Caroline B. Piercy’s mother was a frequent visitor to a Shaker Community, back in the 19th Century. There she learnt many of the recipes in her daughter’s The Shaker Cook Book. But what attracted people to these celibate communities, and what kept them there? An interesting question a semi-detached member of a L’Arche community.
I would rule out celibacy as an over-riding motive for joining a community: many L’Arche members do remain celibate, but like many couples Mrs T and I met at L’Arche more than 40 years ago. We feel part of the family even though our lives are lived largely outside the community.
We come closer to answering our question when we read how, ‘These devout Shakers love one another as brothers and sisters. They have withdrawn from the world in order to establish villages where the Golden Rule is the one law by which they live. When their many tasks are completed, daily they gather at their meetings where they dance before the Lord for pure joy and gratitude for the countless good gifts He has bestowed upon His children and, also, in order to drive away any wrong thoughts or desires which may come to them.’
A good session of dancing might do more good than a couple of hours slumped in front of the television, but could the shakers have schooled my toes into something approaching co-ordination? Somehow I very much doubt it.
Celibacy, voluntary or involuntary, lifelong or temporary, enables a person to be available to others and to God, their Creator, in ways that married people cannot always manage. Rightly, the spouse puts their other half and their family above other obligations, and may have to say ‘no’ to interesting opportunities. That is one way to make the earth holy. Cheerfully accepted and faithfully lived celibacy gives different freedoms and different crosses, and it too makes the world holy by living out the Golden Rule.
Let’s thank the Lord for the contribution of faithful brothers and sisters living the celibate way in community or as singles, and pray that they may be happy and fruitful in their way of life, their following of Jesus’ footsteps.