By Anastasia Northrop
“Hi, my name is Anastasia. And I’m single.”
No, I haven’t started attending a “Singles Anonymous” group, but sometimes I wonder if we ought to start one in the Church. As the eldest of nine children, I grew up thinking I would automatically meet Prince Charming and be married by my mid-20’s, with plenty of time to have a large family of my own–at least six kids for sure. I had lots of fun (and still do) with my family, and I wanted to ensure that my children enjoyed the experience of many siblings as well. I certainly never thought I’d remotely qualify for any long-term status as a “single.”
Now that I have most certainly reached that . . . ummm . . . status . . . and having met many others in my situation, it has become quite clear that many who are single do not want to admit it–nor, it seems, does anyone else in the Church.
Somehow the word “single” has acquired a negative connotation–and hence those of us who are single don’t like to attend events “for singles.” While the term “young adult” is greeted with enthusiasm, the moment you mention “singles,” expressions of discomfort appear and interest in the event or group rapidly plummets. Images of “meat markets” and awkward moments invade minds, along with memories of that time when you were 21 and the awkward 46-year-old man in the back of church tried to convince you that a 25-year age gap was really quite normal. After all, his dad was 25 years older than his mom and it worked out well for them.
The term “young adult” seems to solve this problem–except when we actually start to be honest about what that term means most of the time. Yes, young adult events (I’m grateful they exist!) are open to all young adults (typically 18-39), regardless of their current state in life, and married folks sometimes do attend, but their numbers are quite small and they rarely have children. (If I were married with kids, I’d be using any free evenings for a coveted date night, visits with other married couples–or much-needed sleep!)
I recently asked someone in a young adult leadership position in the Church about this phenomenon. The conversation went like this:
Me: “So what about the folks who are 27 and married and have 3 kids? Do they attend the young adult events?”
Him: “That was me! [27 and married with 3 kids] No, once you’re married you’re not considered a ‘young adult.’”
Right. That’s what I thought. I guess that means that once you’re married you’re a “normal” adult? But if you’re single, then you’re “young”? Does that mean “immature”–or perhaps “abnormal”? . . . And then if you’re still single past your 30’s and you graduate from the young adult group–what then?
I know many wonderful, healthy, beautiful people of all ages who are single. They fill the pews of our churches. Why then, are we, and many in Church ministry, so afraid of the word? Of course, none of us wants to attend events where we might feel like we’re a potential item for purchase–but does it have to be that way?
Current stats indicate that singles now represent from 45%-50.2% of the adult population in the United States. Many are marrying later, others are widowed, and many others are single due to divorce, often not by their own choice. That being the case, it’s ironic that I often hear from singles that they feel invisible or unseen in the Church. Homilies are usually addressed to couples and families, to the point where, if singles are mentioned, it’s a note-worthy occasion (unless, of course, they’re being recruited for the priesthood or religious life). Is it just taking a very long time for people to become aware of the current social situation?
Regardless of “feeling invisible,” along with the other struggles of being single when we’d hoped to be married, can we be content and stand strong in our identity as children of God, soldiers on the battlefield in a world that desperately needs hope and healing today? God is using single people in this moment for the building up of the Kingdom of God, to heal hearts that are broken, to proclaim liberty to captives, to comfort those who mourn. Though it may not be the life we’d planned, God can use it for his glory and to bear much fruit in our hurting world.
Making a gift of ourselves in our daily lives and building community with those around us is great preparation for whatever vocation God is calling us to in the future. In the meantime, living out our baptismal vocation to love while we’re single is the only answer–whether we marry or not.
If you want to meet others who love the Lord and are seeking to live their faith in a joyful way, join hundreds of single Catholics from all over the country (and beyond, from as far away as Australia!) at the:
June 8-10, 2018
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
Listen to dynamic speakers discuss relevant–and practical–topics. Pray together during Mass with the local bishops, and take advantage of confession, adoration and other prayer opportunities. Be recharged through conversation and community with other like-minded singles. Come away more joyful, peaceful and strengthened to continue the unique journey God has you on! (And, if you happen to meet your future spouse while you’re there, as several have–then that’s icing on the cake!)
Register now and use this promo code by May 20th to get a special Integrity Restored discount!
Hope to see you there! And if you’re not single, share the news with someone who is!