YOU know those movies that you really wish you hated, but secretly enjoy way more than you ought to?
I went into How to Be Single fully prepared to despise it, but emerged peculiarly inspired.
The film was as shallow and rude as I expected it to be, and of the options it presented for living your single years – partying it up, Internet dating, having a sperm-donor baby, or pursuing your dreams unshackled – not one was tinged with any sort of altruism, let alone a relationship with God.
But the movie did what few of us dare to – acknowledge single life as a reality full of real challenges and real opportunities.
Somewhere between high school graduation and the day you figure out what a superannuation fund actually is, you hit that phase of life where you have multiple wedding invitations stuck on the fridge.
Your friends’ camping trip photos are a line-up of all the young Catholic couples in Brisbane.
Your seminary buddies are edging closer to ordination, and yet another youth group alumna has flown off to some far-distant convent.
And you’re here – perpetually stuck in the friend-zone, more than a bit uncertain about what your future holds, feeling futile and inadequate as a servant of the Lord because you haven’t yet ticked the neat little box on the to-do list labelled, “Figure out what God’s calling me to”.
Last year when I worked for Vocation Brisbane, I had the opportunity to ruminate on my life as a young single woman.
Our office published a series of booklets called Ruminatio, on each of the states of life, written by staff members from the fruits of their prayer and lived experiences of marriage, priesthood, religious life, and single life.
Unlike the others, my testimony couldn’t really hinge on a “And then God asked me to (insert heroic life decision here)”.
It was simply an outpouring of gratitude for the little ways God was asking me to walk with Him every single day.
I called my booklet The Hallway, inspired by the anonymous quote, “Until God opens the next door, praise Him in the hallway”.
I sent it through for editing and promptly forgot about it until last week when I found myself holding a three-dimensional, published copy.
I cried while re-reading that booklet, not because it’s a tragic tale or so magnificently written as to induce weeping.
I cried because, in many ways, I’d forgotten how to be single like a Catholic.
You see, what movies like How to be Single, and, dare I say it, many well-meaning Christians, don’t offer us is an understanding of the beautiful gift of God to be discovered in single life.
We see a dichotomy – make a gift of yourself right now in marriage or priesthood or religious life, or live a selfish, superficial existence peppered with one-night-stands and active wear.
But what Jesus reminds me – and what I think we single folk need daily to be reminded of – is that there’s a third option – the radical choice for holiness in the present moment.
Mary of Nazareth was single when God called her to bear Christ to the world.
Simon Peter was dissatisfied with his day job when Jesus stepped into his reality and empowered him to live it better.
Every day – whether we’re wiping tables at a restaurant or polishing off a political science essay or at home alone on a Saturday night – the God of the universe is extending to us an unfathomable invitation to a life of romance and adventure.
What does it mean to be single like a Catholic?
It is to love deeply in the present moment, because you know how deeply you are loved by God in every moment.
And until He opens the next door, to praise Him in the hallway – and to get a copy of Kate’s book, because really, you all should read it.
Kate Gilday is a university student and youth leader in the Brisbane archdiocese. Her dream is to write for the Catholic Church.
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