Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Single Life in Community

Writing in the Bible and Life magazine, from the time he was in middle school to the present, now in his middle forties, a parishioner tells us about his volunteer work as a member of the parish liturgical committee. Usually his turn comes-up about twice a month, but at the New Year and Autumn Festival he is the one who is the lector at the liturgy. He  lives in Seoul, no need to go to the country to visit relatives, not married, his concerns are not as  many as the other members of the community.

Some years ago at the Autumn Festival he was the lector not only at the morning liturgy but at the evening Mass. After morning Mass he was called by the assistant priest to the rectory to have breakfast. He was asked if he could be lector at the evening liturgy. Since he would be alone during the day he had no problem with attending the evening Mass. During the breakfast they talked about the single and married state. The priest said: "Whether married or single we have to live according to God's plan for creation."

With these words came the realization that we are all responsible to form the world we live in according to God's plans, and he saw the vocation to the single and married state in a different light. In one way it was the same vocation. One of the benefits of the single life is the freedom to be of service to others.

He was introduced to volunteer work in an old age home by one his younger friends. Every other week he would go to wash clothes, clean, and play checkers and talk with the grandfathers. The question he hears the most from the grandfathers: "Isn't your wife and children upset with you being away from the house on Sundays?" When he tells them he is not married they respond: "Forget about coming here and get married." Volunteer work  is not difficult and has helped his spiritual life a great deal.

The biggest problem with the single life is the distorted view that many have of the celibate life.  Life is incomplete. Many see it as as a lack of something, and this is not only a view that is seen outside the community of faith. On one occasion he was chosen to be mediator in a problem with those preparing an athletic meet for the church community. One of the persons who was given the committee some trouble was not married, and was criticized for his stubbornness: "Isn't that the  reason he has not found someone to marry?" These words were not address to him but it made him feel very uncomfortable, and he found himself avoiding situations where he would be bickering with others and became passive.

Because of his celibacy there are times that he has felt alienated from the community. In a meeting with the married members and their talk about family and their problems it is then he feels like an outsider. Little is there for him to say during the discussions.

Looking over his life as a single male he sees it as something positive in living the life of faith.  His  membership in societies of the community, his service to others, prayer and meditating, reading spiritual books, all have been helped by his celibacy.  Prejudice against the single life and the need to overcome the temptations in daily life that are present are a problem but he feels celibacy is  a help in some small way in witnessing within the community of faith. 

Consequently he concludes there is a need to have specialized programs introduced into the community of faith that are concerned with the single Christian. He has never attended any such programs so doesn't know what they should entail but it would be sharing of ideas and experiences, praying together would be a great help in their spiritual growth. It would be a help in overcoming the bias against the single life and  dealing with the temptations in life and the feeling of alienation that is often  present. He hopes that this new chapter in Church life with these groups for single Catholics spreading the fragrance  that comes with a life with Jesus will give birth to new life within the Church.

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