Being single and Catholic is pretty much my whole life, so it should be no surprise that I’ve got opinions to share. One of the other Not Alone Series ladies posted a link to an article about being single and Catholic from Aleteia. In fact, it’s titled “Single and Catholic.” I found much to agree with, but I also disagreed with some critical points. Hang on, everyone, this is going to get intense. I even used footnotes!
I agree with the author, David Mills, that I’m tired of hearing about how hard it is to be married. I understand that it is hard. I still want it. I also heartily agree that we need to call married couples to rise above. When I was at confession two Saturdays ago, a married couple and their adorable baby were in line behind me. As we moved down the convenient line of benches, they pushed that stroller right along with us. God bless them for putting in the effort and getting results! Being a Christian is hard, married or not. Married couples do not have a monopoly on Christian hardship.
But I’m also tired of hearing about how single people get left out of everything. I have never been married (and I haven’t even dated in a while), but I don’t try to make people cater to me. I cater to myself. I insert myself all over the church.
For example, I’m a lector. You don’t have to be married or a parent to do that. You just have to show up early for Mass, preferably properly dressed and prepared to proclaim. I actually find it pretty easy to lector as a single lady. It happens during Mass, it doesn’t take long, and I have no kids to mind.1
I have also joined parish Bible study groups. The first was at a different parish and specifically aimed at families. We met as a large group for intro/review, and then the kids, pre-teens, and teens left to watch the DVDs produced for their age groups. I stayed with the grown-ups to watch the adult version. I might have wished that I had a giant diamond ring on my finger like the moms all did (it’s a wealthy part of town), but I never felt singled out.2 I just felt like one of the grown-ups. In my current parish, I joined an adult summer Bible study. I think I brought the average age down by about a decade, but I had plenty to contribute. Both Bible studies were incredible. They enriched my faith, and I felt like I belonged.
Mills quotes Katrina Fernandez as being too fill-in-the-blank for her parish groups: “too old for Young Adult Ministries, too divorced for Married Ministries, too employed to meet during the day for Mommy Groups.” Is there no women’s group at her parish? Surely she couldn’t be too female for that! No devotions held around Sunday or weekday evening Mass? No coffee and donuts? I can’t help but think that there is a community and a service opportunity for her that she just hasn’t found yet, at her parish or another. I hope she finds it.
(For the record, not all YA groups are for twenty-somethings. I belong to one that is 18-39 in theory and reality. You can come and go from week to week. As long we get to our favorite bar-staurant before they start carding for the night, we’re all together. There’s no age limit for prayer.)
Most of the “single life” discussions miss an important point. There is a difference between “single” and “never married.” If you have ever been married, even if you are now free to marry3 and have no children, you are permanently different. Not worse, but different. I’m a black Catholic; “different” is okay.
When, I wonder, will people stop lumping together:
- never-married adults without kids (like me),
- never-married parents raising children alone,
- never-married parents raising children together (which is more and more common),
- divorced, free-to-marry people without kids,
- divorced, not free-to-marry parents with custody,
- divorced, not free-to-marry parents without custody,
- widowed young adults without kids,
- widowed older adults without kids,
- widowed parents of young children, and
- widowed parents of adult children?
They are not the same. Is it such a stretch to think they might have different pastoral needs?4
One huge problem with the ignoring and “ghetto-izing” of singles is that there has never been a period in history where there are so many unmarried adults (particularly without children) living outside their parents’ homes. The Church isn’t managing us well because she has never had to before. Programs, groups, and homilies are still mainly directed at married people and families. History is partly to blame. Based on research, most people will get married at some point. Based on the people in the pews, many people in churches are married. It’s only recently that marriages are happening later in life, sometimes not happening at all (with or without children), and frequently not lasting until death. The Church hasn’t had a lot of time to respond, so her responses are infrequent and sometimes inadequate.
There is slow growth happening, though. Here in Austin, a priest raised by a single mom recently gave a retreat specifically for single parents. I thought that was awesome, and it would probably make Fernandez and Mills happy, too. I have no idea how it turned out, but at least offering it was a step in the right direction.
There are so many issues involved with being single. The Not Alone Series was founded specifically to form a Catholic blog community with a focus on single women’s issues.
I refuse to let my marital status isolate me. I matter.
- I wish I had someone to put my offering envelope in the basket, though. The ushers hit the first row so quickly that sometimes I haven’t made it back from the ambo yet! ↩
- That pun was an accident. ↩
- I prefer to call people “free to marry” or “not free to marry” rather than “single” or “divorced.” You can be not-currently-married but not free to marry, divorced and free to marry due to annulment, or calling yourself “single” even though you’ve been divorced (whether or not you’re free to marry). My terms cover all that. ↩
- That list took me probably twenty minutes to write. I’m still not sure I’m satisfied. Can you think of anyone I missed? ↩