Item description for The Unwilling Celibates: A Spirituality for Single Adults by Jean Sheridan...
Overview Whether you are a willing (by choice) or unwilling (not by choice) celibate, you'll find plenty of inspiration and direction in this unique book. As the subtitle states, this a very helpful, encouraging presentation of "A Spirituality for Single Adults." In this book, author Jean Sheridan addresses the needs, benign neglect, hurtful attitudes, and aloneness that single adults experience, and provides an appealing blend of reflections, means, and methods for spiritual growth to meet these situations. She weaves together ideas and insights into a pattern from which you can draw applications to your own life. The key to developing a personal focus for life, the author suggests, is genuine spirituality, grounded in community, prayer, and conscious reflective living. You'll find here an accessible step-by-step approach which re-visions traditional spiritual practices for a modern audience. Chapters cover such topics as: making friends with silence and solitude, a spirituality of home, stability in commitments, discipline in daily life, and commitment to prayer. Addressed especially to single adults seeking to grow spiritually in unique ways, "The Unwilling Celibates" is a welcome guide for anyone who takes seriously their spiritual journey.
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A guide toward practicing an intentional single life May 24, 2001
In “The Unwilling Celibates,” Jean Sheridan explores how to make peace with the reality of being single, when singlehood occurs not by choice but rather by circumstance. She shares how she has learned to live life as an intentionally focused individual, offering Jesus’ own life as an example of reflective living. Sheridan invites single adults to take a “bold step” and embrace a lifestyle she calls “focused living,” a way of living that encourages and develops spiritual depth, personal effectiveness, and social consciousness. The practices and values she encourages include self-reflection, a commitment to deep prayer, participation in intentional community, friendship with silence and solitude, proper balance in work, the study of sacred and spiritual resources, a preferential option for the poor, reverence for one’s body, home as a sacred place, hospitality as a way of life, stability in relationships, and disciplines in daily living, all of which culminate in the creation of a personal “rule.”
According to Sheridan, our institutions and our culture reinforce the idea that singlehood is a “limbo” state in between or on the path toward the “legitimate” state of marriage. The church typically addresses the genuine need of single people for meaningful community merely by providing social settings for singles in which to gather. “For the unwilling celibate, community is often missing. Sadly, it is what we need most. Standing at the margins of the ‘official’ church, the single adult envies those who appear to have community: the married, the ordained, the professed religious—and he or she wonders how to get there.”
“Our church does not offer us a hand,” Sheridan writes. “Sure, we can get involved in all sorts of committee and ministry work, which many of us do. But no one ministers to us; we are left to our own devices. The antidote for isolation and all of its many entrapments, of course, is community, but only community of a special kind. Families, friendships, and workplace relationships all constitute community and they support us in their unique ways, but what the single person needs is a community that promotes growth to wholeness by developing a heightened awareness of the spiritual aspect of everyday life.....
Most beneficial in Sheridan’s exploration of the spiritual single life is her suggestion for participating in what she refers to as “intentional community,” as opposed to the larger “accidental” communities to which we already belong: our workplaces, civic and political organizations, educational institutions, and even the church itself. According to Sheridan, an intentional community is “one in which I and other like-minded people overtly expressed our mutual commitment to one another in a conscious and deliberate way.” An intentional Christian community is consistently committed to a high degree of mutuality in their relationships; pursues an informed critical awareness of and an active engagement within the cultural, political, and economic megasystems of their society; cultivates and sustains a network of lively connections with other persons, communities, and movements of similar purpose; and attends faithfully to the Christian character of their community’s life. Sheridan insists that a central focus of intentional community must be social justice.
In addition, Sheridan offers a rich bibliography of resources. She suggests Albert Nolan’s “Jesus Before Christianity” as an example of living with and among, not apart from, human society, particularly the poor. Dick Westley’s “Redemptive Intimacy: A New Perspective for the Journey to Adult Faith” is a valuable resource in participating in intentional community. Parker Palmer’s “To Know As We Are Known: A Spirituality of Education” also proved to be another insightful discovery, as well as the writings of Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen. Sheridan also draws on the writings of other single Catholics struggling with their spirituality, including Dag Hammarskjold’s “Markings” and Dorothy Day’s “The Long Loneliness,” the source for the title of Sheridan’s book. To this list I would add Mary Beth Rogers’ “Cold Anger,” another excellent resource for intentional community and public relationship-building.