One of my favorite saints was a single laywoman known for her gorgeous hair. She was independent, passionate and completely transformed by Christ. She lived a rich life full of adventure, prayer and evangelization. Mary Magdalen never married or became a nun, but she lived a joyful life that was “single-hearted” for Christ.
More Catholics are single now than ever before, following national trends of adults marrying later, or not at all. In fact, for the first time in history, more singles than married folk head households in America.
Not all Catholic singles are hoping for marriage, and they may not have a call to religious life, either. But they certainly have a vocation to holiness. They also have an important place in the church, as Pope Francis recently wrote:
“Many people who are unmarried are not only devoted to their own family but often render great service in their group of friends, in the Church community and in their professional lives. Sometimes their presence and contributions are overlooked, causing in them a sense of isolation. Many put their talents at the service of the Christian community through charity and volunteer work. … Their dedication greatly enriches the family, the Church and society.”
(Amoris Laetitia 158)
The church wants all her beloved singles to know that they are cherished, that they have a special place in the family of God, that the Father sees and blesses all the good work they do, and that the Good Shepherd wants them to graze in rich pastures of well-being and fulfillment.
So how can a single Catholic live a rich, full, healthy and happy life? I think St. Mary Magdalen would whole-heartedly approve the following tips. Now if only she’d share her hair care and beauty secrets. Chrism-scented hair pomade, perhaps? (Yes, that’s a hint, Tony Vasinda of Catholic beard balm fame!) Ahem. Fluff, fluff. The tips:
Go to Mass at least once a week. A spiritual diet of weekly Mass, daily Mass when possible, and monthly confession is a healthy regimen for a soul in any state of life. Frequenting the sacraments strengthens grace in the soul of the uncoupled Catholic; frequent church attendance also correlates with better physical and mental health outcomes and longer lifespans. A recent Harvard study found that registered nurses who went to church more than once a week were 33 percent less likely to die during the 16-year study than those who never attended.
Pray daily. Entering the door of one’s own heart in regular personal prayer time is just as important as entering the doors of the church. Cultivating a relationship with Christ through a regular prayer discipline, such as the Sacred Story Institute’s 40 Weeks program, powerfully promotes the well-being of the whole person. Regular prayer correlates with decreased stress, depression and anxiety, boosts feelings of well-being and joy, speeds recovery from illness and surgery, and correlates with longer life. (Check out the research by Dr. Andrew Newburg, as well as Robert Schiffman’s Huffington Post article “Why People Who Pray Are Healthier Than Those Who Don’t.”)
Stay in touch with friends and family. Nourish those social connections to avoid feeling isolated and lonely. As John Paul II reminds us: “Even if someone chooses to remain single, the family continues to be, as it were, his existential horizon, that fundamental community in which the whole network of social relations is grounded.” (Letter to Families 2)
Practice gratitude. Thanking God often for our blessings helps us notice more of them. Researchers such as Dr. Robert Emmonds find that those who practice gratitude experience many benefits: They manage stress better, strengthen their immune systems and mental resilience, take better care of their health, sleep better and experience greater well-being and happiness.
Seek Catholic resources supporting singles. Mary Beth Bonacci’s talk on “Living the Theology of the Body as a Single” inspired western Washington native Anastasia Northrop to organize the popular yearly National Catholic Singles Conference. Emily Stimpson’s peppy and practical book The Catholic Girls’ Survival Guide for the Single Years offers “the nuts and bolts of staying sane and happy while waiting for Mr. Right,” and radio personality Lino Rulli recorded a funny talk entitled “Thank God I’m Still Single.” (His talk, and Mary Beth Bonacci’s, are available from Our Father’s Word Communications, Northrop’s family’s company.)
Northwest Catholic – October 2016