I missed the first episode of BBC2's The Covent, but I've watched the second and third and found them both challenging and moving. The bit in last night's episode which really got me was the clip of Sister Aelred talking with her pupil Iona about the challenges of the celibate life, and then speaking directly to camera on her own (video clip here).
Sister Aelred became a nun at 18. Aged 31, she fell in love with someone who had come to work within the enclosure. She spoke about how hard it was to cope with and the understanding she came to later about why God had allowed her to go through this ordeal:
"The choice then began to mean something. You can't vow celibacy from the chin upwards..."
I'm totally with her on that. When I became a Christian, aged 18, I took on celibacy as part of my faith, but my resolve wasn't really tested until I fell for someone hook, line and sinker in my mid-twenties (I'm now 31).
It wasn't that I ever got into a situation with this guy where I almost went to bed with him, but the strength of my feelings for him - and his confusion at finding someone who welcomed his attentions but wouldn't sleep with him - made for a painful couple of years. You can't help who you fall for, and if they seem to reciprocate, it's incredibly tough keeping your distance.
I'm not saying that celibacy has no value if it's untested, but having mine put to the test has certainly reaffirmed my decision to remain celibate outside of marriage (and also not to even date non-Christians). I just love that quote - it sums up things up brilliantly. Sister Aelred, you are one astute lady!
Convent of the Poor Clares, Arundel
Poor Clares 'The Covent' mini-site
Glandscape Hardening: The Celibate FAQ - "A light-hearted survey of perspectives, links, books on sexual abstinence from a secular perspective."