, then, like living marriage, requires constant effort. There is nothing automatic about it.”

 Sometimes it is easier to pour out love than to receive love: “When he is loving, it is on his terms; he is in control. But when he is receiving love, he must give up control and allow his people to love him on their terms.” We must receive love in order to live out our celibate gifting and be there for the people. Jesus said to Peter, ‘Do you love Me?’ It was important for Him to feel loved. We too, must allow ourselves to be loved.

The role of leadership in the Church is to love purely and to bring about a greater brotherhood amongst the people of God. It is from the love-communion between God’s people that the mission of the Church must flow. Celibacy must be a catalyst for a stronger church-brotherhood, a living communion of people that love.

Just as a married man must evaluate his success as a husband in terms of how happy his wife is, a celibate priest must evaluate his success as a celibate in terms of how happy his people are.” A priest who loves will bring out both goodness and joy in his people. Celibacy is not about heroism and self-sacrifice so much as about belonging to a people, a belonging that is characterized by warmth and tenderness. Those who are full of love will always make others feel good about themselves.

Celibates need a love relationship – with the people of God. Celibacy is all about loving a people and that takes self-giving and hard work. The people must sustain a priest’s celibacy by loving him too.

“In a very real way, their (God’s people) priest’s ability to live celibacy is in their hands.”

 
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Posted by on Fri 29th Mar 2013 in Books

 

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Belonging To The People

two handsCelibacy has been to me like the best tasting wine that increases its flavour with age. I have no regrets at beginning my journey so young – starting it when I was just 21. Of course it hasn’t always been easy, very painful at times, but my frailty and human weakness have been no match for God’s faithful love and kindness.

Celibates need to be at heart, mothers and fathers – forget ‘your’ ministry, the action, pioneering, all the things you want to do for God. If primarily we don’t get our hands dirty and become mothers and fathers who can love and nurture our next generations then we’ll lose sight of our precious calling, live only for our own gain and many souls will be lost.

I wrote the following in 2011. A few days before I wrote this someone had said to me that they felt I “belonged to the people” and the words struck a chord deep inside my gut when they said it. It was a reminder again of the very heart of my call as a celibate. I knew I had to express something of what the words meant to me.

Belonging to the people
Body, life and soul to them
Given and poured out as a soothing balm
Bringing healing through His precious name

So many forgotten, lonely people
Who will bring joy to their hearts?
Who will show them something can change
That a Saviour has taken their place
And love has won?

A world of dying people
Who have forgotten the community of love
What does it mean to think of others better than yourself?
Lost to humanity in so many places
We must show it, who know

Where are the mothers, the fathers?
Those who will forget themselves and forsake their natural desires
Reaching out to many who are orphans
Who know nothing of belonging to a family
Is that you?

My mind has been made up already
My heart cannot and will not turn back
Caring nothing for my reputation or own satisfaction
Souls to win, all my joy, my focus
Eternity in sight.

Belonging to the people
Body, life and soul to them
Given and poured out as a soothing balm
Bringing healing through His precious name.

 
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Posted by on Wed 20th Mar 2013 in Poetry

 

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What Has Celibacy To Do With Undivided Devotion?

Recently someone sent the following comment into Undividedblog:

“I do not understand what being celibate has to do with being undivided in devotion to God. The people that seem most Christ-like are married couples who do good work together for others.  

“Right now, the requirement that priests be chosen from a celibate male pool is leaving the Catholic Church so short of priests that it is undermining Catholicism.”

Hey, thanks for writing in. It’s all thought-provoking wilfstuff: I’ve asked my friend, Wilf, to comment and I’ve written my own thoughts after.

Wilf: I think you are right about many married people.However for some people, those who Jesus said could recieve the gift of celibacy, it can and does open up something very wonderful and powerful: it is gift which can sharpen and empower all the other gifts a person has.Having said this, I do not think it should be a prerequisite for the priesthood. Maybe something more like the Orthodox approach would be better, where priests can be married or celibate.

I guess celibacy, for me, is a lot to do with freedom – from family responsibilities and so having time and energy available for other things. Freedom, however, must be treated as responsibly as commitment. Will I use or misuse this gift of freedom?

Ideally celibates use their freedom in order to live poured-out lives – for God, for others.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case and I find this a challenge everyday – to love foremost, to serve and to pray. There are, sadly and gladly, very good examples around of both celibacy’s misuse and use. I guess, let’s not tar everyone with the same brush.

I have observed, as you have, shining Christian couples exemplifying lives poured out for others. Wonderful. Indeed, personally, what would I have done without such people? I have also had the good fortune to see some brilliant examples of celibates, ‘not counting their lives precious to themselves’ (Acts 20:4) but living lives sold out for others.

I believe that, in a healthy church, celibates and married people work together. Celibates often thrive when they closely connect with families and visa versa. Personally, I have really enjoyed the friendship of my married friends and their children and this has been very beneficial – for me as well as them. And then, there is the freedom in celibacy to give oneself to spiritual sons and daughters and one takes on commitment then of a different but equally important type. I find there is no lack of people wanting mentoring, mothering, befriending – if you have time. Yes, celibates, we have time – and hearts of love can go a long way.

I come from a tradition where we have married, single and celibate leaders. I am glad for this as I believe it brings wholeness to the church. We need each other.

 
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Posted by on Mon 18th Mar 2013 in Contemporary

 

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The heart of my call

I wrote this a few years ago. It expressed quite simply the very heart beat of what Jesus had revealed to me in living out my call as a celibate. All other gifts and ministries were always to be secondary to this call.

This is all my joy
To honour you with my life
To serve you in this way
To be a mother

You put in me your trust
To care for damaged souls
To direct the young and old
To be a mother

What greater joy is there
What deeper call to find
That one can break and bear
With a lost soul of mankind
That needs a loving heart
That needs a listening ear
A steady soul to nurture
To be a mother

Nothing more can I offer than this
To avail myself to my Lord
Who gently leads me out
To find another
Another soul who is hurting
Another heart that is breaking
To be a channel of God’s love
To be a mother

No status, admiration or greater gain
Is there to be had in all the world
Than to simply offer all I am
To be a mother.

 
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Posted by on Thu 14th Mar 2013 in Poetry

 

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