I just finished an absolutely incredible weekend at the National Catholic Singles Conference. If you were there, you know what I’m talking about. And if you weren’t there…well, you should have been.
It occurred to me, in conversations over the weekend, that perhaps we need a different name. Not so much for the conference as for ourselves. The whole “singles” moniker just isn’t working for me.
I realize it’s the only word we’ve got at the moment. It describes us and our state of life better than anything else I’ve been able to come up with. We’re single. We – whether never married, divorced, annulled or widowed – are people who live our everyday lives without spouses. We live “singly.”
Unfortunately, the word has been co-opted by the larger culture. I think it started in the ’60’s with the advent of the “swinging singles.” “Single” no longer just meant “unmarried.” It implied a lifestyle, and a “swinging” one at that. We’re glamorous (or at least we try to be). We party. We hook up. And we are sometimes just a little bit desperate and pathetic, hanging on to our “swinging” lifestyle well into middle age and beyond.
Afterward, everything “single” came to be viewed through that lens. Singles’ groups, even in churches, were perceived as meat markets where lonely and often promiscuous people would go to find each other. Perhaps in some cases that was true.
But I’ve gotta tell you, in my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. The Church is full of adults who, for whatever reason, are living their lives without a spouse. And they – we – often have a difficult time fitting in to the largely two-parent-family-based parish structure. And those people like to get together sometimes.
I’ve never really given a lot of thought to the baggage the word “singles” carries, because I’ve attended and participated in so many quality singles events that to me it carries a much loftier meaning: bringing unmarried and separated people together to share experiences, to build community and to help each other grow closer to Christ.
That’s what happens at the National Catholic Singles Conference. Sure there are some heads swiveling and some men and women making an effort to get to know each other. I’ve heard that there have even been marriages out of these conferences. That’s awesome.
But it’s not the point. The point is to come together to build community in Christ. We learn, we pray, we socialize, we realize that we’re not alone, and we come out strengthened and refreshed, with new friends and a new base of community. It’s an awesome experience, and it’s always my favorite weekend of the entire year.
So next time you have the opportunity to attend a Catholic singles conference, listen to that first voice in your head. If it says “Singles? I’m not married, but I’m not one of them,” think again. Maybe they aren’t who you think they are. And maybe, just maybe, they could bring something beautiful into your life.
Maybe you are one of them…