I’m writing today to all the single Sistas. Girls, it is so hard to be single. It is hard because it can feel like there’s not quite a place for you in the Church. It is hard because there IS a place for you in secular society, but it is a place that is not worthy of you. I speak of the Cosmo girl that society tells you to become, if you want to be truly happy, and we both know that Cosmo girls, God help them, are not happy as they seek their next “mind-blowing” orgasm.
First, however, let me start by stating my thesis. My point in this post will be to explain what is the blessed place of single/virginal women in the Church and society, and, if you are single and aching for your vocation, to encourage you to consider the beauty of where you are at this moment.
Let’s begin with a quote from Gertrude Von Le Fort’s little masterpiece, The Eternal Woman: “The one whom we negatively call the unmarried woman is, in a positive sense, the virgin. In other times, the virgin held a position of dignity. Not only does Christianity approve of her, but many of the values that it emphasizes have been anticipated also in pre-Christian times. Names of mountains and of constellations claim the virgin; while her character as expressed in Diana or a Minerva, though differently conceived and motivated, is in a natural sense no less impressive than a Christian saint…Her inviolability, which, if it be purity, always includes a depth of pain, denotes the sacrifice that is the price for an insight into the infinite value of the person. This explains why the liturgy always places the virgin beside the martyr who, like her, bears witness to the absolute value of the soul in the holocaust of his/her earthly life…For the woman who does not recognize in her virginity a value that has its relationship to God, the unmarried state and childlesness are really a profound tragedy…Once we acknowledge the religious import of the virgin, we easily understand her temporal significance. The virgin who sacrifices marriage and motherhood in order to represent the worth of the solitary person secures by this very renunciation both marriage and motherhood…Virginity, then, denotes in a special manner a capacity, a release for action…Thus, the woman whose strength is not limited to her own generation, rightly and naturally feels the urge to make her own contribution toward the historical and cultural life of her people.”
Okay, that is a long quote. Let’s unpack it. First, I like how the text identifies the value of virginal women who, by virtue of their freedom from responsibilities to husband and children, can do mighty deeds, like Joan of Arc, and move Popes, like Catherine of Siena. Single women, because of their freedom from the constraints of marriage and child-bearing, are able to love everyone. They have time for their friends, for their nieces and nephews, for the work, and for volunteering. If you are a single woman, you are able to mother everyone, rather than just your own children. I’m being a little narrow here, obviously, because every woman is a mother by virtue of her femininity, and women who have children to certainly love on people beyond just their own families, but you see where I’m going with this.
Single-ness, and I am using that interchangeably with virginity here, opens before a woman the opportunity to serve God in unusual and extraordinay ways. A single woman, like Katie, can adopt an entire orphanage of children. She can be a doctor who gives all of herself to her patients, seeking new cures and providing round-the-clock assistance. Watching the video below makes me want to be single and go to Africa and love on babies.
Women who are married and have children cannot do these things. Society tells us that we can have it all, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that babies need their mamas all the time; it would be an injustice to my children, as well as my husband, if I adopted an entire orphanage. My children need me to love them in a particular way, and my husband needs to know that he is a major priority. As a married woman, I cannot give myself universally in the same way that a single woman can, and that is a pain for me because I see the world wounded and dying, but I must be faithful to the vocation and that means being faithful to making lunch and changing diapers and feeding the dog and loving my husband. My point is that either vocation, married life or single/virginity, entails giving up something in order to be fruitful in some way.
Another aspect of the above quote that I appreciate is Von le Fort’s recognition of the sacrifice that singlehood/virginity implies, as woman’s unfilled longing for the comforts of husband and babies translates into “a release for action.” If you feel called to marriage but, despite all your prayers and best efforts, you have not yet met your husband, it hurts. There is an ache in you for the comforts of home and family, and I am just so sorry that your prospects are so few. When Gertrude Von le Fort wrote The Eternal Woman, there were few marriageable men because so many of them had died in World Wars I and II. In our day, there is a different reason for the lack of good men.
The awful fact is that nearly one-third of our generation has been aborted, which means that one-sixth of men who might have been marriage material are not here today. God have mercy. In addition, the men who are alive today are largely handicapped, emotionally and spiritually; they have been fed a steady diet of pornography, video games, alcohol, and sports-addiction, and each of these fosters men who live in their heads or on the computer screens. Men, who are naturally inclined by God to action and bravery, have been largely reduced to Peter Pans who are unable to pursue a marriageable young woman with the intent of courting her and winning her hand. Wow, that sounds harsh. I think that I feel so much frustration on behalf of the beautiful single women I love, women who go on dates with “good Catholic guys” again and again and feel disappointed every time. It seems like there are few men who actually know what they want and who know how to deliberately pursue it. But, please forgive me if I speak without mercy or without a balanced perspective. I know that there are many men who seek God’s plan for their lives, but it can seem like there are so very few.
Which is why y’all need to become saints. “Right,” you say. “Thanks a lot, Katie. Not!” But, I’m really serious. One of the primary gifts of women is to sacrifice for those we love, right? We have an extraordinary capacity to “hold the tension”, as Heather King says, to make up for what is lacking in others and to stand strong if there is an emergency. And, ladies, if there ever was a time when heroic women needed to stand in the gap, it is now. Our world seems to be falling to pieces–families breaking up, sex-trafficking rampant, abortion, pornography, and so forth. If the man who God intended as your husband has failed to find you and failed to be worthy of you, then please consider offering the pain of your vocational longing as a prayer for our dying culture.
The only answer to the wounds in our world is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the only way that Jesus is going to be made present in that world is if you become a saint. Jesus needs you to become a flame, to be set on fire with His love, and to draw others to your warmth. Love, eternal and merciful and tender, is the only antidote to our culture of death, and when you cooperate with God’s plan to make you a saint, you become “walking Love” for others. If Our Lord has allowed you the deep suffering of having an unfulfilled vocational longing, the only way to make sense of it is to offer it up; you take every tear, every lonely Valentine’s Day, ever year of fertility that slips away, and you offer it to the Lord, asking Him to make it fruitful and beautiful. There is no other way to peacefully bear your singleness.
My dear dear Sistas who are single, please know that I ache right there with you. I see how beautiful you are and worthy of a good man and what a wonderful mother you would make, and I am so sorry. I pray for each of you. Amen.