A Single Voice

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It’s time.

Soon the Extraordinary Synod will begin in
Rome. The Catholic Church, very wisely, is concerned about the attacks on the family. The family needs sound pastoral advice, encouragement, and most importantly, prayers.  In short the family needs the Church’s help; but there’s another group within the Catholic Church that also needs encouragement, advice, and especially prayers- single adults, both those who have been married previously and those who have not.

According to the 2010 census, within the general population single adults actually outnumber married adults in the US population.  Many of these singles are divorced; most have never been married (https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/ facts_for_features_special_editions/cb11-ff19.html).  Anastasia Northrop, founder of the National Catholic Singles Conference, states that, “there are more than 27 million single Catholics in the United States, which is a record number.”  Ms. Northrop’s information, in turn, is taken from a Pew Research poll.  She also notes that, ” ‘Certainly, many singles could be called ‘young adults,’ but there are many in their 30s, 40s and older who are part of the Church, but often feel there is no place for them or that everything is centered on families.’ ” (http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/no-reason-to-fear-the-s-word-single).

It is reasonable to believe that God calls the majority of people to the married state.  The latest battle in the war on the family can be seen in the huge number of people now living outside of the nuclear family.  Many in the church seem to be cognizant of the high divorce rate yet at the same time are unaware of the low marriage rate.  This latest attack on the family, the low number of people entering marriage, is very subtle and insidious by nature.  We’re dealing with a kind of preemptive strike, one in which the family is eliminated by preventing it from forming in the first place.

The spiritual difficulties and injuries encountered by unmarried Catholics should not be taken lightly.  Many Catholics sadly have gotten caught up in a culture which regularly engages in cohabitation and contraception.  It is erroneous to believe, however, that all single Catholics are no different in their values and practices than  any other single American.  There are numerous singles who practice their faith, assent to the Church’s doctrines and moral teachings, and who do their best to live a life worthy of a Catholic Christian.

For those single Catholics who do remain faithful, and often hidden, the road they are on can be a lonely and forgotten path.  Since faith is fragile, even among the most devout, many feel the impact on their relationship with God or with the Church or both.

Marriage is important for the Church and for society.  Those who are called to the married state need help starting their vocation as well as living it for the duration of their lives.  While all the members of the Church have a responsibility to pray for more priestly and religious vocations, one should also consider that the Mystical Body of Christ has the same responsibility to assist those who are called to marriage, particularly those who are trying to get there the right way.

While many in the Church feel at a loss as to how to help the single members, outreach does not have to be complicated or time consuming.  Mentioning single people in the General Intercessions at Mass, especially those who cannot find a suitable spouse, would be appreciated by more than a few singles.  A little encouragement would really go a long way.  Singles themselves need to find their voice, be humble enough to admit that help is needed, and express gratitude on those occasions in which Mother Church actually does remember her single children.

Trying to fulfill ones vocation to marriage these days, while following the teachings of the Church, can be discouraging at times.  When we hear prayers for the family, including prayers for the upcoming World Meeting of Families, why not say a prayer for any single person you might know?  This can include those who are walking the narrow road and for those who have lost their way.

Believe me, it’s time.

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18 thoughts on “A Single Voice

  1. Thank you for this article. It is true, I would love to be married, but to find someone with the same values as me and in my age range is very difficult, I haven’t given up but I agree, a prayer in the prayers of the faithful for the singles and also invite them over for a cuppa too. Get’s very lonely indeed and almost despairing.

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  2. I think the talk of attacks against the family hides the fact that one of the major factors in recent decades has not been moral or sexual, but rather economic and technological. As industry has changed, the old “Catholic ghetto” communities broken up as young people and families move away to get new employment. Likewise, changes in jobs (remember that Catholics were historically overrepresented in old industries) meant that a new generation spent far more time in college and advanced studies – especially while waiting for new positions to open up in many fields – rather than being able to build up finances from Day One. You then have these islands of families in parishes who aren’t connected to each other and various single outliers in a different “place” than tradition expects them to be in. And, since the nuclear families (already feeling under threat by societal, and yes sexual and moral, changes) are pulling together rather than reaching out, the conventional webs of subculture where a young single would become enmeshed does not exist in such suburban or new urban parishes.

    We younger singles especially are in odd places in life: we’re often more traditionally devout that our parents due to being more countercultural in our faith, we’ve lost many friends and chances at dating due to our chastity and morality, and we don’t have a place in a parish community most often made up of nodes of couples and nuclear families – all too often, ignorance of our lives breeds the assumption that we’re behaving like the singles they see on TV! And changes in economics means that men like myself aren’t in the financial place where we feel comfortable dating a woman when the expectation is to that we need to the sole breadwinner (having been raised in the generation of dual-incomes and the SAHD option, with many of us choosing fields that pay frankly lousy). Women likewise are dealing with growing up in conflicting messages of feminism & traditionalism and are in a place where they’re actually doing better economically and socially than their male peers – it’s mixed up enough in the secular world, without the traditional elements of Catholic subculture traditionalism confusing us all and making us second-guess how to talk to anyone.

    That said, I *like* the conservative elements of our counterculture. The problem is that the dearth of community and pastoral support means that we don’t know how to navigate so many nuances that would lead to finding a spouse. That’s where the issue of “preparation” comes into play, in realizing from Day One that singles are part of the community and should be treated as such. I sometimes fear that we’re this weird fulcrum generation that’s going to be passed over, not because of God’s will for our singleness, but because we’re in a bad place and time and the free will of so many have bad consequences that we’ve stumbled into. I hope that commenting on the issue might give some of us a chance to be accepted into the community in time. But, for those of us who’ve come from broken places, we might have to just hope that the next batch of young Catholics grows up into better conditions and a more community-minded Church.

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  3. It is refreshing to hear someone make deeply astute observations and commentary on such a widespread and yet undeservedly ignored problem. It is necessary for us to speak out and create a stirring dialogue that can raise the volume on this issue which NEEDS to be openly addressed. I think the LGBTQ voice in society as a has currently developed a louder more insistent voice than the much wider ranging populace of Catholic Singles. THAT is tragic. THANK YOU Catherine for speaking out. Lets turn up the volume!

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    1. Now that is something that I would like to see..Personally, I believe that LGBT’s have Jobs, Money and Political Influence..right now they OWN The Democratic Party and The White House:( I think it would be great if Single Catholics could start screaming!

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      1. Hi Ed. I too have come to the conclusion that single Catholics, collectively speaking, need to do a better job of speaking up to the Church. Of course, voicing our needs to the Church should be done in a manner that is polite and respectful. It also needs to be done more frequently and consistently.

        It’s interesting you mention LGBT. I’ve also concluded that the Church needs great improvement in the way singles are incorporated into the life of the parish (right now we’re really not incorporated into it at all). I say this because of the reality of our time. For example, there actually are gay Catholics who do choose to walk the narrow road and practice celibacy, and I have great respect and admiration for these people. There are also more and more heterosexuals who simply cannot find a spouse without compromising on morality, which, in effect, turns these people into celibates as well. Whatever the circumstances, there is an increasing number of people in the Catholic Church who do not, or cannot, get married. The questions remain for this segment of the lay faithful: How do they fit into a Church that revolves exclusively around family? What value does the Church assigned to these members and their contributions to the life of the parish?

        If we are ever to see improvements in the way the Church responds to single Catholics, we really do need to find our voice. Again, speaking up needs to be done in a way that is respectful and charitable, but it needs to be done. Failure to present our needs to the Church has been a large part of this problem.

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      2. They get more attention in the Church than singles too. In fact neither political party in Australia or America pays any attention to the needs of one person households. It’s all about families be they conventional or unconventional, they don’t care about the singles.

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  4. Thanks for bringing up that just because a Catholic is still single doesn’t mean they are “unfaithful” to Christ’s teachings. Many single Catholics are trying to do the right thing and wait for a suitable marriage partner, but that doesn’t mean they always meet one!

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  5. The synod has come and passed and single Catholics didn’t even blimp on the bishops radar! How disappointing. It should have been called the synod divorce and remarriage. Nothing to save the family was accomplished.

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    1. I had great hopes but they were dashed as I learned more about “The meeting of families & Synod” We need a revolution…where do we start? Right here..every time there is a posting on some Catholic site about “Families” post something about Singles! All these “Movers & Shakers” need to get their well planned “Canned speeches” jostled a bit..for they are “Married” and have NO clue! IF the Church wants Catholics & Christians to find each other they MUST change…No longer can they count on that we all just “Magically” find each other!

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  6. Respectfully I say the Synod has to be for the singles who are not priests or nuns and are annulled with no children. Why? Because these groups (Priests, Nuns, Divorced, Gay, Lesbian) already get a LOAD more attention than one person household singles. We really are abandoned. We are dumped into a charity case too hard basket as we don’t fit their mould. Hence a Synod of the Unmarried is needed. They need to look at practical and spritual needs. Sorry for the non Catholics here, but here’s a list I suggest for Synod from a Catholic perspective however other Christians can adapt this for their singles too as they are treated just as bad in other denominations as nearly all churches are about families, not individuals.

    1. Get all priests to offer Masses for this intention of the one person households in a traditional Catholic way.

    2. Get perpetual Adoration going for one person households/single never marrieds

    3. Catholic small groups that are mixed but age appropriate with at least 2 singles in each of them so there isn’t just one single with a bunch of marrieds

    4. Sponsor up to two retreats a year for singles like Mt Carmel, Benedictine Abbey, Tyburn convent, Poor Clares or a Catholic singles type conference, this way they will feel valued and included

    5. Reduce family centric masses and focus on being more Blessed Sacrament centred so it is more reverent to Jesus and less of a circus to entertain families with kids

    6. Have a regular prayer of the faithful for the singles not in a charity case way but as a validating sacramental way to hold them in the esteem that families and priests and nuns get

    7. Have a synod of the Singles in Rome and look at also having a blessing like they do for Mothers, Fathers, Priests and Nuns, have one for the single person too and make in an official church blessing

    8. Have a Catholic centric census that asks specifically unmarried people their needs including if they are on their own in the area with no family /relatives nearby and see if they need anything when sick or other needs like maintenance etc

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