Originally posted in The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo
When I became a teacher, I learned the hard way that my private life and public life didn’t really exist. There was just, my life. And all of it was for public consumption. My students didn’t really care that I could have a professional life and personal life. They asked me whatever question they could think of. And those that I didn’t answer, they just filled in with rumors.
The two questions I get asked most often is, “Why did you want to become a teacher?” and “Why are you still single?” The first I’ve answered many times but the second… well, that one is a little bit tricky. Because it’s a lot more personal than the first. And because it also pops out in the most unusual circumstances and the answers I give draw the most hilarious reactions. Once, a student asked me that question. And I started explaining how being single was an active choice I’d made and how there were many advantages to being single. To which, my student replied: “But, miss, when you grow old…you’ll be like that old lady…with the cats…lots of cats…” How can anyone think of a smart comeback for that?
These days, however, I’ve gotten a little better at answering that question. Because a year ago (March 25, 2010 to be exact), I made a vow in front of family and friends, in a simple ceremony in a chapel, that I was going to remain a virgin for the rest of my life.
Now, the normal reaction I get is: “You did what?!!” These days telling people that you want to remain celibate for the rest of your life is more shocking than admitting you’re an unwed mother or a homosexual. But to actually say that you’ve chosen single blessedness as a way of life simply because you’ve fallen in love with God and think that this is the life you’re called to, draw people to question your sanity and your motives. They automatically think you’ve been heart broken and sworn off men. Or they think your standards are too high. Or that you just haven’t met “the one.”
Strange. People can profess to be in love with a fictional vampire or a movie star or a rock star. They can weep and faint at concerts and scream at the top of their lungs when they meet their favorite celebrity. But they can’t seem to grasp how anyone can fall in love with God. They seem to forget that people have been falling in love with God for as long as humans have been alive. And that God can actually be “the One.”
I don’t resent my students (or anyone else for that matter) for asking me their questions. I’d ask myself those questions if I were in their shoes. After all, we all live in a world where profession (what one does for a living) takes precedence over vocation (what God is calling one to be), where pleasure trumps sacrifice and where romance upstages true love.
But in my long search to discover what it was that my heart truly desired and what it was that made me genuinely happy, I found out that every human being was called to a life of love—whether that love could be found in marriage, the priesthood and the religious life, or single life—was something that the individual had to think hard about and pray much about. And I found out, too, that the search was in itself a prayer. And the ability to answer, a miracle.