Category Archives: Catholicism

I am Single and Catholic, and I Matter

womanalone

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.

womanalone

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.


  1. 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! 
  2. That pun was an accident. 
  3. 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. 
  4. That list took me probably twenty minutes to write. I’m still not sure I’m satisfied. Can you think of anyone I missed? 

My Thoughts for Pope Francis, Part Four: Cohabitation and Remarriage

synodmarriagefamily

synodmarriagefamily

Intro | Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

Aaaaaand I’m back. My commitment to NaBloPoMo seemed like the perfect way to continue this series without feeling bad for the (many) days between posts.

In the meantime, I have finally done some reading about the Synod. I have enough to say for an entirely separate post! I’m so glad I waited until it was over before I read anything, though. I maintain that in the Catholic Church, we do nothing quickly, so we generally get it right the first time.

On to the next section!

Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations

(This one explains itself.)

Is cohabitation ad experimentum a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage?

[The “ad experimentum” part means “as an experiment,” i.e. couples who are living together because they’re “trying out” being married, not couples that live together because they are married.]

Yes. I used to assist with marriage preparation in the pseudo-parish where I worked. Cohabiting couples accounted for 9 out of the 10 I prepared. The tenth couple lived in separate cities, three hours apart. It happens, even among Catholics, and it is not addressed consistently.

Do unions which are not recognized either religiously or civilly exist? Are reliable statistics available?

This question confuses me. The kind of union described would cover most cohabitors. Whenever I discuss cohabitation, someone inevitably brings up common-law marriage. That’s a joke. Most states don’t recognize any kind of common-law marriage. The few that do require you to have decided to present yourselves as married beginning from a specific date. Essentially, everyone would think you are married, but you’d never have had a ceremony or gotten a license.

That’s not the situation most people envision when they think “common-law marriage,” and it’s not cohabitation. Cohabitors might be a little uncomfortable about not being married, but they don’t tell people that they are married. Most of them seem to be totally up-front about it. They seem to have just decided that things once reserved for marriage (like sharing a home and having a sexual relationship) shouldn’t be reserved for marriage anymore.

Are separated couples and those divorced and remarried a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage? How do you deal with this situation in appropriate pastoral programs?

Yes. Divorce and remarriage is particularly common and complicated. CatholicMatch has a post that does a great job of describing both sides of the coin without making anyone sound like a fool. In general, it’s hard to talk about this without stoking anger, raising emotions, and sounding heartless, but I’ll try.

Sometimes marriages end. Both partners have to want to stay in order to make it work, so when one doesn’t, the other gets left out in the cold. However, unless it can be determined (in exhaustive detail, over a significant period of time, by multiple witnesses and multiple diocesan tribunals) that there was something missing on the wedding day, they made their decision. We have to hold them to it. The integrity of the institution and Sacrament of Marriage depends on it.

People who are remarried outside the Church have already shown their willingness to flout a sacrament. They demonstrate that they no longer care about going to the Church for marriage. If they wanted to respect that sacrament, they would have petitioned for annulment. Many people do that every single year (which is horrifying in and of itself). Thus, why should we expect them to respect the Sacrament of Holy Communion? That would be like telling a lie in confession so that you could get absolution, knowing that the absolution makes you properly disposed to receive the Eucharist. You can’t flout one sacrament and still get another.

Annulments are difficult. So is divorce. So is a second marriage, if marriage in general is hard. Being a Christian is hard. Getting out of hell is impossible.

In all the above cases, how do the baptized live in this irregular situation? Are [they] aware of it? Are they simply indifferent? Do they feel marginalized or suffer from the impossibility of receiving the sacraments?

I think many baptized people who are cohabitors or divorced and remarried just don’t care, even those who attend Mass weekly. They know they aren’t following the Church’s teachings, but it seems as though no one is. Why be good when sinning is so easy and so much fun?

Many such people (especially the cohabitors) don’t “suffer from the impossibility of receiving the sacraments” because they still receive (particularly the Eucharist). Keeping up appearances by receiving the Eucharist is more important that respecting the sacrament and avoiding further sin. If the cohabitors keep a second address, then it must not be that bad. The divorced and remarried person is so much happier in the new marriage and has such beautiful children who love Jesus, so it can’t be all bad. Wrong.

Regularizing these situations (by getting a marriage or an annulment) is seen as expensive, difficult, and really not necessary. Even cohabitors can be married by the pope in St. Peter’s Basilica. When we don’t even talk about these problems, we do everyone a disservice.

What questions do divorced and remarried people pose to the Church concerning the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation? Among those persons who find themselves in these situations, how many ask for these sacraments?

I don’t have personal experience here, but I think many such people would rather pretend as though nothing is wrong. As a general rule, far more people receive the Eucharist every week than seek Reconciliation even every month. The cohabitors just fail to mention that they live together, and the divorced and remarried just stay quiet about their exes. There’s no asking for sacraments; there’s just assuming they’re for everyone. We don’t card, after all (and we shouldn’t).

Could a simplification of canonical practice in recognizing a declaration of nullity of the marriage bond provide a positive contribution to solving the problems of the persons involved? If yes, what form would it take?

It might. I don’t think enough people (in any situation) know much about the actual process of petitioning for a declaration of nullity. They only know the rumors: it’s complicated, it takes a long time, it’s expensive. Those are all true of divorce.

I know an unusual amount about annulment for a never-married layperson. Short of not requiring the court of second instance, I don’t know what could be simplified. A shorter petition would shortchange the tribunal in getting a full picture of the marriage. Reducing the number of witnesses required would lessen corroboration of the story of the marriage. Consolidating grounds could confuse the former spouse’s true state on the day of the wedding.

The people I know who have actually received annulments before remarrying all speak about the freedom and peace they found. Why would we want to give them less of that?

Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases? Describe this pastoral ministry. Do such programs exist on the national and diocesan levels? How is God’s mercy proclaimed to separated couples and those divorced and remarried, and how does the Church put into practice her support for them in their journey of faith?

Declaring the nullity of marriages is more commonly discussed, and ministries are growing. I am not a recognized field advocate anymore, but I do what I can to squash the rumors.

In Austin, the diocese has hosted workshops to assist with the writing of the petition. People who attend these workshops can see they that are not alone, receive assistance in a difficult task, and find spiritual support for the emotions and grief often involved in unpacking a failed marriage. That’s the best ministry for the divorced I’ve ever heard of.


What about you? Do you think divorced and remarried people should be able to receive the Eucharist? Should cohabitors be able to receive? What kind of support can we provide for people that encourages them to grow in holiness and seek the mercy of God? Pope Francis asked for your opinion, too!

Behold the Face of God with a Pure Heart (Review: “Bought with a Price”)

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boughtwithaprice_acnm

Much has been said regarding the celebrity nude photo leak involving Jennifer Lawrence, among others. Lawrence partly explained having such photos at all by saying her long-distance boyfriend would either look at porn or look at her.

Wrong. No one should look at pornography. Reflecting on Lawrence’s statement and reading a post by Bishop Paul S. Loverde at First Things, I mentally traveled back to good and not-so-good times.

In my search for ammunition against pornography and the ruin it brings to so many people’s lives, I encountered Bishop Loverde’s pastoral letter for the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, “Bought with a Price” (también disponible en español en forma PDF como “Comprados a gran precio”). At the time, my Catholic world wasn’t much larger than my campus ministry. Finding such wisdom in the next diocese over was a thrill! Eight years later, this incredible letter has been revised, illustrated, and reissued.

Read the rest at Austin CNM.

Not Alone Series: Why I Don’t Have Sex

notaloneseries

notaloneseries

Well! This link-up is clearly the place that will encourage me to write about topics I have never covered here at Lindsay Loves. My tagline does start with “Jesus,” though, and I review books about chastity and sexuality over at Austin CNM all the time, so I suppose it was time to get really real.

Our culture is obsessed with sex. With anyone! At any time! If you want to, just do it! But the Church teaches that sex was created for the context of marriage. Why do you choose to abstain? Why aren’t you going around having sex with just anyone? How would you encourage others to do the same? How do you remain strong when everything in our culture is encouraging you to abandon your convictions?

The first commitment to abstinence I ever remember making was during my Confirmation prep year: ninth grade. I wrote in my journal for class that I wanted to stay a virgin until I graduated from high school.

Yep. Mission accomplished.

Conveniently, it was during my first semester of college that I started opening up my heart to God, and by the spring of that year, I was in for life. I made my first official pledge of abstinence until marriage (using wording I found at Ignite Your Faith, the youth branch of Christianity Today, and then another from Lifeteen). I always keep my promises, so God reached out to draw me in right when I could have gone so far astray.

As I wrote in my post about modesty, I believe in modest behavior and speech. Suffice it to say that I was not Miss Chastity USA when I was in high school. I knew I wanted to wait until marriage to have sex, though. I knew it would be difficult, but what truly good thing is ever really easy?

The simple reason I don’t have sex is that I’m not married.
I believe sex is meant for marriage. My choice has the added benefit of helping me avoid unwanted pregnancy, random STI’s, and being used for sex, but those are just temporal benefits. The spiritual benefits far outweigh those.

On the spiritual side, I know that my choice to practice abstinence is a mark of respect to those around me: the other single people who are abstinent, the married couples that waited, and even the married couples who are abstaining temporarily (for whatever reason). It shows that I practice what I preach. I do as I say. My abstinence is in recognition of the ultimate union of body and soul: the Church with her groom, Jesus Christ. Vowed celibates are a foreshadowing of that relationship, and we’ll all get to experience that union in heaven. How we live it out here on Earth varies person by person. For me, for now, I wait.

I stay strong by surrounding myself with support. My friends are mostly my age and mostly churchgoing Catholics, so even if they’re not 100% on board with 100% abstinence outside of marriage, they support me in my decision. I pray for the grace to remain true to The Truth about sex and marriage, and I pray for forgiveness when I fail (and I do fail; I’m not a saint…yet).

Mostly, I have hope. I believe that, if I don’t get married, I will still be able to remain abstinent. It will not be easy, but it will be right. I’ll take “right” over “easy” any day.


Thanks to Jen and Morgan for hosting! Check out other responses on their blogs.

My Thoughts for Pope Francis, Part Three: Marriage and Family Spirituality

synodmarriagefamily

synodmarriagefamily

Intro | Part One | Part Two | Part Three

See? I really don’t give up on things I care about, even if it takes me over two weeks to get back to them.

Most of the news I’ve heard about the Synod has been upsetting. I knew it would be, so I’ve tried to sit tight until an official document is released. Besides, this synod is just preparation for the next synod is 2015. This is like the exam review session; finals aren’t until tomorrow, so to speak.

Cardinal Wuerl gave me hope again, though. I’m still subscribed to his e-letters from the Archdiocese of Washington, my home diocese. (I wish we had something similar in Austin.) Cardinal Wuerl sent one out today reflecting on what is actually happening inside the Synod. He’s there. He sits right next to Pope Francis. He even speaks Latin. Cardinal Wuerl knows what’s what.

His letter was so gracious and clear that you should read the whole thing, but here’s the key quotation:

It was pointed out that, in addition to teaching, the Church has to approach marriages today, particularly for those people who were married, divorced and/or remarried, with a sense of healing and find a way to bring people to experience the love and mercy of God.

Here it was pointed out that mercy is not opposed to truth but follows on it. In fact mercy flows from the truth. It is the truth that brings freedom.

Yes. Pray for the work of the Synod. In the meantime, let’s get back to the questions being raised for discussion in those meetings right now.

The Pastoral Care of the Family in Evangelization

What experiences have emerged in recent decades regarding marriage preparation? What efforts are there to stimulate the task of evangelization of the couple and of the family? How can an awareness of the family as the “domestic Church” be promoted?

Longer periods of research-based marriage preparation seem to be working. I used to direct RCIA; when I tried to explain that job responsibility to my mom, she asked if that was “the classes she and Dad had to take so they could get married.” They got married in 1982, but my dad didn’t become a Catholic until 2005, so I’m pretty sure she was talking about a marriage prep program rather than RCIA. Her ability to mix up those very different programs is not a great testament to the curricula of the 80’s, but from what I saw in my own marriage prep work (for other couples, not for myself!), there has been much improvement.

Marriage prep is still seen by many as red tape, but those couples are cutting through it anyway. In particular, Catholic/Catholic couples and Catholic brides with non-Catholic grooms have the bride’s support, however weak, to complete the preparation. Those meetings, classes, and retreats could be teachable moments. I used them that way, but I was already an outlier as a layperson, let alone one with an education degree.

I believed in the work I was doing, and I did my best to get some buy-in from the couples I prepared, but I am not married to any of them. The couples themselves have to realize the gravity of their decision and actions. For the family to be a domestic Church, there must be involvement of the spouses in the larger church. You can’t bring home what you don’t get outside of the home. Despite my best efforts and those of others working in marriage prep, too many couples see a Catholic wedding as more of a pretty celebration than a life-changing sacrament and a Catholic marriage as nothing special.

How successful have you been in proposing a manner of praying within the family which can withstand life’s complexities and today’s culture?

I haven’t done any “prayer proposals” in my family because I am not married and have never been, so I don’t have a family of my own. My family of birth is no longer practicing the faith. The only prayers we’ve ever said are before Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. When my dad was in RCIA, he led prayer. When I’m home, I lead. Everyone else awkwardly joins in, and it’s just for show… but I guess it’s better than nothing.

In the current generational crisis, how have Christian families been able to fulfill their vocation of transmitting the faith?

Parish and Catholic school religious education programs take the place of many domestic churches. Designated teachers outside of the family are seen as the ones primarily responsible for teaching religion. Parent involvement is largely only by requirement. These parents see faith the same way they see like math: send the children to school, expect that they will learn it there from those teachers, and never put in any effort at home beyond helping with homework.

In what way have the local Churches and movements on family spirituality been able to create ways of acting which are exemplary?

I wasn’t involved myself, but I know that Couples for Christ and its affiliated groups (Singles for Christ, CFC Youth, and Kids for Christ) are almost the standard for Filipino Catholics. At least that was true for many of the Filipino Catholics I know. I don’t personally know any others that have been particularly strong concerning family spirituality.

What specific contribution can couples and families make to spreading a credible and holistic idea of the couple and the Christian family today?

If parents seek to live out the Church’s teachings as best and honestly as they can, then their children will follow. This is especially true of fathers, who are supposed to be the spiritual heads of their families. Mom will drag the children kicking and screaming to church, but if Dad doesn’t go, church doesn’t seem important. It seems less important than football. If Mom and Dad don’t go to Confession, how can we wonder why the kids don’t want to go? My Catholic friends don’t cohabit and they go to church, so I am encouraged. Iron sharpens iron.

What pastoral care has the Church provided in supporting couples in formation and couples in crisis situations?

Care for couples in crisis seems to be good and improving. The problem is that there is little for couples who are NOT in crisis. Marriage preparation has grown exponentially and seems to be helping. Ongoing support for married couples is almost nonexistent. One of my friends here in Austin just released an advertisement for a local, one-day, low-cost couple enrichment session. That’s a solid start, but it’s an outlier. Parishes would do well to offer ongoing support to couples who are thriving, just surviving, or on the brink of crisis. Prevention is going to be the key.


That’s the third section! As a single woman, I don’t have much to contribute from my own experience. It hasn’t been long since I was a diocese-approved marriage packet filer, though, so I know way more about marriage than any never-married layperson ought to.

How about you? Do you feel like you were prepared well for marriage? What are you looking for in a couple or family enrichment effort in your parish? Pope Francis asked for your opinion, too!

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