Thursday 15 October 2015

Singles as Part of Extended Families

Does anyone know if Singles have been mentioned during the Synod of the Family?

I was thinking the other day about my parents far away on the other side of the Atlantic, and how glad I am that three of my brothers and sisters--all the unmarried ones---still live in their town. Meanwhile, it would never occur to me to think that these siblings lack "families of their own", for what are the rest of us all? Chopped liver? 

I am not a fan of the concept "nuclear family" , which apparently means a couple + kids seemingly besieged by weird old grandparents, eccentric uncles and aunts, plus bullying cousins, at the holidays. This is the Hollywood idea of the family, and it makes no sense to me. Of course, it probably has something to do with migration patterns of Americans within the United States. Or Hollywood itself. Not exactly a family-friendly institution, is it? 

My parents have five adult children (plus two children-in-law) and the big house they bought in 1985, so it is easy to see them as the centre of our extended family, with adult children moving back in and moving out again or coming to visit, with or without spouses, with or without their own children.  I suppose one day the center will shift eastward to Quebec, to my eldest brother, his wife and their children. But for now I see everyone defined by their relationship to my parents (when, naturally, I look beyond their relationship to me). 

So far I have not been much troubled by women with children pulling sad faces and asking me if I am sorry I don't have "a family of my own." Naturally I am sorry I haven't conceived children, but I do have a family of my own. The people I feel very badly for are those who have no family at all: not a living parent, no sibling, no child, no foster mother, no spouse, nobody.  

That is when the Church really has to come to the rescue, I imagine. And by "Church" I do not mean a semi-faceless entity composed of priests, sisters and bishops (weird how sisters are given a semi-clerical state when they are laypeople like the rest of us), but the whoooooooole Church, which mostly means laypeople. 

This reminds me of a semi-angry message I got from a young married woman and mother who was annoyed that there was nothing established at her parish church to get other young married people with children to meet each other, as there was at a local Evangelical establishment. I believe I wrote back something like, "Well, meet with your parish priest and offer to start one," and I could almost hear the screech. Oh no, she was sooo busy, being a young married working mother and all. She couldn't possibly do it. "The Church" should do it. 

"We ARE the Church," I thought. This was a big power-to-the-laypeople slogan in the 1970s, but it has stuck in my head as something very true. We ARE the Church. WE are the Church. Which means if we want something done, we should do it. Naturally, if this is something parish-based, or we want to use church buildings, we have to ask for priestly blessing. 

Anyway, I am very pleased thinking about the fact that my Single brother and sisters have the time and opportunity to keep an eye on our parents, although I remind myself that expecting Singles to do a lot more work than Married-People-with-Children is one of the problems of Single life. In the workplace, this gets articulated as "Well, you don't have a family to go home to, so...", which is pretty darn presumptuous, especially if you need to get home to your aged mother or your highly dependent sibling. Children-of-your-own are not synonymous with "family."

And these are my thoughts on Single Life for the day--oh, except for one. If you think the Church should come up with a scheme to get Catholic Singles married to each other, than you might want to come up with your own scheme and consult with others how you might implement it. After all, you are the Church. When I was Single, I thought it would be nice to blog for Singles, and as a result I made a lot of friends and got married to another Catholic Single. It never occurred to me to ask anyone's permission to blog for fellow Catholic Singles. I just did it.  


  1. Although I do not see my extended family very often, I feel immensely glad that they are there. Especially having brothers and sisters is such a great gift (if only to remove the pressure from me to have kids so our family does not die out, as they provided the family with a nice bunch of nephews and nieces).
    Well, some of the Synod's language groups discussed the importance of extended family. But then I think there are more important topics for this Synod than to discuss the role of single people in their extended families...

  2. Well, I think Singles are pretty important. A lot of family issues are settled and have always been settled.However, protracted Singledom is a contemporary issue, and we need more theology on the topic! :-D

  3. Yes, you are probably right. That makes me think that if we focus more on fulfilled and content single life, people might feel encouraged not to rush into wrong relationships or marry the wrong person, thus leading to fewer marriages with a high divorce potential. But this would lead to more protracted singledom, which, as you say, is a contemporary issue that really needs more theology (much more, probably, than other widely discussed “contemporary issues”).

    Off-Topic: I was wondering, does anybody know why there is a German language group at this Synod? Why does this small Central European region get a discussion group of its own? (Probably so they don’t disturb the other Synod participants too much with their interesting theological innovations :-D)

  4. My aunt has been married to a Jewish man for over 30 years. All this time she has been a faithful Catholic, attending Church on Sundays and contributing to the collection and raising her children in the Faith. Now my aunt has cancer. She has repeatedly requested a someone to bring her Communion, hear her Confession, anoint her. No one responds. My uncle finally called the parish and said, "If she were in a Protestant church, people would be beating our door down to mow our lawn, not to mention offer spiritual support. What's wrong with the Catholics?"

    This has made me think. As a single, I have all the tasks of keeping up a house and life that married people do, just without the kids. I keep hearing about how singles are freer than marrieds to do these works of mercy, and I don't see where in my life I can make that fit. But then I look at my aunt. She desperately needs help. I don't live in the same town, but I'm grateful to anyone who helps her. How can I be help to someone's aunt, and still keep juggling everything I'm juggling?

    Of course, I'm the only one who can figure that out. But it's led me to the conclusion that we are all too darn busy. We've packed our lives so full that we don't have room for helping with emergency needs. I don't know what needs to or can be cleared in my life, but I sure do want to figure it out.

  5. That is an excellent, if sad, story. What IS wrong with the Catholics? Meanwhile, what town is your aunt in? Maybe one of your fellow readers could pop in? (I take it she lives in Canada or the US?)

  6. I'm posting a link here to an interesting article about the contributions of single people to community life. I suspect many single people would find it encouraging because so often their endeavors seem to go unremarked or are taken for granted:
    I received a link to the article as part of my weekly iMapp Marriage News newsletter, if anyone is interested.

    Alias Clio


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