by Susan J Pollard
A review by Katrina Brill, RSJ
“Celibacy is not for everyone. It frees you for love, for vulnerability, for surprise, for unanticipated friendships. It’s not an end in itself,” explains one of the 28 sisters, nuns, monks, brothers and priests who participated in Susan Pollard’s research into the experience of living the vow of celibate chastity.
Interweaving every chapter are the “real-life” experiences of the participants. This gives the impression of a dialogue between the participant voices and the content Susan Pollard draws from mythology, mysticism, philosophy, literature, Christian spirituality and analytical psychology. Looking at celibate chastity through the window of these different strands and of archetypical images makes this book different from other books I’ve read on chastity. While at times I was almost overwhelmed by the language of mythology and psychology, the author constantly lured me into encountering new insights in the experiences.
The underlying theme of Celibacy and Soul is that celibate chastity is an evolutionary process. The book itself is structured to reflect the transitional times of the “four movements” in the path to maturity. The author calls for a re-visioning of the vow of chastity as a journey of ongoing intimacy with God and with others, rather than of having virginity as an exclusive goal. With Diarmuid O’Murchu she suggests celibacy is a “vow of and for relatedness.” One participant put it this way: “My heart has been stretched, moulded and shaped and I became celibate. It has been a process of becoming celibate over the years. It is a process in which something happenedtome...Iguessitisa freedom to love.”
Susan Pollard is a Sister of St. Joseph living in Adelaide. She is a Jungian analyst trained in Zurich and practises in South Australia. She has lectured for 20 years on analytical psychology and religion. Her book came out of her own struggle to understand her commitment to celibate loving and a desire to hear others’ experience. She acknowledges that some survey participants were disenchanted but she chose to focus on those who find meaning and contentment in celibate chastity.
This book will have particular interest for women and men Religious. It may also have appeal for those who live a celibate life by choice or circumstance. I believe this book will be affirming and helpful for many striving to live celibate chastity meaningfully.
Celibacy and Soul
Exploring the Depths of Chastity
by Susan J. Pollard