Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Eavesdroppers & Are Confirmed Bachelors Allowed?

Dear Auntie Seraphic, 

As someone who now lives in the UK, can you illumine me on the seeming paradox of the confirmed bachelor, or at least the seeming paradox of the Catholic confirmed bachelor? This phenomenon is  associated with British men, though I'm sure there are no shortage of American men living as Confirmed Bachelors. As I approach 30 (aged 28), I'm puzzled by men in their 40s who, faithful to all the teachings of the Church they strive to be, seem to show no inclination toward marriage, Holy Orders, or religious life. 

I'm sometimes on the defensive against those who think I'm odd for not being married or in the convent by now, since I'm firmly in the camp of "vocation is a vowed way of loving, either consecrated solely to God or vowed to one's spouse," and as such I don't view unconsecrated single-life as a vocation but rather a state in life. I feel vague pressure about finding a husband, to which I usually respond with a sometimes-witty comment about waiting on God's will and it being the job of men to seek wives rather than the job of women to seek husbands. 

But for men, how do they spin this? I suppose if a man really doesn't want to bother with women, it's best if he doesn't seek a spouse who might indeed make him miserable and interrupt his predictable solitude, but does that jive with the Church's emphasis on finding a particular vocation in which to live out the universal vocation to holiness? The natural end of the human person is marriage, and while some forgo that for the Kingdom, it's usually as priests, religious, or consecrated virgins/celibates, not men who like their empty apartments and don't want to bother with the complications of women.

I don't know if that makes sense or not....

Are Confirmed Bachelors Allowed?

Well, I wrote a reply to this (several, actually), but I am not happy with them, so I will ask the Eavesdroppers to reply. 

It's the last day of the month, and that's a good day for Eavesdroppers to drop in. (Eavesdroppers, in case you are new, means men. Men, especially the ones I go to Mass with, aren't supposed to read my blog, but a lot of them do anyway because men love to do stuff women tell them not to do. Wickedly, some of them will read this post but then not comment just because I asked them to.) 


N.W. Thomas said...

I think there could be two explanations:

1) He is living some sort of consecration that you don't know about (less likely).

2) He hasn't "felt" the call to the priesthood or the religious life any more than he has felt the call to marry any specific woman.

He probably has not felt such a call because as a human being, he is much more satisfied with a lifestyle that doesn't rock his boat. He may have tried dating or getting involved socially and felt a vague sense of "I should probably get married." However, if this didn't pan out for him, he probably lost the vague sense and just got involved in his life. either his career or his hobbies. Once he tires of them, the vague sense might return.

Or he might suddenly discover that when his career and his hobbies have failed him, he always had a desire to serve the Lord at the altar.

The third option is the worst the think about, but possibly the most accurate in some respects.

3) He isn't actually living to your standards of "faithful Christianity."

This could mean he's not as chaste as you would hope, but it also could mean that he isn't all that into living the sacrificial nature of the faith in general, and so he doesn't realize that he is being asked to set aside his wants and desires for the Kingdom.

The end. Hope that makes sense.

Michael said...

I doubt whether the confirmed bachelor is a true Christian vocation. I feel that single men over 40 too often just continue living like they would be 25, i.e. with the proverbial bachelor's appartement.

I would say they don't stay single deliberately, but of course it has some reasons.

First it makes we very sad that a lot of Christian men over 40 ignore "perfect" women above 35...

Second I guess that those Christian men too often just don't know how it works, finding a wife. I've a Catholic UK friend in his middle forties who seems to make the same mistake several times: first developing strong feelings for some hot early-30ies-thing with no Christian background. asking the lady out on ambigous "halfway-dates", trying to hide their intentions and getting rejected after a statement of unilateral love.

Unfortunately, his behaviour of "friendship first" is too often encouraged by typical Christian dating advice because it sounds logical at the surface. But it's not. Chances are high that he is amazed by her looks but she needs a proper date to develop sound feelings in the process of getting to know him.

I guess what could help these guys would be some advice from married males...

Some guy in the USA said...

A very small percentage of people do not experience sexual attraction, so that could be one possible explanation. (I admit that I sometimes envy such people!)

Some men are genuinely more interested in their career or hobby than in women. That's not me, but I can understand it. Women complicate everything, and a relationship requires an enormous time commitment. Why not spend your life doing what you enjoy instead of constantly having to compromise? Celibacy might be a fairly small price to pay for such a person.

I would guess that some men who seem to fit the profile of the "confirmed bachelor" probably secretly wish they could be married but have given up hope after a lifetime of failure in dating. They convince themselves that it's their choice to be single so they don't feel like a loser. That may very well be how I end up, since I'm physically unattractive and every women I've asked out has politely declined.

As to whether one can be a faithful Catholic without choosing a vocation, I say absolutely. God never asks the impossible of us, and for some, a vowed or sacramental vocation just isn't possible.

Leah said...

I'm not an eavesdropper, but may I ask a question?

The idea of the single life not being a valid vocation has always bothered me, partly because of people who are destined to remain single through no fault of their own. If someone (woman or man) remains single because they never find the right person to marry, or to take care of an ailing family member, etc., does that mean that they simply don't get a vocation? That seems rather harsh. I've always understood that a vocation is a calling to do a specific thing (ie, A job can be a lesser kind of vocation), and it seems that someone who is single can have a calling/vocation to remain single and serve people/the Church/God as a single person.

Also, I don't see the problem with a person, man or women, wanting to remain single to concentrate on their career, or simply because they don't have a strong desire to get married. (Not everyone is cut out for/or has a desire for marriage and raising a family, and personally I think the world would be a poorer place without Serious Singles.) Should that person force themselves to look for someone to get married to, just for the sake of getting married? That seems absurd. (It also seems to me that if confirmed bachelor/bachelorette finds the right person, it won't take long for them to give up the 'confirmed' part. :)

So, why can't the single life be a valid vocation?

Lisa said...

Leah, I don't want to hijack the Eavesdropper thread, but I've wondered about the same thing. I've found an answer that makes perfect sense to me. The vocations require a commitment in the form of a vow. Whether religious or married, your vows deprive you of something else and direct your attention to fulfilling them. When one is just single, there is nothing keeping that person single except his own personal choice. That could change. A single person can get married or enter orders or a convent. There's nothing keeping him from it. Thus, it's more of a state of life. Now, consecrated singlehood is a different story, because again, a person is committing himself to a specific path through a vow. Since a vow is a promise made before God, it makes the thing holy and failure to fulfill the vows is usually a mortal sin. A single person can decide he is going to remain single and devote himself to his job, but were he to change his mind, there is no sin. Hope this helps!

Gregaria said...

A few thoughts:

Perhaps there are circumstances you don't know about: he has a mental illness, a family obligation, a criminal record... things that would make it very difficult to be a priest, religious, or get married. Also, he might be gay and not have a vocation to the priesthood (I know someone like this). I also know a guy who is trying very hard to find a wife, but he's not that good looking and, more importantly, he has an awkward personality which makes it hard to talk to him.

Sometimes, there is no other choice for men in these unusual circumstances than to remain single. Whether they should make it official by becoming consecrated singles is another question.

hip2bsquare said...

I think it's very hard to know or understand why any particular man chooses to remain single from an outsider's perspective. What is clear is that, leaving aside the question of whether the single life is a vocation or not, all Catholics are called on to make a gift of themselves to others.

I can imagine careers, like medicine or the military, that call on a man to sacrifice to serve others, and in which it can be difficult to have a decent family life. I can imagine life situations, where a man is needed to take care of sick or dependent family members, that would also be a gift of self. I can imagine a rich uncle who then helps pay for the college education of his nieces and nephews, so that they can start their lives free of the millstone of student loan debt.

What I can't really imagine is a man wanting to remain single so that he can spend as much as he likes on port, cigars, and whiskey, and so that no one can tell him what to do and when to do it, or make any legitimate claims of duty on him. Or more accurately, I can imagine it, but I don't think of it as morally praiseworthy.

Seraphic said...

Well said, Hip!

Ladies, you may have noticed that those parishes who allow altar girls lose the altar boys rather quickly. As always, we'll get a chance to respond tomorrow.

pomofo said...

We have or have had a number of bachelors at our church, and my hope is that I don't end up in that situation too when I get older, but I can't necessarily blame them. In in an age of no-fault divorce and family courts that enforce draconian penalties against fathers, marriage is a very, very risky endeavor, especially for someone middle-aged who has spent decades accumulating wealth and establishing their career or business. Why risk losing everything you own by marrying someone who doesn't share your values 100%? So, men become far more picky.

And I still think that one of the main reasons for so many Catholic bachelors is that there is a paucity of good Catholic women out there. Just about every woman at my church in my age range is already married or on their way to being married; and if there are any unmarried women then they're either under-18 or 10-15 years older than me. Even if I did find a lady I sparked to, I'm an introvert and sometimes find small talk tiresome and tedious. If my one chance at conversation happens to be when I'm in a non-conversational mood then, well, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And that's assuming I can get up the courage to even talk to a woman in the first place. I keep telling myself that I'll be more outgoing at work and just walk up to women and introduce myself, but like all plans that never survives first contact with the enemy. I still feel that marriage is my calling, and I think I'd be a good husband, but the hurdle to get to that step sometimes seems insurmountable.

Ordinary Joe said...

Right there with ya' pomofo. I'm 37, and while I don't consider myself a "confirmed bachelor" I do fit the profile. I would love to be a husband and father, but as you said I often feel the hurdle to get there is beyond my abilities to leap.

I'm also very much an introvert, quite shy, and have self-confidence issues. Perhaps I am too broken to marry.

But to return to the original question, it does often leave me wondering where I fit in, what is my vocation in life? I feel like my vocation is marriage, and I've never felt called to the priesthood. If I'm called to marriage, but not capable of it, where does that leave me?

Eavesdropper #11 said...

The original questioner is concerned that some men "seem to show no inclination toward marriage, Holy Orders, or religious life". I'm wondering how she knows that these men are not actually interested in getting married?

Single men aren't likely to talk about marriage or relationships in venues where women are listening (for example, I see single female friends talking about dating on their Facebook walls and discussing their relational disappointments in faith-sharing groups, while the men stay silent on these matters).

Is it because the questioner doesn't observe the men asking anyone out? I know that when I have attempted (and failed) to ask someone out, I kept quiet about it. To my friends, it may appear that I have not been asking out anyone at all.

"Confirmed bachelors" probably do exist, but in my entire life, I've only met one Catholic man who actually said that he doesn't want to get married. (I was also clueless at the time when it came to identifying gay men, so I can't rule that out, for what it's worth.) I think the "men wanting to remain single so that he can spend as much as he likes on port, cigars, and whiskey" are mythical, like the gold-diggers and women who "only are interested in jerks" that men always complain about.

Regarding consecrated singlehood, there is no way for a man to be consecrated in the same way as a woman -- there's no equivalent to consecrated virginity (c.f. Can. 604) for men. There are the third orders and similar institutes, but one must feel a call to the particular charism for that.

Maddi said...

Hi Ordinary Joe, I know Aunty Seraphic wanted this boys-only but your words really resonated with me & I wanted to let you know that a happy marriage to a loving supportive partner can bring great healing to those of us who feel 'broken' by our pasts. Although an army of psychologists would kill me for saying this I really think my husband saved me & made me so much better than I was before. I thought I was un-marry-able but he saw the good in me 5 yrs ago & so I have tried to become the good person he deserves. Never give up hope x

Miss Doyle said...

Sorry for not being an eavesdropper, of the kind Seraphic wants, but this one is for Leah and Lisa.

I have a huge problem with viewing vocations as legitimate (or more legitimate) when a vow is attached.

There is absolutely NOTHING stopping anyone from living out a call from God and not taking a vow to 'cement' it.
My personal interior commitment in the sight of God is just as valid, just as solemn, just as weighty. It is not the 'wimps' way out.

I think we've got to this idea by forgetting that we all have a very real vocation - given to us in Baptism, and confirmed in Confirmation. Those vows never expire!
Our state in life may, but if it doesn't (ie a single life), our vocation remains the same - that is, my Christian vocation.

My original and first vocation received at Baptism doesn't change with marriage or Holy Orders or taking vows as a religious. They are all ways in which God calls us specifically, but they are only 3 out of many.
Our first vow remains.
This makes sense when you think of a widow. Has he 'lost' his vocation when he is no longer married? No! His state in life has changed, but his Christian vocation remains. How he lives it out is going to be different, but no less valid or worthy.
I often think that people insist on vows because it shows a concrete way of living a particular vocation, and without it, you're on your own.
That's true in a sense, but it doesn't have to be.

Sorry about this aside, but it's a question that keeps popping up, and it's frustrating to have God's call to individual souls speculated upon by others, or made light of because you don't see any sign of vows!

Seraphic said...

Oh dear. Just as I can't stop men from reading, I can't stop women from commenting. However, men commented regardless (thank you very much, gents), and thank you, ladies, for not jumping down their throats.

We ladies can all talk about these interesting issues today.