Recently, NCRegister.com blogger Simcha Fisher asked Catholic singles:“What Do Single People Need From the Church?” It certainly struck a chord, because she had more than 230 responses in the comment box. Some people argued that the Church always forgets about the single people: They have vocation retreats for youth; they have ministries to strengthen families. But what about the singles who don’t feel called to the religious life and haven’t met their spouses yet? Where is the place for them?
“Most Church leaders don’t realize that four in 10 adults in the U.S. are single,” said Christina Ries, editorial director of CatholicMatch.com, the Catholic online dating site.
So, how can the Church serve the single members of the body of Christ? Catholic Match has responded to the challenge.
The Catholic Playbook: Lenten Reflections for Singles is the first in a series of Catholic “playbooks” published by Catholic Match. It is a 40-day meditation book that includes reflections written by Catholic singles from all walks of life that focus on the core questions of the single vocation. Each story is followed by a prayer, written by Father Gary Caster, which gives practical ways to persevere on the Lenten journey. The foreword to the book is written by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., and the book has been endorsed by Catholic author and speaker Mary Beth Bonacci.
“We are proud to be a dating site, but we want to be more. We want to be a ministry and a center of resources for single Catholics,” said Ries.
A sample excerpt states: “As part of my Lenten practice, I do give something up, but it must be something I’ll be longing for with every part of me. When I have chosen the right sacrifice, these 40 days of Lent can seem like an eternity. Perhaps that’s why the single life can often feel like Lent: I feel that something is missing, something I truly desire and yearn for.
“I find myself waiting and hoping for a long period of time to come to an end. … Unlike my Lenten sacrifice, which can be easily broken, the single life is not so easy to break if I want to experience what I am really looking for. The 40 days of Lent, like life, cannot be rushed if we are truly to appreciate and rejoice in a glorious Easter.”
“Like the Psalms, the reflections in this book are written from the heart and express the full range of human emotions: longing and loneliness, repentance and purification, periods of intense suffering and moments of deep joy,” wrote Bishop Rhoades. “They bear poignant witness to the fact that whatever is in our hearts can be offered to Christ as part of our complete gift of self to him.”
And Bonacci wrote, “Lent is an ideal time for single Catholics to focus on growing closer to Christ, and this collection of meditations focused on our single state of life is an ideal way to do that.”
Ries explained how the idea came about: “Initially, we put out the call through Catholic Match for written reflections on the single life and Lenten season. We were overwhelmed by the flood of the responses.”
She added, “We called it a playbook because it sounds really practical in nature. The chapters are easy to read. There is nothing too dense, and you can look back to it for reference.”
Lenten Reflections for Singles is a designed to help busy Catholics fit prayer into their schedules. “The short-and-sweet reflections help you to fold prayer into the hustle and bustle of life. We want to help you fit it in, whether you are praying in the elevator at work or while making coffee,” Ries said.
Holy Week is the perfect time to renew your Lenten commitments and reflect deeply on Our Lord’s passion. “It’s definitely not too late. Our lives are busy, and we are living high-paced lives, but we need Lent more than ever. We need a time to reflect and unplug. It’s helpful to have this guidebook to do that,” Ries said. “These reflections cater to the Holy Week process. Holy Week is the time to dig in and experience some real meaningful prayer.”
As for my own take on the book, although there are definite perks to single life, sometimes it can feel very lonely. The reflections from my fellow singles help me to remember that during this time of discernment my main focus should be to better my relationship with God.
This single state is a gift and a time to give of myself in a way that only a single person can do. Each of us is called to a specific mission. You may feel like just a single musical note in a great symphony, but if you aren’t there who else will play that note?
The Church needs the single people to be involved, and we need the Church for our nourishment.
As Mary Beth Bonacci shared with me: “Singles tend to be the ‘invisible parishioners’ in many Catholic churches. We see that parish life revolves primarily around families, and we’re not sure how we fit in. So we sit in back, where the pastor doesn’t see us, and we leave immediately after Mass. And so nobody knows we’re there, and the parish life continues to revolve primarily around families. It would be wonderful, and very good for the parish community, if pastors would do more to reach out to single parishioners and invite them into the family of parish life. But we can make a difference by being visible, in a good way. We can volunteer in the parish food bank. We can become lectors and Eucharistic ministers. We can participate in Bible studies. We can really ‘join’ our parishes.”
This book can help remind us of that.
Robyn Lee is a 30-something single Catholic with 25 nieces and nephews.
She blogs for FaithandFamilyLive.com and AmazingCatechists.com.