Our online pro-life group started a discussion over the weekend on “soulmates”. It took several interesting turns, and many participated, but I don’t know that we completely addressed the gist of the OP’s question:
The popular saying goes: may nakalaang tao ang Diyos para sa iyo (in the romantic sense). In other words, soul mate. Question: is there anything in Christian doctrine that supports this?
There are actually three questions being asked here.
1) Did God plan for a special someone for you, in the romantic sense?
2) OP: “In other words”, soulmate?
3) Is there anything in Christian doctrine that supports this?
I will not address the first question in this blog post because I think it deserves its own post, but I’d like to address the concept of “soulmate”.
Soulmate, wikipedia tells us, is “a person with whom one has a feeling of deep or natural affinity, similarity, love, sex, intimacy, sexuality, spirituality, or compatibility.” Urban Dictionary provides us with several user-submitted definitions. The Marriage section at About.com offers several fascinating, albeit strange, ideas. And XKCD, one of my daughter’s favorite humor sites, debunks the whole concept mathematically. (ETA: Oh, and there’s a really funny video that explains the whole thing “musically”, if you would prefer that.)
The term is obviously prone to a number of interpretations, as seven people in our close circle came up with seven different answers:
When I think of soulmate, I automatically zero in on the word “soul”, and knowing what the Church teaches on marriage, I have no problem thinking of my spouse as my main soulmate. However, I also recognize the presence of several souls, past and present, in my life, who have helped/are helping me in my faith journey, and so I cannot completely discount the fact that we make our way to heaven not just with the help of one person, but many persons, including the saints, who continue to be part of the Church even after they’ve left this earth. The people at XKCD, of course, do not share this view.
But OP asked, “Is there anything in Christian doctrine that supports this?” The answer is YES, and because the question of soulmate takes on greater importance for people who are either still searching for a life partner or are considering settling down, I thought it would be helpful to put together a brief compilation of what the Church has to say about this.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
1643 “Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter – appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values.” (boldface mine)
That comes directly from Blessed JPII’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, where this specific quote begins beautifully with
Like each of the seven sacraments, so also marriage is a real symbol of the event of salvation, but in its own way. “The spouses participate in it as spouses, together, as a couple, so that the first and immediate effect of marriage (res et sacramentum) is not supernatural grace itself, but the Christian conjugal bond, a typically Christian communion of two persons because it represents the mystery of Christ’s incarnation and the mystery of His covenant. The content of participation in Christ’s life is also specific:
In Familiaris Consortio JPII speaks several times about the soul and this union of souls in marriage; I highly recommend reading the whole thing. There are two sentences that move me particularly:
As an incarnate spirit, that is a soul which expresses itself in a body and a body informed by an immortal spirit, man is called to love in his unified totality. Love includes the human body, and the body is made a sharer in spiritual love.
On human sexuality and the use of NFP:
In this way sexuality is respected and promoted in its truly and fully human dimension, and is never “used” as an “object” that, by breaking the personal unity of soul and body, strikes at God’s creation itself at the level of the deepest interaction of nature and person.
In his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI speaks of love and the problem of language:
Let us first of all bring to mind the vast semantic range of the word “love”: we speak of love of country, love of one’s profession, love between friends, love of work, love between parents and children, love between family members, love of neighbour and love of God. Amid this multiplicity of meanings, however, one in particular stands out: love between man and woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness. This would seem to be the very epitome of love; all other kinds of love immediately seem to fade in comparison. So we need to ask: are all these forms of love basically one, so that love, in its many and varied manifestations, is ultimately a single reality, or are we merely using the same word to designate totally different realities? (boldface mine)
And this! This is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the unity between spouses, bodies and souls:
This is due first and foremost to the fact that man is a being made up of body and soul. Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united; the challenge of eros can be said to be truly overcome when this unification is achieved. Should he aspire to be pure spirit and to reject the flesh as pertaining to his animal nature alone, then spirit and body would both lose their dignity. On the other hand, should he deny the spirit and consider matter, the body, as the only reality, he would likewise lose his greatness. The epicure Gassendi used to offer Descartes the humorous greeting: “O Soul!” And Descartes would reply: “O Flesh!”. Yet it is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves. Only when both dimensions are truly united, does man attain his full stature. Only thus is love —eros—able to mature and attain its authentic grandeur. (boldface mine)
It is good to reflect on the profundity of that statement and on how it emphasizes the sacredness of the marriage bond. Even if a soul could “love” another soul, such love can only ever be an un-whole love, since fidelity in marriage demands that the WHOLE person, BOTH body and soul, love ONLY ONE.
And then of course, there’s Pope Pius XI’s Casti Connubii:
By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies, and that not by any passing affection of sense of spirit, but by a deliberate and firm act of the will; and from this union of souls by God’s decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises. Hence the nature of this contract, which is proper and peculiar to it alone, makes it entirely different both from the union of animals entered into by the blind instinct of nature alone in which neither reason nor free will plays a part, and also from the haphazard unions of men, which are far removed from all true and honorable unions of will and enjoy none of the rights of family life. (boldface mine)
And so while we do not find the exact term “soulmate” in Catholic teaching, we are taught nonetheless that in the Sacrament of Matrimony there is a knitting of souls, a joining, a uniting. I am therefore compelled to conclude that there *is* such a thing as a Catholic concept of soulmate, different though it is from what the secular world assumes it to be. I realize this is not very helpful to one who is still searching, as this joining of souls happens in the Sacrament itself.
Thankfully, Jason and Crystalina Evert of chastity.com, took this concept and developed it into a book, which might be helpful for some. Now I have not read the book, and I have no idea if they even address the Catholic-ness of “soulmate” within it, so I’ll leave it up to readers to figure that out. Here’s the accompanying study guide for Crystalina’s book How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul.
And since we’re talking about souls and soulmates, I’ll end with this song that my hubby says is his song for me 🙂 .