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Singleness

A Xt3 Member asked at 1:36am on December 24th 2017
Hello Father,

I am a women in her 30s who has never been married. Year after year I have prayed to God to help me find a husband. I feel like I am disappointed in relationships over and over and now I am watching everyone have the life I desired, marriage and children. I am at the point I am suicidal and considering ending my life because I feel like I am going to be alone and never have my own children. I have prayed through the years and feel I have not been helped. Does God want me to be sad and alone? Why is he helping others and not me?

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Hi Abby, many thanks for your questions, I hope by sharing what some others have said about the single state, at least a little light can be thrown on what you ask.

Claire Lesegretain is a journalist for Catholic French newspaper La Croix, who's calling on the Church to do more to minister to the large number of single people: 'This is the Church's blind spot. It's there, very present, but nobody talks about it. We don't see them,' Her interest in this issue comes from her personal experience, since she also struggled with her faith and her own celibacy in her mid-30s. 'I did not see the meaning of celibacy as a Christian. What does the Lord want from me?' she wondered then. She felt both social and personal pressures. For many, she said, these pressures become sufferings.

'There is the question of fertility: who am I serving, who am I useful for? As a Christian, we were raised in the idea of giving ourselves, of loving one's life. And to whom am I giving my life?'

Up to the Second Vatican Council, the Church put forward two vocations - religious life and marriage. But even before that, figures like Chiara Lubich, who founded the Focolare Movement, rediscovered that there's a deeper vocation than priesthood and religious life or marriage - the vocation to choose God-Love as the source of and reason for, our lives. I could choose either priesthood or marriage and not choose God first.

Lesegretain says Mary Magdalene, who poured perfume on the feet of Jesus, can even become an inspiring example for singles: 'For a single person who suffers from not being able to love, the most precious perfume is his heart and his capacity to love. Rather than moping into sadness, what the Lord is proposing is to come and lay down that capacity to love on his body, in the intimacy of the relationship with Christ, she added. 'To be single is to have a very pure, very expensive perfume, which has a lot of value. And the Church needs this perfume, this treasure.'

There's also a book by ethics professor, Jana Bennett, book Singleness and the Church: A New Theology of the Single Life, which she explains like this:

My direction comes from St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 7, where he famously advises Christians to be as he is - that is, as a single person unattached to wives and husbands.

Yet when we look more closely at that scripture, we can see that Paul addresses quite a diverse crowd of people. He speaks about being never married, divorced, widowed, engaged, and so on, too. And he writes that these ways of being single are also ways Christians are part of the church.

So, following Paul, I decided to explore what gifts single people, in all their variety, might offer to the church. In each chapter, I focus on a different single "state of life". Each chapter also draws on the life and writings of a Christian who lived that state of life and who took seriously that all of us are called to a life of discipleship in Jesus' name. So, for example, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is the widow whose writings provide some of the discussion in my chapter on widowhood.

Jana goes on to say that 'the incredible importance of vowed religious life doesn't negate the fact that many people simply experience the impermanent states of singleness as a fact of life. Spouses do die, often unexpectedly; never marrieds do fall in love and consider whether to marry someone; single parents exist in all kinds of ways.'

I'd add that Our Lady, who is traditionally associated both with the vocation of religious virginity and of the married state, also lived, since the death of her spouse, St Joseph, lived as a single woman, probably for most of her later life. Yes, she was the Mother of God, but the longest part of her life was lived without Joseph and without her Son. Yet, no one was more at the heart of the Church, preventing it from becoming just an organization, and helping it grow as a family, than her.

God surely has a plan of love for you - in my own limited experience I've known quite a few women who are single who have found their place in an ecclesial movement like Focolare - and there are many of those groups. Even if you prefer to remain on your own, maybe wake up some contacts with Church groups - if they're not in your parish, maybe in larger and more active parishes near you. Very best, and assuring you of my prayers, Fr Brendan (I've used two interviews from the Crux website for this answer, Philippe Vaillancourt, 'Forgotten Catholics: French author speaks on single people, celibacy,' 10/11/17 and Charles C. Camosy, 'Finding grace in singleness: How being single is still part of the Church,' 14/8/17.)
Xt3's Ask a Priest answered at 11:15pm on January 7th 2018 reply
 

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