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Beth Knobbe lives an intentional single life and is passionate about sharing her faith with others. Beth earned a Master of Divinity degree from Catholic Theological Union and serves as a campus minister at the Sheil Catholic Center at Northwestern University.  Beth is the author of Finding My Voice: A Young Woman’s Perspective(2009) and Party of One: Living Single with Faith, Purpose, and Passion (2011).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Is It OK to be Single?

Most of us would like to answer “yes” to that question.  Ask a group of young adult singles, and the answers are mixed.  We wonder when “the right one” will come along.  Some worry “is there something wrong with me?” because I’m not in a relationship.  Others contend with comments from family about our dating status and a desire for grandchildren.

Someone recently reminded me that Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  Indeed, we were created from the beginning of time to live in relationship with one another.  But how we are called to live together – whether that is in the context of marriage, religious life, with children, or as a member of an intentional community – must be prayerfully discerned.

Given the pressure from family, society, and faith community, is it really OK to be single?  YES!  Not only is it OK to be single, but the single years can be a time of abundance, freedom, and joy if we welcome it as a gift from God.  The documents of Vatican II specifically mention that singles “can also greatly contribute to the holiness and activity of the church.” All Christians – single, married, ordained and vowed religious – grow in holiness by responding to God’s call. “All Christ's faithful, whatever the conditions, duties and circumstances of their lives … will daily increase in holiness, if they receive all things with faith from the hand of their heavenly Father.”  (Lumen Gentium, 41)

Being single affords us ample amounts of time to pursue a career, develop new friendships, devote time to family, travel to places we’ve never been, cultivate our relationship skills, volunteer, dedicate time to prayer, and invest in hobbies we enjoy.  Sometimes being single isn’t where we would like to be.  We long to be in supportive loving relationships. So we seek intimacy through our friendships, with a romantic partner, in the context of family, within a faith community, and in communion with God through prayer.

At a recent gathering of young adults, we talked about loneliness and the single life.  Loneliness is especially pertinent, but certainly not exclusive, to singles. While not glossing over our painful experiences, many of us were able to name the spiritual strategies we use during the lonely times. God has given us the gifts of solitude, friendship, laughter, service to others, prayer, community, and even Facebook. God is always inviting us into deeper relationship with God and with one another. By being attentive to the ways God is blessing us, our single lives can be a place to grow and thrive.

The conversation “Is It OK to be Single?” continues on Wednesday, September 21 at 7 p.m. at Notre Dame de Chicago Parish, 1334 W. Flournoy, Chicago.  Sponsored by ReCiL Young Adults and Reflect Christ’s Light, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Strategic Plan.

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Comments

Saturday, September 24, 2011 8:04 PM

Jill – Thanks for you comments! Prayer and listening are important first steps. I also agree with what you said about being complete as an individual in order to give yourself fully to God and others. As single people, it is important to “put into practice” the things that you want in a relationship. For example, if honesty and integrity are important qualities I seek in a life-partner, then perhaps I need to examine how honest I am with the people around me. Similarly, if I always imagined myself sharing a life of prayer with a significant other, then I might join a Faith-Sharing Group or a Bible Study and see what it is like to pray with others.

How did I know that I was called to be single? Well … the more I intentionally practiced being single, there was a growing sense of peace and completeness about it. (I made an intentional decision to stop dating, I rarely browse singles’ websites, and I’m no longer “on the lookout” at every social gathering.) Any fears that I had about being alone, being taken care of, never having children, financial worries, etc. were dissolved. And my relationships with friends (men and women), family, and faith community flourished. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be married or have children or join a religious order, but I don’t really see myself there; those options just don’t spark my imagination. I’m certainly open to whatever God places in my path, but the single life is where I have truly found abundance and joy!

While working on Party of One, I compiled a long list of resources (mostly books and articles) about the single life. Feel free to email me “bethknobbe at aol.com” for a copy.

Beth Knobbe

Saturday, September 17, 2011 8:22 PM

Beth - thank you for this column. I am a single 30 year old physician who recently recommitted myself to the Church and am actively trying to regain what I lost during my medical education. It is so difficult to find support for the single life - it is rarely discussed in homilies or in spiritual devotions. Some Catholic sites have a "single" tab, but it takes you directly to Catholic Match. I certainly understand the desire to get married, I would be lying if I said I didn't hope that would happen for me as well. But it would be nice to see more people offer thoughts and support about how singles can live their faith specifically as singles. One of the best things I can think of to prepare for a possible vocation to marriage is to learn to be a complete person in faith as an individual - that way you can offer all of yourself to God and your spouse.

As an aside, may I ask how you determined you are called to be single? Perhaps it is as easy as having prayed and listened... and perhaps I should read your books!

I am so thankful to have found your blog (and for what Rose said above!)

Jill H.

Monday, September 12, 2011 3:46 PM

I was thinking a lot about the loneliness topic at ReCiL last Wednesday, but the conversation moved on before I could express my thoughts! I guess I just don't understand how people can be so resistant to being alone. I don't get how people are so afraid of being with themselves only. We are stuck with ourselves until the day we die. If you aren't your biggest fan, if you don't even like being with yourself, why would anyone else want to be around you? I think we need to fall in love with ourselves first and not look to others to cure our cure our dislike of ourselves.

Christine H.

Monday, September 12, 2011 2:17 PM

Amen! I think everyone - even those who are not single - need to be challenged to re-think how they perceive the single life. Instead of asking someone, "When are you going to get married?", maybe instead you should ask, "What have you been up to with the gifts God has given you right now?" Everyone is blessed with their calling, be it single, married, or religious.

Rose W.

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