Friday, 2 July 2010


The other day a tipsy friend said, "I've never held anybody's hand, and I've only ever kissed my mother."

This was not a complaint. It was a boast. The boaster was well over thirty years of age. The boaster was a devout Christian and, I think I may safely surmise, a Serious Single and happy with it.

One of you has asked for a post on hope, and I worried what I might say about hope. But then I remembered the tipsy boaster, and I knew where to go with hope.

My hope is that you will become content with being Single. Yes, you could get called out of Singledom at any moment. Mr. Right or Miss Perfect may swan into your life tomorrow or is lurking incognito right now amongst your current acquaintance. But you have no control over that. In fact, you have little control over most things. Your kingdom is you. Walls do not a prison make--it is your own mind that makes you happy or sad about your Single state.

If you are Single right now, then it is God's will that you are Single right now. Why? I have no clue. I'm sure it must be for a good reason, though. Somewhere in the warp and weft of history, your current Singleness matters. It matters that Dorothy Day, after her conversion, was Single to the end of her life. It matters that Jean Vanier may very well be Single to the end of his life. It matters that Christ was Single throughout His earthly mission--and because Christ was Single, no Single need be ashamed to be Single ever again.

Christ is the model of the Single life. Christ mapped His human will onto the divine will, the will he shared with His Father. Christ said, "Your will be done," and on that occasion, this was about the Passion, not about a relatively good old life without a spouse in it. There is no scourge and no nails waiting for most of us; "Your will be done" should be comparatively easy to say.

Christ "got out there"--but not to find a spouse. He got out there because He had a mission, and He made friends along the way. He made a lot of surprising friends, too. Working class, middle class, upper class, possibly even Romans. People he freed from demons. Formerly crooked tax collectors. Formerly loose women. Just about every sort of person, and yet it was His relationship with the Father that counted most.

What's your mission?

Christ did not sulk at weddings; He saved one. Christ, implored by His mother, chose--in concert with the will of His Father--to perform his first "sign" or miracle at the wedding at Cana, and that is why today we recognize marriage as a sacrament, not just the boring old natural end of the breeding human being, but as another place where we meet Christ.

Where do you meet Christ?

I say "another place" deliberately, and in his congratulatory letter, a friend in a Franciscan monastery couldn't help but remind B.A. and me that marriage is the "least" of the sacraments. We giggled, but our friend was right. Baptism, Eucharist, Penance--these are the sacraments we most fiercely need. And two of those depend on someone, usually someone else, receiving the Sacrament of Orders.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps. 27.1) Or, as it says on the cross I bought on a mini-pilgrimmage to visit St. Hildegard, "Der Herr ist mein Licht und mein Heil, vor wem sollte ich mich fuerchen?" I used to look at this cross in my cold student's bedroom in Boston and repeat this with my teeth gritted and my eyes filling with tears. When I was not writing or going about with Volker or Boston Girl, I was not very happy in Boston. However, I managed to say, "Your will be done" from time to time. "Your will be done."

It did not occur to me that God's will was that I would return home amid the wreckage of my PhD, crank out four manuscripts, visit Scotland, marry BA and live in a Historical House. I dreaded the first item, and I didn't as much as hope for the other ones, unknown possibilities too wild even for my febrile imagination. My one hope, the last I was left with, was that eventually I would accept what God had in store for me.

Practise makes perfect.


Fritha said...

Thank you for an awesome post! There's a lot of food for thought here, and will definitely be reflecting over it (in between football matches anyway!)

Christine Pennacchio said...

Thanks for this post! His will be done.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this beautiful post! Deep down I know all of this to be true, but it helps to be reassured sometimes.