Book: Celibacy: A Way of Loving, Living and Serving
Author: A.W. Richard Sipe
Triumph Books, Liguori Missouri, pp. 197
Excerpt from Preface:
This is a practical guide that speaks directly and openly about celibacy and sexuality and their pragmatic implications for Christian living. It is a primer that considers three related religious issues. Two are theoretical: "What is celibacy?" "What does it have to do with sexuality?" And one is personal and practical: "What does celibacy have to do with me?" Theoretical considerations are intended to foster personal growth, not merely intellectual enlightenment. My aim is to provide a forum where we can talk with each other about ourselves, our lives, and our loves.
One formidable difficulty in speaking about celibacy/sexuality is the very nature of these subjects. No other area of study encapsulates existence — life itself and relationships — the way human sexual development does. Sexuality and celibacy pose formidable challenges to words. For many people, sex defies words; in the phrase of one psychoanalyst quoted by Robert Kaiser, "Sex is primordial, prelinguistic, infralinguistic, paralinguistic and superlinguistic." Any attempt to define sex with mere words is inadequate on some fundamental level. Philosopher Paul Ricoeur observes that sex "mobilizes language . . .but it crosses, jostles, sublimates, stupefies it, pulverizes it into a murmur, an invocation. Sexuality demediatizes language [i.e., the complex feelings defy description]: it is Eros not Logos." This book tries to go beyond words by inviting the reader to participate in meditation, reflection, and dialogue around the issues considered. Sexual and religious topics tend to be highly charged and even contentious emotional issues. With the help of this book, I hope even aspects of sexuality that are usually passionately debated can be faced calmly, personally, and without rhetoric or theological fury. This book was written for all those who would like to better understand both their own sexuality and the sexual/celibate phenomenon as an integrative force in the transmission of life and values. Celibacy is an aspect of human sexuality; it is not reserved merely to those who embrace it for a lifetime or from a religious motivation.
Excerpt from Book:
Celibacy is awareness in the service of life. It is not superiority or self-aggrandizement. Perhaps we can see things more clearly if we recast our first question: Is it better to be a mechanic or a physician?
I have a friend who has an uncanny gift for understanding motors and machinery. He "listens," and with near-infallible precision can tell you how an engine is functioning. He deftly examines and pinpoints trouble or reassures the questioner about a harmless quirk or innocent knock. . . .He is aware of a host of realities most other people miss, and he provides a valuable service. I have a surgeon friend. . . .He is dedicated to his patients: He cares about every aspect of their lives and families, not just their diseased organs or his medical skills. . . .He is a natural and spiritual healer.
Which man is better? They cannot be compared in terms of better or worse, higher or lower. Each gives a valuable and necessary service by his awarenesses. . . .
I treasure both friends. How foolish it would be to debate which is better. . . .Each of the above has a vision — an understanding of a part of reality. In his service, each shares his vision: He allows others to appreciate and profit from his knowledge and awareness — an awareness to which others would be less attuned or even blind.
. . . .Does the world need celibates? Yes, and every bit as much as mechanics and surgeons. Gandhi said that the world does need celibates; and any nation is poorer for the lack of them. What do celibates need to make visible by living? What is unique, valuable, necessary, and complementary in celibacy? It is awareness — more completely, awareness and love.
Table of Contents:
Part I: Beginnings
1. Getting Our Bearings: Sexuality
2. Getting Our Bearings: Celibacy
3. How to Be Celibate
4. Nature and Grace
5. Desire and Self-Knowledge
Part II: Measuring the Distance
7. Alone — All One
8. Authority and Power
9. After the Fall
Part III: Meeting the Obstacles
10. Appropriate, Responsible, Mature
11. How I Should Have Loved
12. Truth or Consequences
Part IV: A Race Well Run
14. Getting it Together