February 1, 2013 by lucieromarin
I remember reading ‘The Courage to be Chaste’ many years ago, and being less-than-enthused by the suggestions it offered for living a meaningful single life. The reader was told that she could be the one to bring extra board games to family functions and could take the time to look appreciatively at photographs of people’s babies. (Okay, I’m paraphrasing a distant memory and am open to correction as to the details, but the point was that we were placed squarely in the category of there-to-serve-married-people. We were not told that we could become artists, or statesmen, or great philanthropists.)
I’ve been thinking about this. Given the premise that God makes neither rubbish nor mistakes, there must be more in our circumstances to be grateful for than the fact that said circumstances give us a chance to say “Aw” and play Scrabble.
So I’ve set myself a challenge, which is to come up with ten good reasons to be glad that things have worked out (or not worked out) as they have. Of course, as I’m not dead yet, it’s possible that the real reason for everything will only be discovered years from now (if, for example, I marry the Prince of Ruritania in my forties; he later ascends the throne and I become the Queen of a small European nation.) So, given that I can’t see all the ends yet, the reasons for gratitude can include some of the experiences of the past which I could not have had without my immersion in this particular culture and which I would not exchange.
However, the reasons chosen cannot be overly pious. “It’s really good that things have worked out this way because it really teaches me to trust God/submit to His Will,” doesn’t count. They’re also not to be general reasons for gratitude, such as “I’m glad I live in a peaceful, First World country.” I’m looking for roadkill-specific reasons; reasons to be glad that I did not get what I wanted.
I’m open to suggestions. There must be something!
I also read “The Courage to be Chaste” a few years ago, and I remember this chapter! But to be fair, I don’t think it was primarily intended to be inspirational and uplifting. Here, I think Fr. Groeschel (a fellow hard-talking New Yorker!) was trying to give something like a cross between a “you need to accept the fact that life is unfair” pep talk, and a brief introduction to basic social skills. E.g., even though cheerfully looking at photos of other people’s kids obviously isn’t a life goal you would want to place all your energy into aspiring to, there might be some people who need to be reminded that reacting to such photos with manifest boredom or distain would be terribly rude and offensive.
Reading between the lines a little bit in this book, I don’t think that Fr. Groeschel’s real target audience was single people who were overall well-balanced and well-adjusted (or even otherwise psychologically healthy single people who were having normal reactions to traumatic external circumstances). Rather, I think it was actually—if perhaps a bit unconsciously—written mainly for people who were single due to serious personality/human formation “issues.”
About your challenge…it’s actually hard to know what to say, since this blog has been (understandably) very vague about your actual history and circumstances. When I first started reading, I assumed it was about somewhat “normal” burnout from fairly predictable problems in mainstream Catholic life. But the more I read, the more I get the impression that it’s more about dealing with the negative aspects of certain Catholic subcultures.
If you were in such a subculture, I think that one thing you can be grateful for is that you still have your freedom. As lonely as it might be to be single, I’m inclined to think that it would be much, MUCH worse to have been married young to a man who didn’t have a healthy understanding of the dignity of women, or who didn’t have realistic expectations of what family life should be, or who was militantly committed to being “more Catholic than the Pope.”
Thank you! That’s a fair call on all counts. It didn’t even occur to me at the time that there might a need to coach single people about matters like being nice about photographs – but, now that you mention it, it makes sense. A brusque manner can be pretty hurtful, and, if it has been assumed either as a kind of self-defense mechanism or is an habitual side effect of bad formation in the natural virtues – well, the person won’t even be aware that he or she is doing something wrong. I suspect that my temperament affected my reading as it did my reading of Conrad Hock’s article on the temperaments. When he stated that cholerics could be used to distribute pious literature in the parish, my reaction was something like, “What? What? That’s so insulting! Don’t you know we’re meant to RULE THE WORLD???” etc
I’m still trying to work out how to be a little more specific about my circumstances without turning the blog into a name-and-shame exercise, which I want to avoid at all costs. There’s a combination of what you might call ‘regular’ burnout and culture-specific burnout to be dealt with – as there is in plenty of other lives as well.
Your last point is irrefutable, and will, I think, (if you don’t mind) be the first point on the gratitude list!