Me: So what do you do?
SAM: I'm a spiritual writer.
Me: Oh, great! So am I! What have you written?
SAM: Well, among other things, I wrote a book called Celebrating the Single Life (Crossroad, 1985).
Me: That's amazing! I wrote a book about the Single Life too! It's called Seraphic Singles (Novalis, 2010).
SAM: Really? What school of spirituality did you employ?
Me: Um, what?
SAM: Did you delve into the importance of prayerful presence?
Me: Um, no.
SAM: Did you break open the scriptures to reveal the special message the Gospel holds for Singles?
Me: Um, um, wait. Let me think. Oh! Once. At least once. I'm pretty sure once. At least once. Maybe twice.
SAM: I was greatly helped by the guidance of Father Adrian Van Kaam.
Me: Well, I read The Rules over and over again.
SAM: I thought you said you were a spiritual writer.
Me: Ah, yes, well, I'm spiritual and I'm a writer, so, ah, er. ..
I'll tell you what Seraphic Singles is like. My book is like a collection of letters from a Catholic Single friend who gives a lot of unsolicited advice and has tragicomic romantic misadventures with Germans. Why Germans? Why, indeed. Anyway, it's like being able to read my blogposts without lugging your computer around. And now you can see the cover online! I'm so excited. (For more information, click on "Coming Soon.")
But for serious spirituality stuff, complete with suggestions for future readings, I recommend Muto's Celebrating Single Life. It won't make you giggle on the bus, but it seems to be full of good food for your soul. I'm going back to the National Library today to make sure.
Here's a passage from Muto's preface that struck me as particularly helpful:
Let us begin...with the bold assertion that the single state is the foundation of all human formation. We are born single (that is, unique) and we die single. In this world, before one chooses any other state in life, he or she is single. Only to the degree that persons accept this blessing of uniqueness can they enjoy the togetherness offered by marriage or community membership. Married couples who really love one another know how much the preservation of their relationship depends on respect for the other's uniqueness. Vowed religious agree that their solidarity as a community finds its greatest resource in each one's solitude before God...
Celebrating the Single Life is definitely in the school of thought that there is a real, permanent Call to the Single Life, quite apart from circumstantial singleness. So Serious Singles should particularly consider reading it. Those of you who are more-or-less sure you're going to be called to religious life or marriage might find in it more comfort as you wait for your marching orders.
There's a gem in the "Introduction" by Father Adrian von Kaam that explains how you might know you have a true vocation to the Single Life. A true vocation to the Single Life shows "little or no envy, spite, jealousy, discontent or tension over the peace, joy and nearness to God that others enjoy in their marital or conventual life...[S]uch a [Single] person is at ease in affirming others in their calling and showing them the respect they deserve."
My response is that there are some very saintly Searching Singles who don't feel envy or spite about other people's married or conventual happiness, but let that go for the moment. What I want to stress is that if you feel a deep desire to wear a Benedictine habit and sing Psalms all day or to have babies and scrub the kitchen floor while your spouse hoovers (vacuums) the sittingroom, and cry with loneliness after weddings and vow-takings, God is probably not calling you to Permanent Single Life. Not so far, anyway. You know you have been called to something (or, more accurately, in the case of a community or a person-to-marry, someone) when you fall in love with it (them, him, her).
One thing that drives me nuts is that vocations tend to be treated BOTH as something we choose of our own free will AND as something that God decrees of HIS own free will. Since people seem to act as though your vocation is something you have to pick (and yet also discern) by the time you leave university, they lead one into the temptation of telling the Almighty to hurry up already. But God is FREE. God gives FREELY. So we have to, and should, await upon our Lord's convenience and not go into super-panic in the third or fourth year of our B.A. degrees because He hasn't spoken yet.