Thousands of women in as many as 42 countries have joined the Catholic Order of Virgins. We spoke to some to find out what it’s like to be married to God.
The bride’s name was Emily Byers. Her groom? God.
It might sound strange enough that Byers, then 25 years old, walked down the aisle when her husband-to-be was nowhere to be seen. But that wasn’t the only difference between the Lafayette schoolteacher’s wedding and that of an ordinary bride. Five years on, Byers still hasn’t consummated her marriage. She’s made a vow to stay a virgin—for life.
Officially known as consecrated virgins, Byers joined an estimated 3,000 Catholic women in 42 countries who’ve publicly pledged lifelong virginity to God. They’re not nuns, exactly, but the decision is taken as seriously as choosing to enter a nunnery. In the UK alone, there are 200 consecrated women, according to the National Office of Vocation. And the figure could still be higher, since the most recent records were compiled in 2008 and 2013, respectively.
In an era where sex (and sexual fulfilment) can be a Tinder hookup away, shunning it seems like an extreme—even unviable—lifestyle choice. Not to mention that celibacy doesn’t have the sexiest image. It’s little wonder that Byers’ friends and family were initially confused by her decision when she first revealed it.