Father James Martin is a bestselling author and award-winning culture editor of America magazine. The 50-year-old Pennsylvania native has developed an impressive stature, appearing on “The Colbert Report,” “The O’Reilly Factor,” and CNN. Heck, he even commanded a Wikipedia page.
Father Martin’s latest book, The Jesuit Guide To (Almost) Everything, published in March 2010, was a New York Times bestseller and still ranks high on Amazon. Its ninth chapter addresses celibacy and chastity. Here’s a brief excerpt:
“The insights of religoius chastity can help you even if you’re not a Catholic priest or in a religoius order – namely, as a reminder that there are ways other than sex by which you can give and receive love.
…Religious chastity means that you love people outside the context of a romantic relationship. And, if you think about it, that covers most people in your own life. If you’re single, widowed, or divorced, it covers everyone. [If you're married], it covers all but one person. So the insights of chaste love are more relevant to your life than you might at first think.”
Father Martin proceeds to offer six ways to love chastely, based on the wisdom of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who preached that love shows itself more in deeds than words. Here’s an abridged account:
1. Listen compassionately. “Compassionate listening is an important way of making someone feel respected and loved. …Listening in joyful times is important too.”
2. Be present. “As Jesuit novices, when we were working as hospital chaplains we were taught that a “ministry of presence” – simply being with another person – is an important part of pastoral care.”
3. Do something practical. “Here’s a good question to ask: What active ways of chaste loving can be part of my life? How about: Help your elderly mother clean her house. Drive a sick friend to the hospital. Babysit for a stressed young couple. Take a friend out to dinner even if it’s not her birthday or a special event. Writer a letter to someone whom you know is lonely…”
4. Love freely. “One of the hardest parts of love is this: allowing the other to love you as he or she can, not as you want to be loved. …Accepting others as they are means not only trusting in their love, but respecting how they choose to love.”
5. Forgive. “Forgiveness releases the other from the trap of guilt and can also help to release you from your own anger. It is never easy, but in the end it is an act of love that heals both the forgiver and the forgiven.”
6. Pray. “Ask God to help those you love. Ask God to be close to them. Most of all, ask God to allow you to see others the way God does.”
Such chaste ways of loving can help those who are not in a committed relationship and who fear they might not be able to live a loving life recognize that the ycan lead lives of love and intimacy. While their actions are not sexual, they can be among the most powerful signs of love that one can give.
Also, for those who feel trapped in relationships that seem to be only about sex, these insights about chastity remind us that love is much fuller than simply sexual intercourse, as wonderful as that is. …”
What do you think about loving chastely? How have you loved chastely?