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“Ask a Priest: Is There a Place for Single People in God’s Plan?”
Q: Is there any of God’s grace left for those who are unable to marry or even enter the priesthood or religious life or marriage because of certain limitations or choice? It always sounds as though the Church does not recognize the sacredness of the single life. Thank you. -D.L.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: There is certainly lots of grace to go around for everyone. And all people — singles included — are called to holiness.
You are correct, however, that the Church hasn’t always offered a lot specifically for single people. Things have changed over the decades, though there is always room for improvement.
There are a number of observations and suggestions that you might consider.
First, the Church does offer singles a lot — through the sacraments, the liturgy, its corpus of teachings. Remember that the first relationship we need to be concerned about is our union with Jesus. If you looking for Mr. Right, well, you already have him – in the person of Jesus, who suffered and died on a cross for love of you, who comes down from heaven to be in the Eucharist so as to enter your heart.
It is good to emphasize this point because – and this might be tough for a single layperson to understand – every other human relation will never match up to what Christ gives us.
Put another way, there are a lot of sad married people out there who rely on Christ for real meaning and joy in their lives – for they realize that their own spouses will never bring them the happiness they had hoped for on their wedding day.
Second, if you see that singles have special needs, feel free to do something about it. Be pro-active! Instead of waiting for “the Church to do something,” think about what you can do.
Maybe you could organize events for singles in your area, either at the parish or at another venue. There are lots of things you could build an event around; for instance, a lecture on a new book or a talk on theology of the body or Church social doctrine (look here for some downloadable and discussable retreats, and also some group study guides). Maybe a professor at a nearby college or an expert in your diocese would be available to give such a talk. Or perhaps there is a movie that could be the basis of a good discussion session, preceded or followed by a social event with fancy snacks, etc.
Or perhaps there is a charitable agency that could use the help of a group of committed people. A crisis-pregnancy center or a soup kitchen might be able to use help. The idea here is to use your personal gifts to enrich the community and help other people feel as if they, too, can contribute.
A corollary to the above is to see your single state as an opportunity to dedicate yourself to more service to your parish or community. You can dedicate yourself to helping families who need an extra hand. Perhaps you could approach your pastor and see if he has a wish list of projects for the parish. The possibilities are numerous.
Then, too, you could dedicate yourself to more prayer. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours, attending daily Mass and yearly retreats, getting involved in an ecclesial movement (see here for more reading) – all can enhance your spiritual life and build up the Church. I particularly recommend these books by one of my priest friends: The Better Part and Seeking First the Kingdom.
For your own personal balance, websites such as Mary Beth Bonacci’s might give you ideas.
I pray that you understand the great wealth you have to share with others, and to find fulfillment in going deeper in your relationship with Our Lord. Oh, and let’s not forget: It was an unmarried Person who saved the world.
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