When I was in formation, I remember when my novice director came home from a conference and said to me, “We need to talk more about sex.” She meant this in the way it sounds, but more so in a broader context including healthy sexuality and intimacy. One really helpful conversation centered around different types of intimacy (I probably still have the handout somewhere). What she gave me (and what I’ll paste below) outlined twelve different types of intimacy. Consecrated religious can be intimate in eleven out of the twelve ways.
- Sexual Intimacy: Sharing passion and physical pleasuring
- Emotional Intimacy: Being tuned to each other’s wavelength
- Intellectual Intimacy: Closeness in the world of ideas
- Aesthetic Intimacy: Sharing experience of beauty
- Creative Intimacy: Sharing in acts of creating together
- Recreational Intimacy: Relating in experiences of fun and play
- Work Intimacy: Closeness of sharing common tasks
- Crisis Intimacy: Closeness in coping with problems and pain
- Conflict Intimacy: Facing and struggling with differences
- Commitment Intimacy: Mutually derived from common self-interest
- Spiritual Intimacy: Unity shared in religious expression
- Communication Intimacy: Mutual understanding and affirmation
*Note: I’m not sure of the origins of this list. It is easily found on multiple online sites.
Intimacy is important in any vocation. It requires time and sharing and vulnerability. Know that if you are discerning a religious vocation, intimate friendships are a necessity. They take work. They keep us whole. They keep us in touch with our own life and struggles and joys as well as those of the world around us. Religious life is not a place to hide for those who might feel uncomfortable in relationship. To live religious life well demands that we relate deeply with a wide array of people; that we can be honest and vulnerable with ourselves and others even and especially when it is less than comfortable; that we are intentional about being intimate. Intimacy is connection, unity, affirmation, understanding, closeness, sharing, relating. We all need intimacy.