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.