I just wrote an 821 word article about Vocation for the Toronto Catholic Register so my daily thoughts on the Single Life have been mostly used up already. But you won't get to read it until next week, so I will squeeze out some more Single thoughts from my brain.
The most important one is that we are called into Single Life from birth. As Mae West replied to a query about her singleness, "I was born that way." Single is what we are and what we should be unless and until definitively called to something else.
Of course, there are some principles governing this. Singles are not supposed to be stealing the pleasures that belong to married life while, being Single, happily dispensing with its responsibilities and challenges. The big three are, of course, sex, parenting and playing House together*, none of which should be done with an escape hatch. Singles seem less inclined to steal the pleasures of priesthood and religious life--although I know one chap who lived for free in a vocations retreat house, enjoying the downtown location and the services of a maid and a cook, all while dating a girl and, quite blatantly, serving her tea in the parlour.
So Singles are called to live with integrity, and to the poverty, chastity and obedience proper to your state, until you get called to some other state, if you are. And even then it may be temporary. Married couples rarely die at the exact same time. The widowed half may spend decades Single. And there are nuns who find themselves living alone in an apartment, working at a secular job, physically separated from their proper communities, living quite as if they were Single women, with perhaps the Office thrown in. Most secular priests are, I argue, Single men. So one can live Single not just in the first twenty years of one's life, but in the last twenty, and sometimes in all the years in between. And therefore, Single life is pretty darn normal. We're going to be Single in the Kingdom, too.
Of course, the building block of society is still the family, so this is not a brief for rampant individualism. What gave meaning to my life when I was Single, and what will still bring meaning to my life if I become Single again, is that I belong to (1) a biological family and (2) to the Church family. Both families have very long histories and hopefully have quite long and bright futures. A Single, straight or gay, is a child and grandchild and very often a niece or nephew, great-niece or great-nephew, uncle or aunt, cousin, brother or sister. Singles belong, and they belong in history, to two things way bigger than yourselves: family and Church. So you're never "just a Single"--never, never, never. You owe us. We owe you. No man is an island. Etc.
There is no God-given reason to forsake your natural from-birth Single state in a blind panic or under family or social pressure. True vocation is a "falling in love with", not a "running away from" something else. I am very fond of three nuns in Toronto (and two of their order in Slovakia), but I didn't fall in love with them, so I didn't join up. I must say I was tempted. Ah, the temptation for my life to be settled for once and for all! But I stuck it out and finally got my true vocation, with all its joys and challenges, gifts and sacrifices.
Finally, there are people who love being Single and discern a call to the permanent Single Life. They should be supported in this by the rest of the Church. This call is considered unusual, so among the challenges and sacrifices of permanent Single Life may be the need to defend and explain it to other people.
The permanent Single also has the challenge of defending him or herself from being taken advantage of at work and in voluntary activities where married folk say "Well, you don't have a spouse/children, so you should work the worse shift, longest hours, for the worst pay" or where priests and nuns use their status as a form of spiritual coercion over other unmarried people. But, at the same time, of course, the permanent Singles have a boatload of personal freedom, for them to enjoy wisely and according to their call.
The photo is of my nephew "Peanut" and me. He's Single.
*I changed this from "setting up house together." There seems to me no reason for two friends or relations not to set up house together, like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, as long as neither person fondly thinks of the situation as "practically married," interfering each other's chances for real marriage, should that be either's calling, or creating a dangerous-to-them-not-just-to-their-neighbours'-fevered-imaginations situation of occasion for sin.
Update: This is the most beautiful thing I've seen all day: a religious order for women with Down Syndrome and those women called to live in sisterhood with them. Hat tip to Berenike at Laodicea