Friday, 2 April 2010

The Cross That Singles Bear

A modified version of this post is in Seraphic Singles: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Single Life (Novalis, 2010). Here is the 2007 original:

Of course this is Good Friday, and the other Catholic sites are guaranteed to have good spiritual reading. I am not sure if I can provide anything as good or as spiritual. My family, though devout, is devout in a quiet way. We go to Mass every Sunday. Afterwards, we critique the homily or giggle over the hymn selections. We do not engage in shared spiritual reflection. We do not have conversations about what Jesus means to us. We do not expound upon the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, although we occasionally do wonder over the workings of Providence. Thus, I found having to talk about Jesus in spiritual direction very weird. ("My relationship with Jesus...? Ah, fine, I guess.") But it is Good Friday, so I am going to make an attempt. As a bad-tempered anti-Semite on my bus once complained of Good Friday closings, "Some Jew dies, and the whole world stops." Yes. Exactly.

On Good Friday we are especially encouraged to join our sufferings to Jesus' and to unshoulder our burdens at the foot of the Cross. And I have always felt that by going to Good Friday services we are mysteriously keeping Jesus company as He dies, two thousand years ago. Did Jesus allow Himself to know that millions would gather around Him, hundreds, thousands of years later, to be with Him in His final agony? I am inclined to think not. After all, there was His shocking cry: "My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?" Professional Scripture scholars, when they squabble over what in the Gospels is historical, have a tool called the "Criterion of Embarrassment." In short, if there is an event in the Gospels that was embarrassing to first and second century Christians, and yet it was duly recorded, it probably happened that way. Jesus crying out in agony to His Father---. That fits the Criterion of Embarrassment. Jesus' grief didn't say much to non-believers about Jesus' divinity and the love of the Father for Him.

But it says a lot to us, particularly to us perpetually single people. It tells us that Jesus was, at that moment at very least, earth-shatteringly lonely. He was so lonely, He who was one with the Father, felt abandoned by the Father. And although we don't know what that could have meant for Jesus, we sure know what that means for us.

The cross of the unmarried: loneliness. 3 AM loneliness. 11 PM I-can't-face-my-empty-bed loneliness. The loneliness of Friday night when you are all dressed up and have nowhere to go. The loneliness of having a friend bail on a movie because "he" finally called. The loneliness of boring weddings, and the loneliness after a good wedding. The loneliness after a wonderful afternoon visiting married friends with children. The loneliness of Valentine's Day. The loneliness of Christmas parties. The loneliness of New Year's Eve. The loneliness of going to a dance class, alone. The loneliness of listening to a humming fridge in the dark.

It is not good for man to be alone, says Genesis. That much is certain. Monks and nuns usually live in communities, so they are not alone the way a single person is alone. They have made their decision. Usually, we have made none, or at least no positive ones. We make negative decisions: "I cannot marry that one." "Well, she doesn't want me, so I won't make a fuss." "He'll never marry me. I'd better cut my losses." These decisions are tinged with sadness and disappointment. The fridge hums relentlessly on.

I have done some stupid things out of loneliness. Dating men from work--well, that was okay, but dating atheists was demoralizing. Dating an alcoholic just because he was a cute, intelligent Catholic--that was pretty dumb. Dating a sleazy, vicious actor just because I hadn't been on a date in years--that was a very bad decision.

I have done some dangerous things out of loneliness, too. I have walked through dark streets to get away from myself and my empty apartment. I have gone to nightclubs alone just to lose myself in the music, the crowd, the alcohol. I have let a near-stranger crash on my couch. (We had a mutual friend, but still.)

And I have done some embarrassing things out of loneliness. Read personal ads. Joined internet dating services. Gone on blind dates made through the internet. Gone--alone--to dance classes. Tried to get back together with boyfriends I had dumped, or who had dumped me.

Fill in your own personal humiliations, my dear fellow Singles.

Although I never lost my faith in God after my bad marriage, I was very angry at Him. Furious. After all, I had been a Good Girl and had not deserved all this crap. I did not deserve all the pain, the humiliation, the temptation, the disappointment and the loneliness. I marched into church one week to give Him a piece of my mind. Perhaps it was for all of us, dear Singles, all of us who watch and wait and hope and despair, who climb into our cold beds and listen to the damned fridge hum and the building creak and the branches tap on the window.

"You don't know what it is like to be human," I accused God. "You don't know what it's like to suffer!"

Then my eye fell on the crucifix. And in my heart, I heard Him say, "Oh, yes, I do."

Jesus voluntarily took on our suffering along with our humanity, and because He was utterly alone on the cross, we can never be truly alone in our loneliness.


Dominic Mary said...


Dominic Mary said...


some guy on the street said...

"stupid things out of loneliness"... you and me both, Auntie. And I think we're in good company, too. I read recently in a sermon of his grace Archbishop Collins, "The sacrament of Reconciliation is the gift of Easter".

theobromophile said...

Happy Easter. :)

Lovely post.

Jasmina said...

Thank you for this post..especially the last sentence:)

Lisette said...

Yes, how that refrigerator does hum on. LOL