it’s not the Church’s responsibility to see to it that you have a fulfilling social life…

it’s not the Church’s responsibility to see to it that you have a fulfilling social life… February 23, 2012

… My previous Patheos column was about married sex and last week Simcha Fisher wrote about single Catholics and asked them what they needed from the Church. Talk about role reversals.

I can write about being single, and I do from time to time, but too much just starts to sound like whining. It’s also not good for me to continually harp on the obvious fact. Harping won’t change the situation other than to call it into attention. I don’t want to write it anymore than you want to read it. Besides, I think Lino Rulli has the copyright on the “will I ever get married” shtick. I can’t afford a lawsuit.

Back to Simcha’s article; she writes, “I can see how a continual emphasis on marriage and family life could make unwillingly single people feel really crummy. True, single people are at least theoretically free to enjoy all sorts of delightful activities which I don’t have the time or energy for—choir, Adoration, pilgrimages, and even just being able to stay inside the nave for the entire hour of Mass, without having to take anyone to the bathroom or drag them away from the holy water (which is stored in an irresistibly shiny but inexcusably rickety metal tank).

So many of the church-sponsored activities I enjoy wouldn’t even exist if there weren’t single people around to make them happen. But I suspect that pointing these advantages out to to an unwillingly single person smacks of a second-rate consolation prize, like when I tell one of my kids, “I’m going to make the cake, but you can be my special helper.”

I don’t want to do that to anyone. I want to be sympathetic when I hear this comment I hear again and again: “The Church does nothing for single Catholics!” Someone inevitably makes this lament any time a writer complains, even jokingly, about marriage or childbearing or any aspect of family life: “You have no right to complain—at least you’re not alone. The Church does nothing at all for single Catholics!”

So, single people, if you feel neglected or misunderstood, here is your opportunity.”

Well, since she asked… aside from the fact that the Church exists to provide the sacraments necessary for my eternal salvation what more do I need?!

I don’t really expect the Church to do anything for *me* specifically outside of these sacraments. Theology on Tap is fun – it has booze. Young adult groups are also fun, if only because I’m so much older everything I say sounds sapient – like I’m Gandalf, but without all the wizard-y powers and junk. And the beard.

As a single woman in the Catholic Church I am quite contented. I’m going to be perfectly honest here when I say it’s a bad idea to expect the Church to fulfill your social life. Prayer groups and adoration don’t require specific age ranges or marital statuses. All that other stuff, well, that’s what hobbies and interests are for. I just think it places unrealistic expectations on priests and parish staff to think they should be providing a social group for every individual and their individual lifestyle. It seems crazy and futile trying to please everyone.

If I were to ask anything, all I’d ask of the Church is Her prayers. Could we include single people in the litany of petitions during mass like we pray for an increase in vocations? Something like “Remember single people and single parents that they may live holy lives. Lord, hear our prayer”. Or better yet, “We pray for the chastity of single men and women that they remain strong against the Three Date Rule. Lord hear our prayer.”

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  • drea916

    Except that, back in the day, parishes would provide activities for singles to meet each other. Not a meat/meet market, just….at my local parish, the deacon met his wife at the weekly volley ball game for young adults (this was back in the 60s) Where are Catholics supposed to meet other catholics? so that they can make more catholics? I know so many people who just give up and marry non catholics or non christians. (Not that there is anything wrong with it, just makes things harder.) I don’t expect the Church to have a yenta on staff, just see that most people are called to marriage and do a small  part in facilitating that. I tend to see that priests in Latin Mass parishes are more in tuned to this. They are more sympathetic. I also notice that more men go to TLM. I don’t look good in a jumper, so I’m floundering around praying that God will send me one of his choices sons…….before my fertility is gone.

    • Seraphic

      For heaven’s sake, don’t wear a jumper to a TLM. I recommend dressing in great 1940s vintage screen siren clothing. 

    • They still do. I mentioned 2 very popular types of groups in my post. I know you aren’t expecting the priest to hold your hand and introduce you to every single young man in the parish. At some point we have to relay on our own social skills. 

      And please, no one should wear a denim jumper ever. Unless you like to farm in a skirt.

  • I love the idea of adding those intentions you mentioned. Not so sure about the “me and the Sacraments” idea. Not that I disagree. I agree that’s all the Church needs to give and it is all I need. But there’s a but coming…you can hear it coming…but I think, seriously, that if the Church is supposed to be the center of our lives, then  maybe I should know the people of my parish better. I think the Sign of Peace gladhanding is tripe, and the endless array of “groups” to join is almost as bad, but I feel and have felt a longing for getting to know some of the people rushing past me to get out the door every Sunday. I seize almost every opportunity, short of chasing anyone down and tackling them, to smile and say something friendly. I have a sneaking suspicion that my behavior is disturbing on a profound level, and I am secretly hoping to share this so that I can have permission to quit.

    “That Weird Church Lady Who Is Always Trying to Talk to You”

  • I like your idea of offering prayers for singles, but honestly, other than that, I’m good, thanks.  As a single man (and former seminarian) in a fairly large parish with a K-8 school, I must say I don’t feel left out of anything. I am constantly being asked to volunteer to lead this group, join that other group, attend those meetings of the Parish Ad Hoc Committee on Committee Meetings. I am on a committee for the diocese, and I’m on the RCIA team in my parish. I’ve led Bible studies and small groups off and on for years. Other than that and going to Mass, my job and other activities just don’t allow enough time. I struggle much more with maintaining a vibrant private prayer life than with feeling connected to my parish and diocese. When it comes to skills the Church has taught me, the biggest one is how to respond to a friendly request with a “I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the time,” without sounding (I hope) like I’m blowing them off. Maybe that’s not a typical experience for single Catholics, but it’s mine. Of course, Simcha seems to be referring primarily to “unwillingly single” Catholics, and maybe that doesn’t quite describe me. I’m certainly open to marriage, but I don’t seem to feel the strong sense of loss that others feel because they are unmarried. If I did, all the family-focused stuff might bother me more.

    • KarenElissa

       This is pretty much my experience too.  I’m sure part of it is I’m an introvert, so I’m not really into the big group get together thing and I love working with kids, so most family events are fun for me as well.  But I’ve never felt not a part of my parish simply because I’m a single adult. 

      I think the problem connected to this is the idea that we have to be friends with people who are of similar age and have similar life circumstances as we do.  My closest friends are a family in which the parents are about 20 years older than me and the kids are not quite 20 years younger and I love hanging out with them.  I just moved and the people here I know the best are a couple about my parents age and a lady a couple years older than me with a 7 year old daughter.  None of those match my age/life circumstances, but I love hanging out with all of them.  I’ve just never felt the need to have a group only with singles who are more or less my age.

  • Miss Doyle

    Amen to that!
    As far as I’m aware, the Church is not charged with developing your social skills. Some things are left up to us, actually most of the time, it’s best left that way. Can you imagine your local parish playing match-maker? Ick. It’s weird enough when your PP pulls you aside and mentions that he’s got someone in mind for you. Flattering maybe, but still weird.