james martin on falling in love while being in a religious order

the last thought that really stuck out to me in james martin’s on being interview was a thought about falling in love while being in a religious order (note from james: “So there are monastic orders, which would be cloister and living in monasteries. But [jesuits are a] more — religious order is kind of the broader term.”

MS. TIPPETT: But anyway, so that when you were becoming a Jesuit, someone said to me, one of your teachers or mentors said, “You will fall in love,” right? “You’re taking this vow of celibacy, but you will fall in love.” And you said you did fall in love. [laughs] And I think that that’s — I think that’s important for people to hear, to humanize this way of life that you’ve chosen. And that many other people of great integrity have chosen across time.

FR. MARTIN: Yeah, I also think it’s important for people to hear. I think — when you enter the religious order, you don’t check your sexuality at the door. You fall in love. And my novice director said, “And if people don’t fall in love with you, something’s wrong because you’re living a loving life, and we’re human beings.” And actually, I was horrified. I thought, “Oh, my gosh, what if I fall in love?” Not that love is a bad thing, but this would be terrible. And I did. I fell in love in a very deep way, and I had to make a decision.

My spiritual director at the time, which was really helpful and human and real — and I’ve had this experience with people coming to me — said to me, “OK, you fell in love, and it’s beautiful. And someone fell in love with you, and that’s beautiful too. And now you have to make a choice. Do you continue with this way of life, which is about chastity, and loving people freely and deeply, but not exclusively” — that’s how we say it, not just one person — “or do you choose to leave and continue this relationship with this person?”

So I chose to stay after looking back on my life and seeing how happy I was as someone who was living in chastity. So I thought it was really important to put that in the book. Because it’s true, first of all. It was an experience of discernment. But it’s also, as you say, kind of dispels these notions that people don’t fall in love. I mean, and it happens to married people.

MS. TIPPETT: Right, right.

FR. MARTIN: To people who are already in a committed relationship. And it’s kind of the same thing. It’s — OK, now what do you do? Now you’re given a choice. What do you do? It was a gift to me in the end. I mean, it was very turbulent, obviously. But it was a gift to me because it was beautiful to fall in love and have someone fall in love with you. But it was also a gift of discernment, and it also helps me understand people.

i debated becoming a monk or joining an order between 2008 and 2010. i decided not to because i really didn’t think i could handle giving up sex. but i also really wanted to know and give love to a person in an intimate way.

hearing this thought from james is the first time i’ve heard anyone in any sort of order discuss falling in love. and his belief that it’s a beautiful thing to know you are loved and feel what it is to romantically love someone and then choose to forgo (sp?) it in order to love more broadly… it just makes so much sense.

when i was doing my exploration, i had heard something similar to this but it was with much less depth. the question posed back then was “do you want to dedicate you love to your partner (and eventually the family you may grow) or to all people in your life equally?” but getting to experience that 1on1 love and then choosing not to dedicate yourself to it… it just makes being in an order seem so much more possible.

james martin really makes me want to be a jesuit. i’m not so sure i’m ready or will ever be ready to stomach the amount of jesus-speak and churchins/churchiness that exists in much of the christian world, but some of the fundamental beliefs and practices i’m still so into.


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