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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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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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Why Celibate?

Piers Denholm-Young from the Jesus Fellowship, Coventry, speaks about his experience of celibacy:

I was thinking about why I am celibate. It’s good to revisit something like this.

I originally asked God in 1976 if I could be celibate. I was 24 and inspired by the possibility of being like Francis of Assisi and following Jesus the Lamb wherever he went. To me it was the highest way and I didn’t want to opt for anything less. Call it youthful ambition perhaps, but there you are.

I also felt that I could hack it. I had been engaged and we ended it, so I knew something of such an attachment. I definitely was not interested in having children, or devoting a large part of my capacity to raising a family. I wanted to be free to serve God, though what that would entail I had little idea. But my prayer was one of those that shoots through the ceiling and you know it’s got through.

So it was not really a surprise when my prayer was answered. Brethren sensed my calling, and one or two things I read confirmed it to me.

I made no vow then, but just accepted that I was celibate. I felt free of the game of looking at women (sisters) as possible partners, and pressed on with life in community.

I was given the virtue name Single Hearted – more interesting than Denholm-Young, and it was plain sailing for the first 20 years or so. Community was quite segregated and there was limited casual interaction between brothers and sisters. While being rather austere, it made celibacy simpler.

It took me a while to accept wearing a silver ring – what would my parents think? But since 1987 I have worn one and never taken it off.

I did have a couple of short experiences of falling for people that passed off quite quickly, and then in the third decade I had a more serious heart struggle over someone that I found myself alongside, but nothing was said and again I managed to let go and it blew over. The fourth decade – that’s another story for another time.

Back to my reasons for being celibate.

Quite early on I started enjoying spiritual fathering, finding sons, and some daughters, that I could train. That remains a wonderful motive for being celibate. They grow up faster than natural kids, and you get grandchildren pretty soon too. They become your crown and joy, and even the delinquent ones continue to be in your heart.

God keeps showing me that celibacy gives the freedom to love widely, rather than being limited to a wife and children, and then what’s left over for others. That makes marriage sound like a mean affair, and in fact it knocks a lot of selfishness out of people, while celibates like me can be quite selfish in their freedom if they are not careful. But I do enjoy being available to love the poor (especially at the Jesus Centre drop-in), my natural sister, my community house family including children, friends near and far, people I bump into randomly, or meet in evangelism. Plus I can love nature on mountains or in the back garden (I’m well known for liking bugs); it can be a real empathy.

And of course there is more time and freedom to seek and love God. I call it sitting by the sea when I go down the cellar or somewhere quiet and take time with him. I may pray or write verses or just be still (my weakest one). I can check my own heart, meditate, find prophetic insight, pursue a theme, and so on. I have scope to study scripture and read, to fast, to walk in the night. I’m free to waste time too, so it’s a responsibility.

Celibacy is an offering to God. One of the strongest words I ever heard from God was at a big event the church had in the early 90′s. I realised how much it had cost us so far to build, and it brought me to tears in the Spirit as I heard God say ‘I have made you (to be) an offering’. We are corporately a living sacrifice to him, and celibacy is a particular expression of this, an offering of love to him who first loved us and called us to be part of his bride. It is painful at times, but rich.

Celibates love Jesus. Now that does not instantly float my boat; after all he is a man, albeit a majestic man and an incomparable role model. But my images are of a bearded man with long hair (did he?) and a long white robe. I love him for what he did for me, but not for looking like that. However, he made it clear that we can love him in ways other than singing soppy songs with tearful eyes. Sorry – I do get moved by songs once in a while, and of course manly David loved God in song and prayer. His presence brings me to unsentimental tears.
He said ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’, so obedience is loving him. And his new command was to love one another, so I love Jesus by loving my brethren and being there for them. I also love him by doing good to ‘the least of these my brethren’ (Matthew 25.40) and meeting the needs of the poor and rejected. For Peter to love him meant to feed Jesus’ sheep, and as a pastor I must do that too; celibacy helps me have capacity. Plus I guess that to advance the kingdom with gifts and the gospel is to love Jesus. So there are lots of ways that I can work it out.

There is a theme that I return to, which is the quest of the human heart for union. The fall and our physical limitations leave us essentially lonely. We are made in the image of the triune God and so we long for oneness with others while still being ourselves. Even marriage with its intimacy can be an elusive reaching for the union of being that we are made for (I have known a taste of it, sublime but still limited). Celibacy is one path in the quest, loving many, exploring how to love God and to know him more.

We shall only find our full home and consummation of union in glory, but for now our hearts draw us on after Jesus.

 
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Posted by on Fri 16th Nov 2012 in Interviews

 

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What Are You Living For? Good, Better Or Best?

Malcolm Lisle lives in a Jesus Fellowship community house, ‘Royal Standard’, in Sheffield and has been a committed Christian celibate for three years. He tells of the time when God offered him an important life choice.

When I was a student, I knew what I wanted out of life. I wanted a well-paid job, I wanted to get married and I wanted to have a house and a car. I was absolutely besotted with the woman who led the Sunday morning prayer meeting at the university.

My plans didn’t work out. The adorable Christian woman who led the prayer meeting remained an acquaintance. I was unemployed for twelve years after leaving university. This was a sad time in my life, but a fulfilling one. I learned to live by faith. God provided for my needs. I learned to live for Jesus, to dedicate my life to helping others. I loved giving money to Christian organisations around the world and I was faithful to my church. I learned to be less self-centred.

Some years later, God showed me a vision of a Hi-Fi catalogue that was around when I was a student. There were three categories of Hi-Fi, good, better and best. God asked me, “Malcolm, which Hi-Fi do you want?” I had always wanted the best Hi-Fi. I knew God was speaking to me about celibacy. “God,” I said, “I want what’s best from you.”

To be a fulfilled celibate, you need some definite work of God to dedicate your life to. Community goes with celibacy, so does being a volunteer in a Jesus Centre, and so does planting churches. The celibate has fewer responsibilities than married people. If I wanted to go to Swansea, I wouldn’t have to worry about whether my wife wanted to go to, I wouldn’t have to find a new school for my children; it would be so much easier than it would be if I was married. If I want to stay late at the office to write this letter, I don’t need to worry about my wife and children expecting me home. According to the Bible, the reason for choosing celibacy is to serve God more.  Without that desire to serve God, singleness can become very selfish.

 
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Posted by on Mon 29th Oct 2012 in Contemporary

 

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Different sexualities, marriage history and celibacy – and thoughts of an asexual

This poem was sent into Undividedblog by someone who is asexual, describing his experience.

Everything is Ace

Not for me, the table for two
Drowning in each other’s eyes
No lingering French kisses
Or intimate caresses
Or sweating and panting
In fevered embraces

I’ve never known lust
I’m a stranger to passion
And jealousy
And the pain of love spurned
My nights are free of fantasy
My heart has never burned

Some say I’m a freak
Or that I’m sick
Or even mentally ill
They show me their pity
“Maybe,” they say, “there’s a pill”
Others say “You’ve not met the right one”
No, and I never will

I used to date, to dine and chat
I was very fond of that
But, after some weeks, my partners tire
For they don’t see in me
That sexual fire
They wanted to be more than friends
So that is where our friendship ends

I don’t want your pity
I’m free, you see
For the time and the money
You spend on amore
I have fun with my friends
They all know the score-ay

Just one final word
To that fine poet Les
Is poetry better than sex?
Yes, for some, it is

I really like this poem and  I reckon the key verse is in verse 5 when it says, ‘I don’t want your pity, I’m free, you see …’

People sometimes ask: can I be a committed Christian celibate if I’ve been married or have had a partner? Can I be a celibate if I’m gay or asexual?

Celibacy brings freedom from family responsibilities and it gives us time and space to give ourselves, our heart, our devotion, to a wide, wide range of people. It frees us to love the many.

My response to the questions is a resounding, ‘yes. Of course.’ Our past sexual history (or the lack of it) is no bar to receiving the gift … and I’m not theorising. I know committed celibates who are widowed or have formerly been married, practising gays or have lived loosely who are now committed, fruitful celibates. Brilliant.

God does not stand to judge our pasts; rather He is intimately involved in and concerned about the present and the future, a God of fresh starts.

I’m not saying there won’t be issues to work out. There will be. But who hasn’t got issues to wrestle with?

The church needs committed celibates. God has a very broad heart. His gifts are ours for the taking.

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” Matthew 19: 11,12

 
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Posted by on Tue 16th Oct 2012 in FAQ, Poetry

 

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Celibacy – A passion burns within

Celibacy a passion burns within.
A loneliness that also stings
Like barbed wire that grips and rips into your clothes and won’t let go
It leaves its mark
Never the same as God’s tender hand takes you through a land
Of unsurrendered natural man
Each step you take there’s more pain as He crushes you like a rose
To release the beauty deep within, to smell the perfume released through suffering
It was for freedom that Christ set us free.
Stand firm and don’t submit again to that yoke of slavery
Love of Christ drives this gift
A willingness to pay the cost of lifetime singleness
So that others may find that greater gift of life, freedom and home in Christ.
They won’t just survive but learn to live through the sacrifice we give
Don’t get me wrong, tis not all dreary this celibacy
The call still rings clear. Set apart for Christ, His Church
What an honour to die to self and live for this is gain
A joy, a love, a passion burns deep within
Keeps the fire stoked always burning
Laughter, peace, real happiness
To find one’s place in this body of Christ

 
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Posted by on Thu 20th Sep 2012 in Poetry

 

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Doris’ story: celibacy frees me to live out more fully what God has invested in me

Doris - freedom in celibacy

Doris: “I love celibacy because of the freedom it gives”

Doris (34) was born in East Germany and now lives in London. She tells her story:

“When I was 13 I watched a documentary about orphan kids in Africa. It got to me and made me cry and I realised that without God I couldn’t make a difference.

“I knew I needed to put my life in God’s hands to make it worthwhile. I prayed, ‘God, have my life.’ Later, when I was 17, I was baptised in water and the Holy Spirit.

“When I was 18 I read Shadow of the Almighty, a book written by the wife of Jim Elliot, a missionary in Ecuador who had been killed trying to reach a primitive Indian tribe. As a young man, Jim had basically said, ‘If God wants me to stay single, I will.’ I wondered, ‘How can anyone pray like that?’ I really wanted to get married. I’d been brought up with five brothers and sisters and wanted to marry young. My parents’ marriage, too, was a good one – an example I could follow. I was so challenged by this book and I prayed for the ability to pray like Jim Elliot.

“Around this time I was apprenticed as a health care assistant and came to London for a gap year as an au pair. Later on, I was hoping to go to Africa to work in an orphanage.”

While in London, Doris was invited to Spreading Flame, a Jesus Fellowship community house in Acton. She said, “I fell in love with the vision of community and let go of my plans to go to Africa. God was calling me here.

“When I moved into Spreading Flame I was inspired about celibacy by the example of two young celibate sisters. People were really doing it! I prayed about it and the more I got to know the calling of the Jesus Army, the more I fell in love with the vision of celibacy, although I still wanted to marry and have kids.

“I felt God say, ‘Choose which gift you want’ (marriage or celibacy). I thought it would be better if He made the choice! In one of our Sunday morning church meetings I sensed God offering me the gift of celibacy. I had the impression of a grey parcel; it didn’t look very attractive but inside I knew it would be colourful. Again God gave me a choice.

Finally, at the age of 24, Doris made her decision to make a celibacy vow. ‘I’ve never regretted it although God tested me from the word go.’ Yes, Doris has fallen in love since and has been very tested on celibacy but, “the calling has outweighed the testing. In times like that I’ve hung onto my friends. People believed in me despite my struggles – and that made me believe I could pull through.

“I love celibacy because of the freedom it gives and I can do the things I love to do such as spending time with young sisters in the church – something I really love. I also love doing domestic work at Battle Centre, the Christian community house where I live. It is an amazing way to build the kingdom of God. The kitchen is the hub of the house. I’m available to people – celibacy gives me that freedom.”

What about the future? “I’m expecting, anticipating new things – and still excited about living in community. I look forward to making disciples and seeing them come into the kingdom of God. So far I’ve been mainly a friend to people but I want this to develop more and more into spiritual motherhood.”

Doris finished by saying: “Celibacy frees me to live out more fully what God has invested in me. I want to be content with whatever situation God puts me in. It may sometimes be day to day ordinary things like scrubbing floors and loos and kitchen pans but, even in these, I can find the extraordinary, supernatural life of God.”

 
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Posted by on Thu 6th Sep 2012 in Contemporary

 

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