Testifying to the Truth

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Recently a reader posted a question asking what singles expect Church  to do for them as well as questioning the Church’s ability to minister to single Catholics when she has her hands full with the problems afflicting the world today.  (See comments to Words Unspoken post)  The following is a revised response to that question:

A question that occasionally comes up when the topic of single Catholics is raised has to do with priorities.  Some would say that the Church is too busy addressing the many moral evils in today’s society to be concerned with single people.  This line of thinking, however, prevents the Church from seizing a great opportunity. Assisting singles who are called to marriage is actually a practical way of addressing some of the moral issues that the Church is dealing with.

The Forgotten Children

Ultimately, I’d like to see Mother Church spend the same amount of time on her single children as she does on her married ones.  I’ve seen the Church put great effort into helping married couples stay married, something which is quite admirable on the Church’s part. These days, however, just getting to the altar has become a herculean feat.   A very wonderful and faithful priest once told a friend of mine that she needed “to find her husband at the altar” meaning she needed to find a man who lived his faith fully. While I think this is sensible spiritual advice, it’s hard to accomplish this when so few singles practice their faith in the first place.  And it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of single Catholics out there, somewhere, in society.  According to Michael O’Loughlin, in his analysis of a Pew Research Center study, married people only make up 52% of the Catholic Church in the U.S. (http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/05/12/pew-survey-percentage-of-us-catholics-drops-and-catholicism-is-losing-members-faster-than-any-denomination/). Although unmarried Catholics now make up almost half of the Church’s membership, few of them show up for Mass on Sundays, and there seems to be no concern on the Church’s part that they aren’t there.

I think singles ministry can be a very practical idea for drawing singles back to the Church and, for many people, catechizing them in the faith for the first time. For those dioceses which feel that this, or any other kind of outreach, is not feasible in the near future, prayers, encouragement, and spiritual advice could still be given for those of us who do practice our faith. Cardinal Dolan’s suggestion on prayers for more marriage vocations is an easy way to help singles who are called to marriage. ( http://www.foryourmarriage.org/cardinal-dolan-sees-new-urgency-around-marriage/.)  I’ve heard many a homily on the topic of marriage including encouragement for married couples to continue living their vocation, reminders on the importance of bringing children to Mass, etc.  How hard would it be to encourage singles to continue the pursuit of their vocation and reminders that we actually are morally obligated to get ourselves to Mass on certain days?

It would also help for the Church to consider that many single Catholics can no longer be categorized as “young” adults.  It may be tempting to continue to push the age limit of the young adult ministry further and further back, thus using the young adult model as a kind of catch-all.  In the end, though, this really is not fair to those Catholics who actually are young as well as to those who are shut out as a result of no longer meeting the age requirement.

Finding a Moral Witness Among Single Catholics

Because there is much moral demise within our society, we need a multitude of the lay members of the Church to testify to the sanctity of marriage by being living examples. We need men and women who get married, stay married, and remain open to life. It’s hard to do this, however, when people remain single on into their 40’s, 50’s and beyond, a problem which afflicts more and more Catholics each year. Sometimes it seems as if many of the people marrying young in the Church are the folks who are living together, using contraception, marrying outside the Church, etc., while those who follow the Church’s teachings are unable to establish a family.  Secular society looks at this phenomenon and sees further “evidence” that the Church’s teachings are outdated. It gives the appearance that in order to be part of a family, an individual first needs to disregard the Church’s teachings.  I obviously don’t believe that conclusion myself, but I know it must look that way to many outside observers.  At a time in which we are supposed to be evangelizing the culture around us, the New Evangelization is being undermined by the fact that more and more Catholics are not living out their vocations.

Why should the Church take an interest in single Catholics?  Ultimately, helping singles who are called to marriage, whether they are young, old, or in between,  is an important aspect of counteracting the culture of death.  It is a practical and concrete way of showing the world that marriage and family, when lived out in accord with the Gospel, are essential and beneficial to society.  In the end, it’s a matter of practicing what we’re preaching.

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29 thoughts on “Testifying to the Truth

  1. Catherine,

    Thank you for inviting me to read your blog:)

    Looks like you have put a lot of thought into this!:)

    I’ve bookmarked your site so I can easily get back to it!

    Thanks again,

    Cordially,

    Ed Murray

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    1. Thank you Ed, and thanks Larry for the links to these articles. Just an fyi to any of my readers, the next couple of weeks at work are going to be unusually busy for me. If I don’t approve anyone’s comments right away, please don’t be offended. At this time of year, I may only be able to check in on this blog on the weekends, and even that may be questionable. Feel free to post comments, but please practice the virtue of patience at this time 🙂

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      1. Thanks Ed. I don’t usually read the magazine America. The Jesuits tend to be rather liberal in their Catholicism and I’m very orthodox in my beliefs. I skimmed the article, and I’m glad to see someone is at least noticing the large number of single Catholics and the fact that we are usually overlooked. Thanks again. Hope you and my other readers had a great Christmas and New Years!

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  2. You seem to only to be calling to the “not yet married”, not actual single Catholics.

    What about helping the single who can’t marry? Since I have been called to never have a child (by choice), this means I cannot marry in the Church. And while there are plenty of blessings for parents, grandparents, etc during mass, no one ever blesses the single.

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    1. Dirge, who says you can’t marry? I’m 59 so I think children are a pipe dream for me. Does that mean that I can’t marry. NOPE I don’t think so!:)

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      1. I cannot marry because I am not open to children, which is a requirement to marry in the church. I’m 40, so women in my age range possibly can still have children. I supposed in about ten years or so I can profess to be open to children without it it being an actual possibility.

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    2. Hi Dirge,
      I appreciate the distinction you are making between those who are single by choice versus single by circumstance. I think that’s what you mean by “actual single Catholics”- those who are choosing to be single.

      You’re right. I am largely focused on single Catholics who are called to marriage. However, more and more, both groups have a lot of the same spiritual needs. Many of the singles who are trying to marry do so much later in life or not at all (again, not by choice but because of the circumstances in society and in the Church). In effect many of these singles end up being “actual singles”. Even for those who do marry, many singles wonder what their role is in the Church in the meantime. When all of the blessings, as you mentioned, seem to go to those who are in a family, singles can feel that they are not valued as members of the Church. It seems as if all singles, whether willingly or unwillingly so, are largely unnoticed by the Church. This is strange, to say the least, because the latest research I’ve seen shows that singles now make up almost half of the membership of the Church in the U.S. This is according to a Pew Research study from May of 2015.

      There is something positive I’ve seen recently in my diocese. They’ve begun having special Masses to honor/bless Catholics who work in different professions. There’s one for the lawyers, the medical professionals, the police/fire fighters/emt’s. They haven’t had one yet for my particular profession, but I’m hoping they’ll get to that soon. This is just one example of the Church recognizing a person’s contributions without regard to state in life. And if they insist on pointing out people’s state in life, the Church really ought to begin ackowleding the other half of their members who are currently not married.

      So basically, though my focus is on those singles who are called to marriage, I too would like to see Mother Church tend to the spiritual needs of singles in general.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sorry if my comment sounded snippy, but I get a little defensive at the idea that everyone’s eventual goal is marriage. I do feel the church does seem rather unfocused on anyone not seeking a traditional family.

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      2. Dirge,

        I will pray for you….I wouldn’t let anyone tell me that I couldn’t marry because I do not want children! Look at it this way….Priests and Nuns take vows of celibacy…one of the ideas here is that they can be there for all of us IF they didn’t have a family..you know with children? Now if it is OK for them not to, then who the heck are they to say anything about that to folks who aren’t even married yet????

        Don’t put yourself down, please…

        Just because some old fogies decide for you doesn’t mean a hill of beans….

        I think God decides…

        And sometimes, “Mother Church” does make mistakes….

        God Bless you!:)

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      3. Hi Ed,
        I appreciate your compassion for all of us singles. In this instance, however, Dirge actually is correct.

        The Church teaches that marriage has two purposes: the unity of the spouses and the procreation of children. If a person can’t have children due to something like infertility or being older in age, then marriage is possible. However, to marry with the intention of deliberately preventing children would actually invalidate the marriage in the Catholic Church. In fact, I have a friend whose marriage was annulled for that very reason.

        The Church doesn’t teach that everyone has to have children. They do teach, however, that if you marry you need to be open to life. Priests and nuns do not have children because they are not entering into the Sacrament of Marriage. The unitive and procreative aspects of marriage are basically a package deal. If you want one, you have to take the other.

        Although the Church can err in matters of discipline (laws governing the days of fast and abstinence from meat for example) or in its pastoral decisions (such as not being mindful of its single members), this kind of teaching on marriage and children is doctrine. This means it comes from God Himself. It comes under the heading of “faith and morals” as in “The Pope is infallible on faith and morals”.

        I hope this helps to clarify what I think Dirge was getting at.

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      4. I assume that Dirge has not taken any vows to be a consecrated single. As I understand it, that’s the only “single vocation” that the Church recognizes using its odd definition of “vocation” to mean a vowed state such as marriage, the priesthood or consecrated brothers or nuns.

        It’s one thing to say “I don’t ever want to have children, therefore I cannot ever be married in the Church.” Or any other reason for saying “I don’t ever want to get married.” But it’s not a vowed state and one is always perfectly free to change their mind if the right person came along. I think all of us here are wondering if that will ever happen, and are trying to be OK if it doesn’t.

        Dirge doesn’t really deserve any special support simply because he/she currently has the opinion that he/she does. I don’t say that to be mean, but it really is just an opinion that can be changed at any time, for any reason.

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      5. Larry, you might be right that I don’t deserve any special support because I made a certain choice. I could then argue that the married and parental deserve no special support for the choices they have made. Just because I chose an option that allows for flexibility does not mean I deserve any less support.

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  3. I think Dirge is being too hard on herself!

    I never really thought very much about children, then again, I didn’t need to because I was never, ever close to having to really consider them.

    A lot of people say things like “I don’t want to get married or I don’t want to have kids” It’s so common that there is a tv ad currently running…

    It doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t…what it does mean that “at this moment in time” well, nothing ever stays the same especially decisions that we make often change when circustances change!:)

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    1. Actually a guy…..

      I spent a lot of years never wanting to get married. I definitely never want kids. As I get older, the loneliness is getting hard to deal with. So I started to consider getting back in the game. But knowing that if I do, I would have to be open to children, I’m stuck not really having an option.

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      1. Dirge, as you move into our age bracket, you might someday want to consider marriage to a woman who is past her child-bearing years and eligible to marry in the church. (I am told that such women exist, although I’ve never met one. The church would not prevent such a marriage.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Actually Larry, that was my plan. But the most conservative interpretation of the church rules some believe think that if I do wait for the sole reason of preventing kids, no marriage would ever really be valid because I was never actually open to children. I don’t prescribe to this belief, but it is out there.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Very interesting article. As a 35 yo single male, believe it or not, it is a little difficult finding a woman who is willing to adhere to the traditional values. I’ve had 2 dates over the last month and both were catholic but thought it was a joke that people don’t wait for things (do the math) until after marriage. And there is a huge pool of singles in DC but a major disconnect as well. I wish there was some way to more actively champion the traditional values of the Church.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Would love some prayers in Australia, I’m in Canberra and my issue is that when I get sick I have no one. My family is not nearby and have their own families so I am really forgotten. My parish acts more like social worker do gooders instead of faith filled brothers and sisters in Christ and do not see how I’m going even though they know I’m a one person household (not by choice). I’m 44. It would be nice to have family in Christ who cared for singles.

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    1. I completely understand. Actually I have the same problem in that my Mom passed a bit more than 4 years ago, My only sister lives in Europe..probably will never come back to live in the U.S. My brother doesn’t live very far but he has his own family and he is on the outs with me..he is a genius and has always thought he is better than anyone else. My best friend is dealing with some kind of debilitating unknown disease while he is taking care of his elderly Mother..much like I did before my own Mom died. My nearest relative…Aunt is in New England about 4 hrs away. So I live alone too and live in a new town and my new GF doesn’t live really close. So it’s hard. My advice is to pray and find something that you might like to do and do stuff with that org. Fill your life …or at least try with people. You might even want to join a club…hey try Astronomy perhaps. Hopefully, you still have friends etc. Go out with them..just because you like them and need that companionship. I still haven’t connected much to my new parish, either. Folks often say that you …or me ..should get involved in their Parish but it depends..you might do that if you are outgoing…sometimes I am and sometimes not. Pray… I say a few prayers lie Chaplet of Divine Mercy and Rosary of The Holy Wounds. I also like to listen a bit to a Catholic Radio Station…especially when they say The Chaplet on the radio each day. I think that if you ask Jesus to help you in this he will…and also submit yourself to his holy will . Jesus knows each of us better than we do ourselves and he knows the best things for us. Have hope and have patience. Jesus loves you …especially when you are having a rough time. May God Bless you!

      Liked by 1 person

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