On being a single Catholic

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It’s the day before Valentine’s Day and I’m writing about being single.

So predictable, I know.

The blogosphere is probably alight with posts right now that are encouraging single people to keep their heads up, to believe that they’ll find love, and to make sure that they love themselves before loving another.  If the post is from a Christian site or blogger, maybe it says something about “dating Jesus.”

I’m not here to write that kind of post, though, because as necessary as they might be, I don’t have anything new to add to that conversation.  Instead, I offer my experiences of being a single Catholic gal.

In my 25 years of life I’ve never been in a relationship.  And I’ve gone through varying degrees of “okay” with that.  I’ve been unbothered by it, and I’ve been desperate to change it.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to believe that any dating I might do needs to be for the intention of finding a spouse.  I don’t want to date just for the fun of it; there’s no point to that, if you ask me.

Being a missionary has given me quite a bit of space from the pressure I sometimes feel to date and to find The One, though.  It’s allowed me a lot of time to reflect on what I really want my life to look like.  And I don’t necessarily see marriage in my future.  As much as I might have wanted a relationship and intimacy at a few points in my life, deep down, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt drawn to marriage.  Any consideration I may have given to marriage was mostly the result of feeling like it was something that I “should” do.  So I went along with those expectations blindly, dreaming up my Pinterest-perfect wedding, writing letters to my future husband.  But focusing on my relationship with Christ during my missionary stint has made me less interested in those things and has helped me see that marriage and love go deeper than the wedding, than the butterflies, than the feeling of being “in love.”  I was caught up in all that, but not in marriage.  I wanted the intimacy but not the promise of forever.  I wanted the dream wedding but not the marriage that followed.

And I’ve never wanted children.  I think there are a lot of people out there with an “I want to have kids, but…” attitude—I want kids but they’re too expensive, I want kids but it would take a toll on my health, I want kids but this world is a messed-up place.  That’s not me.  I just don’t know that I want kids.  I’m not anti-marriage or anti-family.  I’m Catholic, for heaven’s sake!  I’m just not convinced it’s the path God has planned for me.

I’m at a place in my life where I’m okay with the thought of never getting into a relationship or getting married.  And that’s an interesting place for a Catholic woman to be, I think, especially considering the fact that I’m also not sure if religious life is for me.  Because, despite the Church’s best efforts and intentions, I think single people and the single life often get the shaft.  There’s a lot of confusion and mixed messages regarding single life.  I’ve read articles that say that all people are meant to give themselves to another, so all Catholics will wind up married or consecrated someday; there’s no such thing as permanent singleness and all singleness is merely a season, they say.  I’ve also read articles that acknowledge the presence of so many Catholics who find themselves perpetually single, either because they’ve tried and failed at relationships and religious life or because they don’t feel drawn to either of those things.  Surely these people aren’t selfish or missing their vocations, some say; perhaps the single life is God’s will for these.

I don’t have the answers to the singleness question.  I don’t know if my singleness is transient or permanent.  I don’t know if I need to try dating or if I should check out some religious orders.  I’m in the midst of discerning all that and making sure that I understand the purpose of marriage and religious life, and I don’t think I’m any closer to figuring out if either of those things are my calling.  Of course, I’m open to God’s will.  If He sends me a man that I wind up wanting to marry, or a religious order that I want to join, I’ll do what God wants.

I think I’d be happy to remain single, but that’s not really up for me to decide.  So I’m willing to trust in God’s timing and to follow wherever He might lead me.

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