Saturday, 18 September 2010

On Going to Papal Masses Alone

Imagine you are in a foreign country, and you are going on a pilgrimage to a city you do not know at all well. To do so, you have to meet a pilgrim leader whom you have never met at a big railway station. Now, imagine that you have turned up in the nick of time--you think--and the pilgrim leader is nowhere to be seen. Your pilgrim group is nowhere to be seen. Indeed, there is no other pilgrim to be seen.

This is easy for me to imagine, for that is what happened to me on Thursday. Fortunately, the green pilgrim's band around my wrist got me on the next train to Glasgow, and I took my seat alone.

If you are lonely and think that your alone days will end if/when you get married, think again. All your life you are going to have moments when you are alone and you will have to make snap decisions alone. If you get married, your spouse will be at their work--and/or you will be at your work---for hours on end. He or she may come home tired, cranky, and not much fun to be around. When you want to see the pope, he or she may be working (or, as someone suggested, a Protestant).

My aloneness didn't really occur to me when I was on the train. After all, the only person I was thinking of at the time was Benedict XVI, and I wasn't thinking just as a pilgrim but as a journalist. I couldn't have given two hoots for my pilgrim leader, whoever he or she was; I didn't even bear him or her any grudge for leaving me behind. I had clear directions to Bellahouston Park, I had my magic green wristband and I had my super-impressive press pass. With all that, I could rewrite Pilgrim's Progress, ever mind an article for the Catholic Register.

Glasgow was tricky. Pilgrims had to hike from Queen Street Station to Central Station, but I spotted some Benedictines who seemed to know the way, so I followed them. And the Benedictine who sat beside me on the train from Central Station was friendly (and senior) enough to chat. We parted ways on the next hike, but I just followed the surging crowds of Catholics. Again, my aloneness didn't occur to me: I was one of thousands, after all.

I saw the Media Centre, but it didn't interest me yet. My first thought, which was a bit crazy, was to find fellow pilgrims from my Latin Mass community. I marched along optimistically through by a section near the front and saw, first, my community's self-appointed usher, now a volunteer usher for the Papal Mass, and, second, one of the handsome bachelors of the Latin Mass community. He had come with his geographical parish, but had abandoned them a quarter of a mile away for a spot under a maple tree. I took out my notebook, thinking to interview him, and in the end, I spent Mass with him and his pal, another handsome bachelor. We prayed and sang together.

I never found my proper pilgrim group, and although I eventually filed a story from the Media Centre, I never found out where the media were supposed to stand. But that was okay. I was where I was supposed to be, with two Singles (come to think of it), and when Mass was over I said good-bye to them both, and went happily home alone with 65 thousand people.

UPDATE: I forgot the moral of the story. The moral of the story is that if you don't learn to live with aloneness when you are Single, you might get a shock when you are married. I'll write more on this one day.


aussie girl in australia said...

With all due respect, it is not going places alone on occasion that makes Single people lonely. It is going places alone every time, seeing lots of couples who are not alone, living alone and sleeping alone - all these things in combination. One of these things in isolation or on occasion is not a problem for most of us.
Being married means you have a partner in life, even if they aren't with you 24/7. It is a far cry from the "being alone" experienced by singles.

That said, I am glad you enjoyed the Papal Mass with two Singles. I am always intrigued when you talk about the Handsome Single Men at your Edinburough Latin Mass Community. Makes a girl want to visit the UK....

Seraphic said...

I actually know what being Single is like, having been Single for decades. And, sadly, I know how much worse it is to be alone in a bad marriage. What surprises me is discovering, first-hand, how often alone one is, even when happily married.

theobromophile said...

I spent the last week with my maternal grandfather, who has been widowed since age 70. Then, I talked to my dad and stepmom; they've spent the last two summers apart, sharing time only on the weekends. My grandfather barely eats when he's alone, and my dad, who spends his summers eating potato chips and ice cream, understands. So I guess I've gotten the up-close-and-personal view of how being Married hardly exempts you from loneliness.

Like Aussie Girl, I'm not looking for "never alone, always with someone", but a break from "always alone, always going to parties by myself, always cooking for myself, never coming home to anyone" would be nice. Besides - something we can all agree on - this whole business of assuming that people won't marry until their 30s or 40s is just not natural.

healthily sanguine said...

Yeah, my boyfriend went off to the UK for a week to go to the papal beatification mass--I couldn't go because I had to work--and I have been feeling rather lonely/alone lately. It's funny, because I almost feel like I didn't have as many lonely moments before I was dating because then I didn't feel a drive to be with this ONE person and hence didn't feel as alone when one of my best friends wasn't around. I would just call up another girl friend to hang out with! And, of course, I'm doing that now as well, it just feels different...guess that's normal, though it feels a bit pathetic. :)