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Tag Archives: spiritual mothers

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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Amy Carmichael – celibate pioneer:

Come one, come all to the Welcome Hall – and come in your working clothes! (Amy’s slogan inviting people to Welcome Hall.)

“Give me the love that leads the way.”

As I stood on the top deck of the ferry last week, counting the  buoys as we entered Belfast harbour, I couldn’t help recalling that two people exerting a weighty influence on my life were born or spent some of their most formative years here: C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast and Amy Carmichael, born in the village of Millisle in County Down, moved there when she was a teenager.

Amy Carmichael, yes, I’ve certainly leaned on her heavily for inspiration over the years: she was converted in Belfast as a teenager when her family moved there and at about 20, founded ‘Welcome Hall’ in the Shankill as a mission to reach Belfast’s mill-girls, many of whom worked in terrible conditions. When her family moved to Manchester, Amy again worked amongst the factory girls in the slums.

Amy sailed for Japan in 1893 to be a missionary. Her dream ended just over a year later when she returned home exhausted and unable to cope with the extreme climate. At this time she received a strong call to celibacy. Years later she described how she found a solitary cave to pray: “I had feelings of fear about the future. That was why I was there – to be alone with God. The devil kept on whispering, ‘It’s all right now, but what about afterwards? You are going to be very lonely.’ And he painted pictures of loneliness – I can see them still. And I turned to my God in a kind of desperation and said, ‘Lord what can I do? How can I go on to the end?’ And He said, ‘None of them that trust in Me shall be desolate’. That word has been with me ever since. It has been fulfilled to me.”

The following year Amy sailed to southern India and soon gathered a group of women whom she formed into a woman’s band, called the ‘Starry Cluster’. Under her leadership the women travelled around the villages, visiting homes and speaking to women and children who were willing to listen to the gospel. When two teenage girls who wanted to become believers escaped from their homes and came to her, the threat of violence forced them all to move to Dohnavur, on the southern tip of India. Amy lived there for the rest of her life.

In 1901 Amy rescued her first temple child. Such children were destined for a life of prostitution in Hindu temples. Over the years she rescued, and had brought to her, many other children in similar danger. A home was made for them amidst a community of believers, later called the ‘Dohnavur Fellowship’. Like Amy, many at Dohnavur chose to remain single ‘to attend upon the Lord without distraction’, as one of them said.

In 1916 Amy formed ‘The Sisters of the Common Life’ for single women like herself. In a book of guidelines for them Amy wrote: “There is nothing dreary or doubtful about this life. It is meant to be continually joyful.” She describes those who embraced this lifestyle as those, “being willing to follow the Lamb wherever he goeth”.*

Amy, called ‘Amma’ (mother), was not only a spiritual mother to many of her fellow workers but to her adopted children as well. Her aim was to train the children “to serve, to be evangelists and lovers of souls” and to send out teams to evangelize the people of southern India.

In 1931 Amy broke a leg which left her disabled for the rest of her life. For the next 20 years, confined to her room, she continued in her role as ‘Amma’ to the family as well as writing many books. In one of her books called ‘Ploughed Under’ she writes of the need of celibates to be spiritual parents. “Perhaps because there are so many perishing for lack of love in a world which can be hard and cold to birds which have no nest of their own, He wants some mother-hearts to be free to make nests for them, just as He wants some of His knights to be St. Pauls … and for Francis of Assisi there is need everywhere.”

“Why was it ever forgotten I wonder?” she wrote of celibacy. The word she received so many years ago – “It has been fulfilled to me. It will be fulfilled to you.”

Amy wrote of the importance of having a consistent and loving relationship with God and of allowing nothing to mar that bond. She wrote:  “O, let us more and more deeply love the Forgiving Saviour and more and more walk softly with Him lest we grieve Him in any tiny thing.” Easy, second-rate choices would lead to a quenching of the fire of love; commitment to Jesus and His cause had to be total: “We are not called to be weaklings but warriors… It is all or nothing,” she wrote.

Amy longed that the Dohnavaur community model a very high standard of Jesus-like love and the first line of one of her verses begins, “Give me the love that leads the way.”

Amy’s legacy of compassion, obedience and devotion lives on – both in the books she has written and in the continuing community she established at Dohnavaur.

*I’ve never seen this book, despite searching in the British Library. If anyone knows  where I can get a copy of it, please let me know!

 
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Posted by on Fri 12th Oct 2012 in Historical

 

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Priceless Jewel in Soho: Mother Teresa exhibition

Nirmal Hriday, the home Mother Teresa established in 1952 to care for the poor of Calcutta

‘Celibacy’

Inspired by a visit to the Mother Teresa Exhibition in Soho Aug 2012

 by Sue Withers

Soho: place of flaunted sin and hidden shame; a strange setting, in your seedy streets, for a priceless jewel.

A gift bestowed on single-hearted lovers of their God and of the poor who stood out from the crowd.

Their selfless service a resplendent light from Heaven irradiating the darkness.

For these the celibate life enabled their devotion, and fuelled their passion.

They became the mothers and fathers who adopted the unwanted, unloved and untouchable of their generation.

Dare we aspire to follow them ?

 

 
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Posted by on Fri 28th Sep 2012 in Poetry

 

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