Emily Stimpson, the author of The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years will be speaking at the National Catholic Singles Conference in Philadelphia this year. The CatholicMatch Institute spoke with Emily about expectations for the conference, the joys of being a Catholic, and the release of her upcoming book: These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body.
You have a new book coming out! What is it about?
I do. It’s called These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body. As for what it’s about, well, it’s almost easier to say what it’s not about. It’s not about sex. Most people, when they hear “theology of the body” think straight away about the bedroom. Which makes sense. After all, the theology of the body has lots of beautiful and powerful things to say about marriage and sexual intimacy.
But the theology of the body is about so much more than sex. It’s a meditation on what it means to be a human person, made in the image of God, so it also has beautiful and powerful implications for all the sundry bits of life outside the bedroom: working and praying, eating and dressing, cleaning and even web surfing. In some ways, the theology of the body is liked Hooked on Phonics for the sacramental worldview. It helps us learn to read—to understand—God, the world, and ourselves rightly. In other words, it teaches us how to see reality with the eyes of the Church as opposed to the eyes of culture. These Beautiful Bones is a conversation about that—about how we live and love in all the ordinary moments of life and learn to more perfectly image Christ through it all.
What is the best dating advice you’ve ever received?
To see things as they are, not as I hope or fear they might be and not as I think they should be. It’s so easy to let our wounds, imagination, or the cultural script about romance and dating color how we see a person and our relationship with them. But that’s not fair to the person we’re dating and it’s not fair to us. Every dating relationship is unique and the more you see it for what it is, the wiser choices you’ll make and the happier you’ll be.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to find the place where all the beauty came from.” That’s what the Catholic Faith has given me. It’s answered that longing. It’s shown me where the beauty comes from. It’s shown me truth. It’s show me how to see the world and God, how to live, how to make sense of every moment and everything. It’s the greatest gift I’ve been given.
In what ways are you joyfully living out your faith until the time when you can fulfill your vocation to marriage?
Well, for me there’s really no “until” about it. I’m striving to live my faith now as a daughter, a sister, a godmother, a friend, and a writer. If I ever get married, I’ll do the same, only “wife” will be added to the list. I don’t think it’s healthy to live life waiting for “later.” I don’t know what “later” will bring. I just know that God wants me to strive everyday to know him and serve him better. And he presents me with new ways and opportunities to do that all the time.
Living a joyful life is, in large measure, about taking advantage of those opportunities—to serve, sacrifice, learn, travel, play, and, yes, suffer—as they come. It’s about about never saying “No” to God. And I think that holds true regardless of whether one is married or single. Of course, the more you work on doing that as a single person, the easier it will be to do once you’re married.
You are a busy person. How to you keep a healthy balance of faith, work and social activities?
Well, I don’t always. There are definitely days where I’m like, “Woman, you seriously wrote a book about theology of the body in everyday life? Go re-read it.” But more days than not I manage to keep a pretty decent balance. I think that’s because I know what matters most to me, what I need most to be happy—the Mass, plus time to just sit with Jesus, talk with friends, exercise, eat good food and enjoy something beautiful. I then try to make sure there’s time for all (or at least most) of those things everyday. Life is so short, and it can end in an instant. Whenever mine ends, I don’t want to look back on it and realize I spent the best parts of it staring at a computer panicking about a deadline or fretting about what some stranger called me on the blog.
I’ve also learned to ask for help. The older I get, the more convinced I am that it takes at least two to run a life. Since I haven’t found a full-time second person to help me run mine, I just cast a wider net, hiring help for some things (like mowing the lawn) and trading food for help for most others (for example, my friend Dave is a great plumber). Thankfully, I’ve found my friends will do just about anything for a home-cooked dinner. Their generosity keeps me sane.
How did you hear of the National Catholic Singles Conference?
I met Anastasia Northrop, the founder and organizer, seven years ago at a theology of the body conference in Austria. We hit it off and became friends, so I’ve watched the conference develop through her.
Have you attended in the past?
I haven’t. This will be my first time there.
What do you hope to get out of the experience?
Well, I’m really looking forward to hearing Father Thomas Loya again. He’s been my favorite speaker on the theology of the body for years. He sees the world with such clarity, and always has some new insight to share. Beyond that, I’m excited to catch up with old friends who will be there.
Can we get a sneak peak of what you will be speaking about?
I’ll be talking to the women about what the Church’s tradition and the theology of the body have to say about the feminine vocation and spiritual motherhood. I know, I know, a lot of women reading this are rolling their eyes right now. The words “spiritual motherhood” seem to have that effect on some. Too often, it comes off sounding like a consolation prize. “Sorry, you don’t have the spouse and children you want right now, but don’t worry, you can be a spiritual mother.” I know that’s what I thought for a long time whenever I heard the phrase. But the more I read and studied, the more I realized that spiritual motherhood isn’t a secondary call. It’s the call. It’s the great task of every woman, and, in many ways, the fate of our culture hinges on our ability to carry out that task. So, I’ll be talking about why that is and looking at some practical ways we can exercise spiritual motherhood in the workplace, among our friends and family, and in our communities.
What would you say to other single Catholics that are thinking of going, but need some encouragement?
To start with, don’t think of it as a “Hunting Down a Spouse Conference” or a “Desperate, Lonely Single People Conference.” Because, really, who wants to go to one of those? Seriously, I know it’s tempting to think of it that way—the whole idea of a singles conference raises that spectre—but if we give into that temptation, we’re failing to see the conference for what it really is. And that is a chance for Catholics of all ages and backgrounds to hear talks that will challenge them in their faith and help them live as Catholics in the culture. It’s also a chance to hang out with some pretty terrific people in Pennsylvania’s second greatest city (Pittsburgh being the greatest, of course).