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.