Friday, 2 January 2015

Let go, let God - Vocations Series: The Relationship in Singleness & Celibacy

This post is featured as a guest article in the 'Godly Hearts Column' Series of the blog:

A white dress, a sharp suit, a flowered-up church, overpriced cake, a big party and a killer hangover the next morning... Does this ring any (wedding) bells?

Of course it does! It's what happens to everyone at some point, isn't it? To trundle up to that decorated altar and say the words that promise yourself to another person, the day which makes them your life companion, joy and happiness!

Well, actually, maybe not everyone.  The truth of life is, not everyone gets married, and not everyone has a romantic relationship. Sorry, may have made that sound a bit worse than it is. You'd be surprised, but, a large number of people stay single for life, or at some point choose to live that way for a myriad of reasons.

(If you're single and know that one day you're going to  have (or are looking for, over the course of your life:) a relationship and what follows on, then you're going to have to wait for the article in this series that is going to address that, i'm just addressing long/lifetime singleness and celibacy (sorry!), if you have a question for them to answer in their piece on singleness while waiting for a relationship then fire away on the link here. My advice until then: hold on, keep calm and carry on, talk to a friend on how you feel, confide and pray.

The concept of singleness celibacy in this modern, secular world may strike some as a bit, well, odd. The done thing these days is to go out to a club, bar, social, or even out with friends and hope to God you may at some point find a lovely lad or lass, and one day fall in love. But, it doesn't always work out like that.

This article is going to cover, in this format:

  • Why people choose to be single and celibate. 
  • Celibacy as a vocation and in vocations.
  • My thoughts on celibacy, personal engagement, struggles and discussion with celibates and married people about this way of life.
  • Solutions to my struggles and advice for those considering single life and other vocations.

1. So why do some people choose to live a life on their own? 

People choose to live singly for some common and uncommon reasons, some because of personal choices or experiences and likewise for religious. Some may have had a bad experience in a relationship, or have vicariously found that relationships can cause problems, can get hurt and that's not something they wish to handle. Some feel that they are not the right material for a relationship, and so choose not to. Some are quite content on their own and there's no need for them to change that.

These are some personal reasons as to why one may stay single and choose celibacy. 'But wait!', I hear you say, 'what has this got to do with God, and how do I engage and think about this as a Christian?'

'As a Christian' is a fundamental point. In my church (Catholic) the single life is a part of many ways of coming closer to God. Celibacy is a way in which one may follow the way Christ lived, singly and chastely. To imitate Christ is one of the best ways a Christian can grow, and is something we should all strive for. As well as a choice in imitating Christ, it is also regarded as a vocation and a gift. It is a vocation which must be discerned, thought through and prayed about, it is a calling. This calling may be a feeling that God is asking them to give up what could be part of their lives to serve him in a different way than to raise a family, this may be through spending more time in prayer, working for the Church ('big c 'as in institution), focusing on your spiritual life, your love for God and his love for you. Another lot of reasons is for helping others in their spiritual lives by being a role model (single people that work at their lives in God tend to be very good guides for others in ways different to those in relations, it appears). In my discussion with celibate priests, lay and married people, there is always a mention of the profound example which celibates show, something different about them spiritually and that there is a certain 'wisdom of celibates' in their ability to look at other people's love from the outside and offer advice.

2. Celibacy as a vocation and in vocations.
One may choose to be celibate in a vocational context such as 'Holy Orders' (as a Deacon, Priest or Bishop) or in the 'Consecrated Life' as a monk or nun.

As a person in Holy Orders there is much more time to be with the people, whatever time they are needed, they are much more available. As a celibate in Holy Orders or the Consecrated Life one can truly dedicate themselves entirely to God, he is the only focus in these lives. It is somewhere said that those who give up and offer for God shall receive great things in his kingdom. In being celibate, there is a striving to aspire to be like those in His kingdom, and for its sake. (Matthew. Ch. Somewhere, Verse. Somewhere).

However, as a vocation, celibacy is not a throwaway of a relationship, which as you may have read in the title to be a juxtaposition, but it is a removal of a bond on earth with people, to a new relationship and bonding with God. As it is in a religious vocation, just as for the common person, you should not enter single life out of fear, but love. If you fear marriage and relationships as a whole, then it will be equally difficult to engage with God, they are, and must be similar interactions.

3. Thoughts, engagement and discussion about celibacy

My thoughts on celibacy, if you haven't picked up already, are quite positive, very much so. In fact, as a person feeling a call and discerning the priesthood, I must at the same time discern and try to engage with celibacy. Of course, I've had my worries, doubts and issues with the thought of, and engaging with it, I'd be concerned if I wasn't worried in some way. You may think, as most people would, the celibate way of life is a lot to grasp. And, you're right, so very right. For any Tom, Dick or Harry, thinking that you could be spending a large amount of time or your whole life as a single person is quite truly daunting, and single life can be a real struggle, here are some of the things others and I have faced:

Loneliness. Loneliness can be absolutely depressing, even at the best of times.

Envy. Yes, envy, when you choose to not engage but see some great people in great relationships it can be challenging to be around them and not feel like you're missing out, everyone gets it at some point, I'd be lying if I said I didn't.

Love. Indeed, it is a bit problematic that even though you may choose to discern and try to completely give your life to God and his service in the fashion of a single lifestyle, that doesn't stop you from fancying someone or falling in love. OK, all cards on the table, this is very much the same with marriage or long-term relationships (sorry), being quite frank, sometimes you may fancy someone when you're in either of these, too. When you're single, it is almost inevitable that immediately having made the decision to think about single life, someone very lovely may well just turn up on the spot, and you become great friends. A great struggle is maintaining that friendship and making sure it doesn't go anywhere further, it could hurt one or both of you.

Feeling that being single is not normal. I must admit, it can feel as though you are doing something very alien, some of my friends seem to think so anyway, which is then compounded by their attempts to take me out to a club or bar, find a lovely lady and one day fall in love with her, oh dear, de javu...
They are very keen to quote a saying from St. Augustine: 'Give me chastity and countenance... just not yet!'

 But here's something I've learnt while discerning this, and from receiving encouragement from some friends and mentors: you need to trust, a lot. You need to trust in God the same way in which you have faith in him and surrender to him. As with all things, giving something up is hard, companionship, I expect for most people, definitely is (we are humans, and we are made for each other after all). The surrendering part, in any aspect of life (particularly with life in God), is difficult, but we must. I was told that although there is something you're giving up, what you receive from God is exponentially larger, and I must admit, that there are noticeable differences in how I feel and what has happened to me by discerning and engaging with the single life; it has become succinctly positive, even coming to feel that along with priesthood or not, God may be calling me to be single. The way I interact with God, how I feel, pray, think and talk has changed dramatically, I wouldn't believe it if I saw it a year ago! The love for Him has increased, and the way I treat and love other people, friends, family and strangers is better, a great sense of relief, lightness and joy!

4. Some solutions to my problems and advice for those considering Single Life or Celibacy in other vocations.

Just as I had the struggles listed above, there were also solutions, thankfully! For loneliness, I've got to say, as well as Christ being an ever present companion, I have some great friends, priests and directors to talk about this with and get on with life! There must be a good part of acceptance of the loneliness in the single life, and an active use of the time spent with the availability one has as a single person. At times when I feel like i'm missing out, it's usually because I've forgotten the reason as to why I am discerning and trying to follow this way of living, the bigger picture and relationship with God must be the number one, and it is very true, this way of life is also a way of glorifying God, and serving him. At the times when there is a soft spot for someone, well, do your best, try not put yourselves in tough situations.

The hardest part which caused the greatest amount of worry about being single is that it is usually thought that it is weird and not OK, when actually, yes, it is OK, it's more than OK, in fact God takes pleasure in who you are, who you were made to be, and he calls people to do different things in life, and so, in a society where it's pretty much set by others how you're meant to get through life (as I described at the very beginning of this article; that everyone has to find someone); just stop. Take a moment and think... just wait... because, what if, bizarrely, this person that i'm meant to find and love with all my heart, to be my center, my 'life companion, joy and happiness' is Jesus?

If you feel called or interested in celibacy or a vocation that includes celibacy, do some research, think, pray and talk to your priest, friends, family or church leaders, these are all important groups of people to involve yourself with and help you.

If you liked this article or have any questions check out the other upcoming posts on my blog about discernment and vocations, or ask a question to Annie, or through her to me!

Thanks for reading,

Friday, 31 October 2014

Boo! It's Halloween!

                              (Everyone makes fun of Catholics until they need an exorcism...)

Halloween, its History and Why it's Important to Pray for the Dead.

It's that spooky time of the year again, where the fantasy of ghouls, ghosts and gargoyles comes alive... 

     Some of you may be celebrating this festivity by partying with a dark theme, carving pumpkins, apple-bobbing or watching a scary movie or two (as my humble student household did, and it's important to publicly note here that a certain house mate which swears he is un-scare-able didn't half-jump out of his skin whilst we watched 'The Rite'), and it's good that you do, too; it's important to keep this festival in mind... But why, and what's behind it all?

     Due to the vast secularisation of most religious holidays it seems that the meaning behind all of the dress-up has, well, disappeared. The holiday isn't quite about the celebration of witches or ghouls, but more about honouring the saints and  praying for the souls of those whom have recently departed.

     Halloween, All Hallows' Eve or All Saints' Eve is the vigil, the eve of the feast day of All Saints. A lot of the traditions which are carried out on this night, even in the secular environments, come from medieval superstition mixed into the Christian culture, for example Lighting bonfires came from the sentiment that the light would guide the souls, which are yet to reach heaven, on their way. The dressing-up side of this occasion came from a couple of  traditions: Churches used to display relics, which people could visit to see a tangible link to a saint and pray for intercession. The parishes which did not have relics would have children dress as the saints instead. A good reason for the 'guising' of monsters is to poke fun at evil, and to show courage against the devil. 

     The belief in the Communion of the Saints is what this feast day is all about, that we still have a connection with those that have died. As I sat in mass today the priest gave this great summary: 'Whenever people, particularly of religion, ask me: "why should we pray for those that have gone?" I'll just laugh'. 'Those that say that they love and ask that question are contradicting what the entire principle of what love is, love does not die, and those that are religious should know this sentiment and feeling, Although Jesus has gone up to heaven, we still feel his love, just because a friend of mine is a long distance away, does not mean I don't still think of them or say hello. Just as it is on-line, prayer can be like the social media pages, although we are not with someone we can poke a friend to get their attention or tweet them, prayer is a way of saying hello, too, and so such is the same when we honour and pray for the souls of the dead. That is why, if asked that question, I'll just laugh'.

So now you know! And do pray for those souls!

Have a safe night,

A much more detailed article:
Pope Francis on the Devil:

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Yet Another Black Mass...

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, America, on the 21st September 2014 there is to be a 'Black Mass'.

Some of you may know what it is, others; an idea of what it is and most of you: no idea whatsoever...

     If anyone has had the opportunity and misfortune of studying the liturgy (Latin or translated versions)  of the Black Mass as extensively as I have, you will, no doubt, also have knowledge of the strands of Non-/ Theistic Satanism, but for those that don't: allow me to explain briefly (very briefly, this stuff is extensive!) some back-story to the whole situation, what happens, the issues which arise from such events and the theology behind it all...

     The Satanic Black Mass, usually performed by theistic Satanists  (Meaning that the Devil or Satan, etc. is a dualistic, REAL power parallel to the Trinitarian God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to invoke him for fulfilment of intentions, just as the Catholic Mass is offered for various intentions to God. The Liturgy of this Black Mass is usually a polarised formula of what is known as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass or a Pre-Second Vatican Council version of the Mass. It is in Latin, and has references to Heaven, God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit removed and replaced with descriptions glorifying Hell and such like. Additionally, the Host (which is the wafer used in the Catholic Mass to be consecrated by a priest or bishop to be made the body of Christ) is somehow taken from a Catholic church, having been consecrated and made the Body of Christ and is abused in the Black Mass. 

     This is the most profane part of the event, a mass which has been constructed in sole purpose and intention to mock and ridicule a Faith and it's beliefs, manages to take what is believed by 1.2 Billion Catholics, and more if you are to include other Christians whom believe in the transubstantiation, (the aforementioned Body of Christ in the Host) in the world to be Christ in a Sacrament, a sign of his presence on Earth, and remove all dignity by irreverence through abuse to the Host. The abuses I write about are through releasing certain bodily  materials and other unmentionable things onto it. A further act is that in some Black Masses, there have been instances in which people have been kidnapped and forced to be used in a mass for the most heinous and unthinkable of things, as was the case in Italy a few years ago. It seems that cults over the last decade all over the world have been increasing, and as such, even if people join for fun or curiosity, the opportunity for these masses may also increase, and hopefully not increase other people being dragged into it.

     I fail to see how a civic centre and government institution can allow a surely fear-mongering mockery to take place, especially in a country which has been so heavily influenced and accumulated great progression through Christian involvement in politics. Sacrilege, even if only demonstrated as 'educational' is not free speech, is not an expression of free speech when it offends and takes what a vast percentage of the world population holds close to their heart to deface it.

     This event has already grabbed the attention of the Archbishop and Bishop of Oklahoma and Tulsa. They are urging people (and I ask too, for any of you too who can see the issue as a matter of principle) to pray, particularly the prayers of St. Michael and Pope Leo XIII. 

     The people's voice mattered and was heard when this had taken place in Harvard, and so the chance to voice against it again can happen, there is a petition on-line, which you may find here:

Thanks for taking the time to read, as always if there are questions you may have: feel free to ask and comment!


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Rosary Fumbling... A (Very) Brief Informational...

Attention!: This post contains Mariology (stuff about Mary, Jesus' mum) and other Catholic practices!

Attention (Part 2)!: Other questions that have been asked and are up for consideration; but didn't quite make this post:

1. 'If you were to mix God with AI technology what would happen, would it be something like SkyNet?' 

2. 'Do you get a wish if you get to heaven?'

3. 'If god is better than we are, how come we can think up unicorns but he can’t make them?

4. 'Same with mermaids.'

I've come to realise over the last couple of months with sharply increasing frequency that a certain, seemingly odd, pattern of beads is catching the attention of friends and 'randomers' as they walk by (hopefully not thinking I belong to something similar to 'The Boondock Saints' sort of crowd), sometimes prompting quite a few people to voice questions about 'the Rosary'. So, here's the answer to all those who have asked or have ever wondered, but on the internet...

     The general populace has often stopped me in my tracks (by which I mean hunting down a local pub for a pint... or many, or in the pub and halfway through consuming a pint... or many), to ask what the whole thing is about; quite oft in the fashion of...

'What's that?', 'What are you doing with it?'

Well, this is a rosary, a set of prayer beads and I am using them to help me pray... The rosary is what we categorise as a devotional prayer, an act in which we seek (in this devotion to Our Lady) to ask Mary to pray for us to God. The exact origin of the rosary is pretty obscure, but some church tradition depicts it originated from a vision from the Virgin Mary giving a rosary to St. Dominic. The Rosary is a good way of praying with a tangible object, a focus which also helps you keep count of where you are in the prayer!

Some Christians of the non-Catholic persuasion may also ask, having noticed them:
(This question can also be followed with a question on whether this classes as worshipping Mary instead of God, kind of a no-no, and a good question to ask!)

     Thankfully, no it's not a heresy! Christians may notice in the Creed that they state that they ascribe to believing in this thing called the 'Communion of Saints'. This is where people in heaven (saints) can still pray with and for people (no rest for the wicked, eh?); it is much the same as asking your friend to pray for you. This is the logic we apply when asking Mary to pray for us when using the rosary or in general.

     And so, one goes around the Rosary saying that famed Hail Mary prayer on little beads and Our Fathers on the big beads, thinking about events in Jesus' life which are either quite mysterious or have levels of mysteriousness about them... these events are, in fact, categorised with the wonderfully original name : The Mysteries.

     'But can't we just pray to Jesus and God directly?' I may hear forming in your mind... Absolutely, but this can be thought of as putting in a good word for you, giving them something to pray for when you need the extra support/ someone with the time to do it, or giving your prayer or the feeling you have to someone or something that can better articulate it, sometimes we ourselves don't quite know how to say everything perfectly or easily after all!

     Indeed, 'cool beans'...

*Hilarious end-of-post picture here*

If there are more or unresolved questions on various things that Catholics or other religions do, feel free to comment!


Friday, 4 July 2014

A Bit of Catching Up!

Reception into the Roman Catholic Church:

I thought I'd kick-start the blog with some exciting news which happened a little while ago and have not yet properly shared, so, let's come out of the religious closet...

     On the 8th June 2014 I was received into the RC Church at St Thomas' of Canterbury, Canterbury, and all round it was a great day. In fact here I am with my sponsor! (Pic left)

 This second picture is another parishioner received at the same time as me by the Vicar General of the diocese (I was, by far, the most under-dressed for this occasion... I'm a student, I guess I'm allowed).

     Having gone to confession the previous day I was all prepped to receive the Eucharist at mass, for which I was both most excited and equally anxious. But before the Eucharist was taken I was still to be confirmed...

     The Vicar General called my saint's name (St. Benedict of Nursia), and I walked, slightly trembling, knelt on a cushion and was anointed with the oil of chrism by a cross traced by his thumb on my forehead (a friend did remark it was quite similar to the Lion King... but nowhere near as damn cute:
     He said: 'Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit' followed by a hand on the face with the words 'the peace of the Lord be always with you', as custom of the prior tradition of lightly slapping a candidate for confirmation to remember to keep the Faith.

     This was then followed with gorging of doughnuts in the church hall and a Wetherspoons meal. In all, a great day...

In the words of the Vicar General: May the peace of the Lord be always with you,