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Posted November 16, 2012

Taken from The Charism of Priestly Celibacy

(already cited on our website)

A Reflection on where intimacy ultimately can be found

The fictional Father Kennedy's recognition of what he calls a "small and unsurrenderable core" that belongs only to God is pivotal. This is of course true of all persons, married or not. In fact, the mistake one can make is to assume that human intimacy of any strife can meet that deepest need. It is a temptation for the celibate to assume that the yearning for intimacy he feels is necessarily a sign that he is called to marriage; this may indeed the case, but a more careful discernment is required. For many married folks experience this same yearning and can easily and sometimes wrongly assume this is a need that is not being met by their marriage; in fact, it isn't because it can't. As the Camaldolese writer Aelred Squire observed so shrewdly,

"A good deal of frustration in human relationships results from a failure to recognize that there is an inescapable element of solitude in every human life, which not even marriage or the most intimate of friendships can evade. That is, indeed, something which each person must respect in themselves and in others as the most precious thing of all about them. It is something that cannot be given away, for in its ultimate depths there must be an aspect of every human soul which is virginal towards God. Most of the more terrible kinds of human unhappiness arise from a refusal to recognize this fact or the desire to evade it. It is the real root of each person's individual dignity, however, and the true source from which his greatest joy will flow, when the love of this unique love becomes fruitful at the level of his being which is accessible only to God. The Virgin Mary of God is thus seen as the type and ideal of what each soul is meant to be, and not just those who are formally consecrated to virginity."

In some ways he is only expatiating on the Augustinian insight that our hearts are restless until they rest in God by whom and for whom we are made, but this important truth needs to be made very clear both to those preparing for marriage and to those preparing for celibate priesthood, for the same reason: the mistake of thinking a human relationship, and human intimacy (or for one already married, a different human relationship, a new human intimacy), can meet our deepest needs and desires.