In today’s edition of The Catholic Weekly – the paper that published my now-viral article – there is a beautiful testimony from an unnamed woman as a sort of response to the concerns I raised. It also ties in nicely with my last post on making the most of your single years:
As I was approaching the BIG 30 I heard it said, “If you’re unhappy as a single, you’ll take that disposition into your married life!”
Having heard that, I decided to keep a positive attitude, believing that eventually I would meet someone.
As well as immersing myself in numerous church activities, I spent many, many Saturday nights throughout my 30’s ‘catching up’ with girlfriends at hotels, discos and nightclubs.
With the benefit of hindsight, these nights were really wasted ventures; the music was so loud my girlfriends and I could hardly hear one another talk.
In my late 30’s I began a relationship with a good catholic man I met at a church tennis social. When that relationship didn’t work out at the age of 39 the thought began to creep into my mind that perhaps I would not have children.
This really rocked me. I had always seen myself as a nurturer who would naturally thrive in motherhood.
Somewhere in the midst of this mid-life malaise I booked into a retreat. The sister who directed me suggested I dwell on John 11:25 ‘I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me even though he dies he shall live and whosoever lives because he believes in me, shall not die.’
Over the ensuing days, weeks and months, that powerful scripture helped me to realise that even though being a mother or father was the highest expression of creativity (working with God), there were multitudes of opportunities for me everywhere to be a ‘life giver.’
These included everything from greeting people sincerely to praying a silent or spoken prayer for someone, or extending sympathy to someone in grief, or including the isolated in my life – and so on.
Then I realised there were others in my parish who were living singly either, widowed, divorced or unmarried and we could meet up and benefit from having fellowship with one another.
I became involved in a Singles Group which ran retreats, weekends at wineries and days at the coast.
The aim of these groups was not to match singles (even though some thought we did) but simply to celebrate where each of us were in the journey of life. I met many remarkable and beautiful people.
I felt so fulfilled that I used to say to friends that I was happy to die a single woman . . . and then, out of the blue, a wonderful man came into my life. I didn’t go looking for him. He approached me.
Yes, my husband and I were married too late to have a family, yet we live a happily married life. I’ve learnt that there is a certain freedom in being childless, that I can ‘reach out’ to others more than if I had a family. I thank God for my husband and the life we have together.
I don’t regret one day of the many years I spent as a ‘Catholic Single’. It was in that time that I learnt and took on board many ‘spiritual riches’ that have blessed my married life.
Those that come to mind are: spending time praying, dwelling or mulling on the daily Mass readings; thanking and praising God in all circumstances.
‘Rejoice always,’ St Paul exhorts the Thessalonians, ‘pray without ceasing and give thanks to God at every moment. This is the will of God, your vocation as Christians’. (1 Thess 5: 16-18).
Another spiritual treasure was the scriptural principles in an interdenominational healing ministry in which I enrolled. The course offered by Elijah House heals and restores individuals, marriages and families and I learnt from participating in these weekend courses how important the cross and the resurrection is in my daily life.
This in turn led me to a very practical understanding of the Eucharist, which in turn has given me a deeper appreciation of my Catholic Faith. Hence, attending the Sunday Eucharist is a special time for my husband and myself each week.
I thank Anna Hitchings for having the courage to make herself vulnerable and write the article which appeared in The Catholic Weekly in May. I pray that among the readership of The Catholic Weekly, the Holy Spirit will use her words to inspire Catholic singles to take initiatives that will bless other singles in ways they can barely imagine.
I firmly believe that God in his infinite wisdom doesn’t make mistakes, so he has put us here at this time for a wonderful purpose.
A few thoughts on this. First of all I want to thank the author for sharing her story. I’m incredibly humbled by the responses that I’m getting to my article, like this one. Yes, it took vulnerability on my part to put myself out there, to give the subject matter the honesty and integrity it deserved, but the wonderful thing to see is that vulnerability begets vulnerability – a precious, precious commodity in this day and age.
I find the author’s story both sobering and poignant. It illustrates the experience of so many today that, even with the best intentions, the right actions and a good attitude, marriage and romantic love may still elude you for years.
I think this is just one symptom of the crisis the Church is experiencing today, with the dearth of youth, and young men in particular, in our pews.
However she also highlights what I’ve been banging on about: the critical importance of cultivating a personal, intimate relationship with God. I also love that this woman found peace and meaning by meditating on the Scriptures – something that we Catholics often fall short on. I try to read the Scriptures every day, but reading this article reminded me how important it is not to just read, but to really reflect on the Word of God. It also reminded me how much there is to be gleaned from a single line of Scripture.
I think it’s important for each one of us to reflect where we are at in life and why; what is God calling us to? Are we listening to His call? I mean really listening. Our lives may not have turned out as we expected them to at this point. But instead of struggling against that, why not look at each day as a gift instead?
That doesn’t mean we give up and call it quits. Quite the opposite.
It means we keep hoping, keep praying, and keep saying yes to God in our hearts, even if that means remaining single for longer than we’d like. There is a lot of hope in this woman’s testimony and that’s something I intend to reflect on.