So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Living single (but not isolated).

WA/2015

Not married. Not a priest. Not a religious brother or sister. Not looking.

First off, this is not a series of perfect tips to living the single life in the world. At best, it's an incomplete 'how-to' list. That is, how to do one's best and ask forgiveness for the rest.

This post is for the singles out there who are not necessarily opposed to entering into a relationship with another person but are content living the single life in the world (... in it but not of it!).

Being single has its advantages and its challenges. We may be single and chaste, but we are not passionless asexual beings. We may not have a human spouse or be wed to the church in some beautiful way.

What are we then? We are those unique—or is that eunuch?—folk who for whatever reason find ourselves blessed by God with the challenge of living the "fourth option", which is really the first. We are all born into this world as individuals, at times lonely (we're relational beings after all!) but never alone: God-is-with-us, Emmanuel. Jesus came into this world so named as an infant. As infants, we enter this world just as Jesus did. Well, perhaps without the same degree of obvious angelic fanfare as our Lord, but born no less vulnerable and loveable. Each of us is here for a reason. Our "reason" is hidden in plain view:
God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.—#150 Baltimore Catechism.
Ours is a ministry of friendship and hospitality, of hope and help for those still wandering from their "reason". We singles in the world can excel at offering a welcoming or supportive hand to our brothers and sisters if we turn to God first for the grace to fuel our hearts with His love.

1. Make time for God. Pray daily; pray constantly as you work or play. Become an 'invisible' intercessor. Find a reason to pray for something or someone in particular. Pay attention to the obvious which presents its opportunity to you.
  • You might be inspired to pray for your co-workers, your students (if you are a teacher), unborn children, certain people you meet everyday (janitor, a neighbour, barista), emergency workers (paramedics, police officers, etc.).
  • If there is a lingering thought that seems to be constantly on your mind, that might be God inviting you to pray with that thought in mind. Sometimes it helps to write down a brief prayer for a specific cause for which you want to offer intercessory prayers and keep it with you as a reminder.
  • Whenever I hear a siren, my prayer is: "Lord, watch over our emergency workers and those whom they serve. In Jesus' name. Amen."
  • When you are waiting for traffic or crosswalk light to change, pray.
  • Stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer. Make a daily habit of asking Mary to pray with you. Pope St. John Paul II was very close to Mary. You may recall his personal motto was Totus Tuus—All yours! His life was dedicated to his Mother. They say you can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats his mother!
2. Get involved. Volunteer. Pray as you do your corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Invite God into every activity. We are a missionary people called to evangelize by word and deed. Single people have an abundance of opportunities to invite others to consider welcoming Christ into their lives.

3. Find a wholesome physical activity that provides exercise. When you are feeling anxious or confused, get out of your head. Go for a walk and let you mind unwind. I find canoeing an immense blessing. Riding a bicycle is also very good. Keeping physically fit helps one keep mentally balanced. The temptation to reside solely in one's head is all too easy, especially for the person who lives by themselves.

4. Enjoy the simple gifts. Give thanks to God for every gift: a meal; a conversation with a stranger; the light shining through the trees; a warm bed; a good book; clean clothes; a hobby; silence; etc. Simplify your life. Too much clutter can become a burden. Start clearing a space in your living space so that you can host the occasional gathering. Learn the art of hospitality by doing and being present to others.

5. When you are lonely, ask yourself why you are lonely. Look deeply into that loneliness. Don't push it aside. Learn from it. Do you need someone to be with in a relationship or do you want to be with someone? Needing is one thing; wanting is another. Ask God to help you remove any obstacles you might be putting in the way of God giving you His peace. Remember, you are never alone. God is always with you.

6. When you sin, go to confession soon! Go to confession regularly. When the priest asks you to make an act of contrition, really and truly be sorry and ask God to give you His grace. Grace is real! The Holy Spirit is real and is waiting to help you. So, ask for help. Even if you are confessing the same sin over and over again, do not give up! Sin can be conquered if you trust in God. Ask God for the grace of perseverance.

7. Trust in the grace of God. Ask God for the graces unique to living a single life. For example, pray for patience and the ability to love as Jesus loves. Ask for specific graces that better enable you to move among others with equilibrium and even detachment that allows you to offer a listening ear, a thoughtful gesture of moral and/or practical support, etc. To be single is to be available, available to offer kindness, compassion, etc.

8. Keep a sense of humour, a sense of perspective. Look for the lighthearted moments in life. Take life seriously but don't miss life's beautifully absurd moments that invite you to smile, laugh, pray, cry... . Be real.

9. In all ways and at all times stay close to Jesus!

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