ASK FATHER: “I dread the Feast of the Holy Family.”

From a reader…


Every year since so returned to the Church I dread the Feast of the Holy Family. I don’t come from a pious family, nor am I married, but instead chose to live a life of perpetual virginity under a private vow. Furthermore, priest after priest at my Latin Mass Parish preach on families, specifically being large, pious, Holy little do-gooders who are the “building blocks of the Church”. Every year I’m left feeling even more like an outsider, despite spending hours each week volunteering my time to our Latin Mass Community to my own personal detriment at times (never once receiving so much as a “thank-you”) who is tolerated at the Latin Mass who should either be married with at least 5 children by now or in a convent. Every year on this Sunday I leave Mass depressed and feeling like a Catholic failure.

Where do Catholics such as myself fit in to the Church? I don’t feel like I belong or am welcomed (unless there’s a need for volunteers, which has left me feeling stressed and stretched thin).


I hesitate to appear cold and unfeeling, and in some ways, am very sympathetic to the interlocutor. Much of parish life can seem to be focused on families, and those who are not in traditional families can seem to be left out.

Yet, much of parish life is focused on families because much of the parish is taken up by… families. Families, especially large, pious, holy, do-gooder type families ARE the building blocks of the Church. Their involvement in parish life can make or break a parish, and they way they raise their children provide amply for the future of the Church (future husbands and wives, future priests and religious, and yes, future privately vowed virgins).

The one Sunday out of 52 on which the Church focuses on the Holy Family, and sets Jesus, Mary, and Joseph up as the model for all families does not seem to be excessive.

Do lay people feel “left out” on Holy Thursday, when the Church focuses on the great gift of the priesthood? Do those Catholics who are not priests feel like outsiders or failures because they are not priests? I hope not.

Do married people feel left out on the myriad of feast days which celebrate vowed celibate saints? There are only a smattering of saints in the General Roman Calendar who were married, and most of these are saints not because of their marriages, but because of saintly activities after their spouse died (e.g. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Elizabeth of Hungary)

It is easy to paint oneself into a demographic corner wherein it seems that everyone else gets attention, and everyone else’s efforts are valued, while no one like oneself is honored (and therefore one is not honored). That temptation is from the Evil One, intent on making oneself feel special, unique, and slighted. Where is the day on the calendar in which left-handed, dyspeptic, pluviophile knitters who are lactose intolerant and devoted to Ss. Cunegunda and Eleutherius honored for their contributions to Holy Mother Church? What about asexual agoraphobic counter-tenors? Unhappily married women with halitosis?

Mass is not about us.

If you leave Mass feeling that you and your efforts weren’t properly honored and respected – good! That’s not what the Holy Mass is for.

Perhaps some lines from the Servant of God Raphael Merry del Val’s celebrated litany of humility would be helpful:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat after each line)
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (repeat after each line)
That others may be esteemed more than I ,
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,…

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. bobbird says:

    To the Quaeritur: I never like suffering, although all of us know we must. I resist it. I complain. All the wrong things.

    The suffering chosen for us is custom-crafted, too. When you chose the life of a lay virgin, you knew you were giving up the natural joys and pleasures of married life, and would accept the self-denial of your vocation. It’s just that you didn’t bargain on THIS one. He’s a God of Surprises.

    In these times, with the satanic attacks upon the Family, we need to hear sermons like the one that bothered you. And you took Paul’s advice in 1 Cor 7. Looks like the devils know what you did, are furious over it, and are making their usual clever attack. In Heaven, your station will be higher than most. I think it was St. Theresa of Avila, complaining of her sufferings to the Lord, was told, “Don’t worry, I only do this for my closest friends.” Her reply: “No wonder you have so few of them.”

    Now, if only I could take my own advice …

  2. Kate says:

    We have a young lady in our parish that is much like the letter writer. Though she has not taken vows of any sort, she sees herself as never marrying nor entering religious life. She has little contact with her family. However, I feel that she is very much a part of her own, and though during the week she chooses to mostly keep her solitude, on Sundays, she is “ours”. We have gone out of our way to include her and hopefully help her form some bonds she was not able to before. She, just like the letter writer, still needs a family, though her circumstances may seem otherwise.

    To families, I encourage you to reach out to those in similar situations. To our single/vowed men and women, I encourage you to being open to becoming a part of a family in your parish and reaching out to one with whom you are especially comfortable.

    I suspect the letter writer’s discomfort comes not so much from the emphasis on family. Rather, this Feast reminds her of what she doesn’t have.

  3. HyacinthClare says:

    Very wise answer, Father, and Kate, I think you’re exactly right. We have several people like this in our Latin mass parish, too, and I PRAY they understand what both of you are saying. We marrieds can “reach out” (and do, all the time!) but they have to receive it. Grievance is such a subtle addiction.

  4. Frankly, I have for years dreaded any big feast, not because they make me feel excluded, but because that is when parishes pull out all the bad liturgy stops. All the worst music, and all the worst liturgical abuses, seem to be reserved for major holy days.

  5. BrionyB says:

    I am married but childless, and can sympathise with the writer’s feelings – Christmas and Mother’s Day are difficult times as well, and although everyone has been very welcoming to me, it can be difficult sometimes not to feel out of place among all the families at Mass and at parish events.

    But nurturing a sense of resentment (and dwelling on real or imagined slights and judgements from others) is the absolute worst thing you can do, and it will harm you emotionally and spiritually. I hesitate to give advice, because I’m far from perfect myself in this regard, but if we can learn to bear our cross cheerfully and offer it all up, while being genuinely glad for others, I think are many graces to be obtained.

    St Teresa says it better than I can (from the Way of Perfection):

    “Let the sister who thinks that she is accounted the least among all consider herself the happiest and most fortunate, as indeed she really is, if she lives her life as she should, for in that case she will, as a rule, have no lack of honour either in this life or in the next.”

  6. Josephus Corvus says:

    I understand what Father is getting at, but there is one difference in his examples. Most homilies that I hear on Holy Thursday are about Christ’s actions (institution of the Eucharist, priesthood, service, etc.), not about how difficult it would be without priests. Homilies on feast days of the saints are what they did good in their life, and in most cases the homily will be about the reading and it’s a bonus if the saint is mentioned at all. However, when you get to the Feast of the Holy Family, the homilies are exactly what the letter writer said. Unlike the other feasts, they might mention the Holy Family but then devolve into the “Family Day”.

    I know another childless couple that has the same thoughts that BrionyB says. They have no issues with the Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, the Birth of John the Baptist, etc. The reason, of course, it that those days focus on what they are, not on conception or birth in general as many priests do on this day.

  7. APX says:

    It’s the same at my Latin Mass Community as well. When it gets to the sermon I just go off into my own little world because I know it won’t apply to me. It’s okay, though. Given the frequency with which I have to tell people’s children to stop wrestling on the tables after Mass, not to lick the sugar out of the sugar container, or touch all the food with their dirty hands, it’s practically like having my own children. *eye roll* Part of having children is raising them to well-mannered and not letting them run free like the church hall is a playground. Parent is also a verb, not just a noun.

  8. mamajen says:

    If you believe you are living out God’s calling for you, no human being ought to be able to shake your peace. This doesn’t happen automatically, it’s a discipline to work on. I’m still working on it. It’s sometimes very hard being different. Lots of opportunity for personal growth and sacrifice, though!

    As for the volunteer efforts…do it out of a real desire to help, not to earn “cred” with people or prove yourself. I purposely do a lot of things secretly now as kind of a personal challenge to break away from my people-pleasing tendencies.

    I belong to a very traditional parish where big families are the norm and, yes, praised. One of my first visits there was on my own with my “only” two kids on a holy day. After mass an older woman approached me and asked me if there was anything I needed. I was so moved by that. I didn’t need anything at that time, but the fact that she didn’t assume otherwise meant so much. So, yes, be kind to the outliers. It helps.

    I hear a lot of praise for big families and homeschoolers, neither of which apply to me, but I know what they are doing is hard, so I let them enjoy it. What I’m doing is hard, too, but that’s okay. Sometimes I feel squirmy inside, but would rather endure that occasionally and have a peaceful, reverent mass than endure piano, and guitars, and clapping, and jokey irreverence, etc.

    The Holy Family is actually a perfect example for someone who doesn’t feel that they fit in! They followed God’s unique will for them with courage and humility.

  9. See Familiaris Consortio 16 for a beautiful and affirming vision of virginity as presupposing and confirming the dignity of marriage.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  10. tho says:

    If I remember correctly from my grammar school days, Sister said that there are three approved ways of life, clerical, married and single. Each has it’s own charisma, if lived devoutly. In my family, and my neighborhood there were many single men and women, they were, and are, well respected. To sum up, be proud of your station in life, and depend on God for sustenance.

  11. Cafea Fruor says:

    I really sympathize with the writer who asked this question. I don’t think it’s so much that the family is emphasized, but rather the timing of the feast and the fact that singles are NEVER even mentioned or appreciated, and, if they actually are, they’re generally seen only as workhorses for unpleasant parish work that no one else will do (like midnight trash duty after the parish festival when the families have gone home to sleep). I speak from experience. I used to run the young adults’ group at my parish, and the singles in the group all expressed the same. Singles are only expressly appreciated when they have gobs of time to offer or when they are future parents or future priests/religious, but for those not called to a particular vocation, they may as well not be on the parish’s radar. I’ve not once in my 40 years heard a peep in a homily aimed at those living permanent, un-vowed singlehood, unless it was a word of pity or a word of why-haven’t-you-gotten-your-act-together-and-figured-out-God’s-will-yet. Most of the time, the attitude we face is that we’re an anomaly no one really knows what to do with and that we somehow failed at Christian life because God didn’t grant us a vocation. We might ordinarily be happy with where we are, but there are days our lack of families/communities just hurts, and a word of comfort or appreciation (or even acknowledgement of our presence) from our pastors would go a long way. That the feast of the Holy Family falls right after Christmas, when many singles already find the pain of not having families or communities of our own stirred up, and that many priests use this feast to talk about the importance of the very thing we’re hurting about, can be particularly rough. It’s not that we hear that families are important; it’s that we never hear that we ourselves are.

  12. Lurker 59 says:

    Two thoughts come to mind:  

    1.)  As the Questioner stated, they have a private vow.  Being that it is private, such things are not altogether the concern of the public worship of the Church.  Even as the activity of the Church extends into the private spheres, that which is done on Sunday’s properly concerns the public activity of the Church.  So it should not be surprising that there is little said of private matters leaving private things to spiritual advisers and confessors.  

    2.)   In a certain sense, those who take vows of virginity, or just intentionally lead a chaste single life for all intents and purposes permanently after a hermetical/monastic/anchorite fashions DON’T fit in, because they are signs of contention not just for the world at large but for the Church herself.  Such ways of life are more radical ways of giving up the fruits and goods of this world in order to achieve the goods of the next.  It is an eschatological focus that such people have, and, as others have mentioned all such envies, frustrations, and wistful glances back at a worldly life is but attacks of the demonic.

    Addition:  It is often very much the case, no matter the issue, that the one who notices the problem has to be the one to fix the problem.  There are a lot of people out there who feel frustrated leaving a chaste and single life.  While these people don’t have vows, they are often not “single and searching” and deal with frustrations surrounding topics of family and holidays in general.  Perhaps your frustration can be channeled into creating something for them to feel more connected to parish life?

  13. Actually, the only reason I ever dreaded the feast of the Holy Family in particular was that I’d have to sweat out whether the reader would sanitize the reading from Colossians (before a sanitized version became an approved option). These days I’m attending mass in the extraordinary form more often, so I don’t concern myself with that sort of thing (though I went to a low TLM on Christmas Day where the priest read both readings only in English).

    I do understand the original questioner’s plight though, as an unwilling single who really wanted the chance to have a decent-sized homeschooled family but apparently was thwarted by Satan, who hates that sort of thing. Having a family isn’t a piece of cake either; I bet some good and decent parents wish they could take a sabbatical now and again. Having to flee to Egypt and then head back to Nazareth certainly wasn’t easy. The cross is always difficult no matter its exact shape or size.

  14. robtbrown says:

    Those who are single and understandably feel out of place at a parish (with its family approach) might think about Opus Dei, another lay institute, or perhaps the Third Order of Dominicans, Carmelites, et al.

  15. Charles Sercer says:

    The issue cannot be with the “extreme” focus on family issues. As Father points out, parishes – especially traditional ones, Deo gratias – are largely made up families and this is normal, natural, good.

    I have no issue with this “problem” – which I am not really convinced is a problem. In that sense, I do wholly believe that single people need to “suck it up” and deal with it – we will never be better off complaining about it; we will certainly not become saints doing that. While I definitely do not oppose something existing within the parish structure in which singles may “fit in” better, I honestly don’t see how – and that is precisely *because* their lives are so different from many (most?) other parishioners, particularly those who like the OP are living secret vows or (perhaps more likely) are those who desire to be in vows or live a life not too differently from one who is in vows. As for those who neither have any desire for religious life but for whatever reason are not married, I find it hard to believe that there are not already ample ways to get to know parishioners and be a help to all who need it.

    I find it hard to meet and get to know people, so I still know almost no one (after 3 months) at my own parish (FSSP), even within the choir and schola in which I sing. But personally I take full responsibility for that – my fault, not theirs or the parish’s. The parish certainly has ways in which I could pretty easily get to know people if I were so inclined (i.e. if I were even just a bit more outgoing or, shall I say, courageous). They are people with their own strengths and weaknesses just like me.

    I will admit that, IF it is the case that priests talk “too much” about family life, it could be toned down a bit – or not so much toned down as supplemented with more frequent sermons/other talks which apply to everyone in some way – that is, in addition to speaking frequently on doctrine, nothing other than talks on praying, how to develop one’s prayer life, the rudiments of practicing mental prayer, etc. – the spiritual life in general. Because even married people (as if I should be using the word “even” at all…) *need* this instruction, or reminder if they already know it. These are things that everyone always needs to hear and know, and everyone may apply it to their life in whatever state they may be.

    As a final note, aside from all this, if this is too “rudimentary” or repetitive to some, then this is also a sort of “cross” to bear, and one needs an individual spiritual director for more specific direction.

  16. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    I think as some others have brought up is the lack of family. Not spouse or children, but some place that is warm, loving with people that is not in church. This is most needed especially at Christmas time. So one must remember to invite singles into our homes.
    But if the problem is one sermon a year, then one needs to remember there are many mothers of small children might not hear that sermon, because they were paying attention to their children. That a parent would love to do more at the church but does not have the time or the extra dollars.
    Each group should count itself lucky for the blessings which it has.
    I Corinthians 12:15,16

  17. APX says:

    the OP are living secret vows
    Private vows aren’t “secret vows”. Someone can make a vow with an entire parish in attendance and it will still be a “private vow”. Likewise, a person who can make a vow with only her and the bishop receiving it in the name of the Church and tell no one, and it would be a public vow. It’s not about who knows and doesn’t know about it.

    Generally speaking, anyone can make a private vow and the obligation of a private vow can be released relatively easily via one’s pastor.

    Public vows can only be made with explicit permission of the Church and must be received by someone with the authority to receive them. Public vows can be either simple or solemn and have more restrictions for being released of their obligation.

  18. Kathleen10 says:

    What a wise answer Fr. Ferguson.
    With all sincerity I wonder if the questioner is lonely, which seems bound to happen in that situation. It is really important for individuals who for whatever reason find themselves living alone in life to make the effort to reach out to others, and there are so many ways! I work with children, and I can tell you we have many children who have no one who is very interested in them. Really! Families are splintered, children suffer a million ways from lack of care and attention. Even children in homes where material goods are plentiful, many have no one truly interested in them and would blossom if there were one person who showed that interest. You have no idea how your warmth, smile, and encouragement can brighten the life of a child. You can volunteer to help out at a public school, and my goodness, we have so many elderly in nursing homes who would live for the moment you walked in each week and spent an hour with them. Volunteering is wonderful, but does it directly give you access to others? We may not think we want that, but there is nothing like knowing you matter to another human being, and you would!
    Like it or not, even with personalities that prefer solitude, we were created for relationship, and if our life choices leave us isolated, we have to find a way to compensate. So don’t just weed the church garden, or clean up the sacristy, find a way to connect directly with others. No one need be lonely. There are lots of lonely others who need you as well, and you can serve Christ beautifully that way as well. You can absolutely see the face of Christ in a lonely old darling or a needy child.

  19. APX says:

    I went to a low TLM on Christmas Day where the priest read both readings only in English

    That’s a legitimate option in the EF.

  20. Elizabeth D says:

    Some advice for this questioner: attend daily Mass and pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day. The liturgy is written to give joy to the hearts of celibate men, and women who are virgins. Every day there are reminders of the Church’s esteem for virginity and that it has a character of “glory” and it is good to not be violated or defiled. Violated or defiled women are largely nonentitites in Christian history, and their chastity, or even the chastity of married women or widows, will never be as valued as that of virgins. There is practically no spiritual writing in all the canon of great literature oriented specially to the pastoral needs of unmarried women repentant fornicators but there is rather a lot that is meant for virgins, and you should read that and let it encourage you. I have repeatedly been told by clergy that the category of never married women who are not virgins does not exist. But since unfortunately there is such a thing, at least let it be a cause of happiness to you to realize that you are not that. You are something good. Take joy in not being defiled or violated and having glory–as the liturgy reminds so frequently. What I am saying here is in the spirit of St Jerome’s Letter #22 to Eustochium. He explains how foolish it is to get married. It is a weird tic of our day that even celibates are meant to somehow prefer marriage–as though it was a necessary proof of orthodoxy and normalcy of their personality. But the New Testament and the Fathers of the Church really meant it in every way that it is better to remain unmarried and a virgin, that there are all kinds of rational reasons to renounce marriage, without this being a denigration of marriage. But truly, it’s our tradition that women have value if they are virgins, and can only lose that value if they engage in any sexual activity, even in marriage. So be happy! You’re not ruined!

  21. daveams says:

    I too have taken a vow of chaste, celibate continence. Some time ago a priest friend of mine told me something that has helped me with such thoughts. I’ll try to do his words justice, although I’m paraphrasing from something I heard years ago.

    Basically we are all called to spiritual fecundity. Whether father, mother, priest, monk, nun, hermit, whatever our vocation we weren’t put here just for ourselves. I think in part it’s following the Trinitarian concept of the Lover, the Beloved and the Love between them, and in part it’s a part of the communion of Saints.

    So in a certain sense, even though I never have, and (please God if I persevere in my vow) never will have natural children, I have hundreds or thousands or millions of spiritual children. Some are godchildren, some I have sponsored in Confirmation, many I’ve never met: perhaps I just whispered a prayer for the soul God wanted me to pray for.

    Also this wonderful passage from the great Oratorian Father Frederick Faber comes to mind as I write: “One of the most divine and striking characteristics of the Catholic religion is the communion of saints, the way in which everything belongs to everybody, and nobody has any spiritual property of his own. The merits and satisfactions of our dear Lord, the joys and woes of Mary, the patience of the martyrs, the perseverance of confessors, and the purity of virgins, they all belong to all of us. Just as the blood circulates from and to the heart all over the body, so in the Church there is no division or separation. Heaven, purgatory, and earth, it is all one body. We interchange our merits, we circulate our prayers, we pass on our joys, we infect with our troubles, we use each other’s satisfactions as they come to hand.”

  22. Traductora says:

    There were many lay orders and organizations set up for people who didn’t want to enter a religious order but did not feel called to marriage…or at any rate, hadn’t yet met the right person. Sometimes that can take awhile.

    I will say that I agree on her annoyance with people boasting about how many children they have and implying that everybody else is a bad Christian. Some people haven’t been able to have any or even more than one, and it’s very tragic to them. I know a couple who doesn’t go to church because they weren’t able to have children, couldn’t adopt because both of the planned adoptions (one from Russia, one from Latin America) got cancelled for political reasons, and of course couldn’t do IVF, and have been made to feel very uncomfortable by the local judgmental orthodox community. Why not invite in the childless and ask them to do the nursery so the parents could have a break?

    And why not invite in single adults and give them some duties and role that would support families and in some way make them part of these families? We need a little more creativity here.

  23. Cincinnati Priest 2 says:

    Seems to me that a lot of this alleged “problem” is self-imposed and based on an attitude that is not truly Christian.

    If someone is single, he might rejoice at the freedom he has to engage in many good apostolic works of his choice, with the additional time that comes from not having commitments to a spouse and children. He can be grateful that it is so much easier to find time to pray, go to adoration, etc. for the same reason than for married-with-childrens.

    I have been a priest for many years and have never once heard a priest or a parishioner insinuate that single Catholics are only “useful” because they do “grunt work” that married folks won’t do.

    Fr. Ferguson’s tone seems about right to me. The fact that someone is waiting to be “recognized,” “pointed out” and “appreciated” and feels insulted if he isn’t, might be a result of a lack of Christian humility.

    The endless list of self-proclaimed experts about parish life are always telling pastors that they need to thank people more and express appreciation constantly. The problem with that is, invariably, if people are mentioned by name to be thanked, there will always be some group who feels “left out” and offended because they weren’t thanked to. I speak from experience because this has happened almost literally every time I’ve done it in years of priesthood. The alternative is a bland, meaningless, “Thank you everybody for all you do” type of “appreciation.”

    The problem is not with the priests’ (very occasional) homilies, it’s with a culture that demands affirmation all the time, rather than accepting one’s state and giving gratitude to God for what He has given. The Church in her wisdom teaches us to avoid invidious comparisons.

    If someone dreads a homily because he isn’t mentioned in it, I might suggest taking this up with a spiritual director or saintly person who can teach habits of humility.

    And of course, if single Catholics are feeling “misunderstood,” or as if “no one is acknowledging my existence,” there is always the option of forming groups of like minded individuals for mutual prayer and support.

  24. Luminis says:

    Great advice.

  25. APX says:

    The endless list of self-proclaimed experts about parish life are always telling pastors that they need to thank people more and express appreciation constantly

    Maybe I was raised too traditionally, but my mother taught me to thank people who do things for me and that to not do so is extremely rude.

    I used to volunteer to clean the bathrooms at our priests’ house (not exactly a glamorous job) and I remember one time there was a visiting seminarian who actually shook my hand and thanked me for my service. I was confused at first since it had been such a long time since anyone ever thanked me for something. Not a huge gesture, but it made dealing with other people’s “personal items” a little bit easier and less gag-worthy.

  26. Diana says:

    Amen. Amen. And A—-men!

  27. ppb says:

    I have never felt odd, left out, or unappreciated in the Catholic Church as a middle-aged single person. I have no intention of seeking either marriage or clerical or religious life, and have felt for quite some time that God wants me to remain single and continue the volunteer role I have at my TLM; and I know there are others like me. If anything, the Church has been my refuge when secular friends have questioned why I don’t date. The TLM I attend has a mixture of single persons young and old, and families large and small. We would actually like to have more large families. I have never heard a priest praise family life as if to exclude or denigrate single life, so I find it difficult to understand how that could be a problem. To the poster I would say: trust in God, pray for guidance, and don’t be concerned about what others may or may not think!

  28. Fr_Sotelo says:

    The person who asked the question has given us a good reminder that the faithful, single members of the parish need to be mentioned more often and thanked for their giving spirit. The parish also has to constantly work at reaching out to them and giving them a sense of being welcomed, invited, and belonging.

    That said, I know why I often mention parents and families in my homilies, and that is because our devout married couples are under intense attack by society and the pro-abort culture.

    And those who have been generous in welcoming children into the world have been made to suffer by others who wonder, even out loud, “why they sired so many brats.”

    The Church, and the homily, should be the one place where such families know that their hard work and sacrifices are admired. I consider most devout parents to be heroes and martyrs, in a sense. At Mass, they should know from the priest and the parish that their “brats” are loved and embraced by a grateful Church.

    The Sunday of the Holy Family, to me, is not just a reminder of the love between Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. It is a reminder to me that parents and kids pouring into the pews are where our future is at–what will make, or break, the Church. If we priests do not fervently praise the moms, dads, and kids on this Sunday, then when?

  29. JesusFreak84 says:

    Some parishes do make the lay single people, especially women, feel like second-class citizens, and yeah the more trad ones are where I see this more myself as a single woman in her 30s who never had a call to religious life and never had any opportunity to be courted, let alone get married, despite having never wanted anything else or anything more than to get married and have lots of kids. (Not that I am keen on why it’s “approved” of in liberal parishes that would baptize parishioners’ “fur babies” if they could.) I’ve had parents my own age look at me with side-eye for being by myself in the pew week after week, month after month, year after year. I get why this woman feels as she does. I don’t even volunteer much because I just don’t feel like my presence wouldn’t be resented by everyone except, hopefully, the priest. After all, the reasoning seems to run, if this person is a functional adult, if she’s “safe,” then why didn’t she ever find a husband???

    It’s entirely possible that the questioner’s question included a lot of details that aren’t here and that Father has in mind while answering, but the comments are, by and large, proving the questioner’s discontent. We don’t know exactly what her priest says on the feast, but everyone’s presuming she has no basis for concern or complaint. Is that fair? Not really…

  30. mo7 says:

    There are days when the focus of readings/sermon won’t apply to you. It happens to everyone. If you are going to have a pity party over it, I suggest you’ve walked in the door with that chip. I have been all of the above [not at the same time ], single, married, children, now nearly empty nest. I can’t imagine griping over a sermon that doesn’t apply to me. Spend your sermon praying for the souls in purgatory especially those of your family of origin that day.

  31. JabbaPapa says:

    The only issue that I have with this Feast, that was a 19th Century innovation (IIRC invented by the French), is that it ended up completely sidelining the traditional narrative (a very old narrative of likely 1st Century origin) that Joseph was a widower with children from his earlier wife. Hence the Scriptural “brothers and sisters” of Jesus, including the Apostle. [I have no problem with that.]

    It has created a deep confusion about these brothers and sisters whereby some ecclesial apologists confusedly propose that they were “cousins”, but this passes ammo to Protestants worldwide in their confused and false claims that Catholicism is somehow not “bible-believing”, leading them mostly to blaspheme in this case against the Divine Grace that Saint Mary received in the Holy Incarnation of her only Son.

  32. Magdalena says:

    The difficulties described in the question sound like those of one who is discerning a call to consecrated virginity. When you discern a call to consecrated virginity, your life begins to reorder. Probably the questioner is undergoing this reordering of life under the influence of grace, so we should not be too hard on her. Persevere.

    Conversion of life can be painful at times depending on what wounds we carry: everyone is wounded by one’s own sins and the sins of others. We need healing. We need the Lord to be our salvation. The ordinary means of the sacraments, of course; of sacramentals, especially the ones proper to the life of a consecrated virgin. One is formal consecration. The questioner should examine this possibility for the greater spiritual support God may give her vocation, for his glory. This is an important means of help not to be overlooked. The status of a private vow is unknown to me so I cannot speak to it in what follows except by analogy to public consecration.

    The other chief sacramental in the life of a consecrated virgin is prayer. The breviary, the rosary, mental prayer, spiritual reading, engaging in study for meditation and thinking with the mind of the Church, and as the inspiration of the Holy Ghost presents itself, making acts of faith, hope, and charity throughout the day, in every circumstance of life; for these three virtues are the spirit of our holy religion.

    These good things from God occupying one’s heart are true food and also a reservoir from which to draw patience. Without family and children or many parochial responsibilities, it is possible to keep a spirit of recollection throughout the day most days. All the spiritual writers (St. Benedict, Thomas a Kempis, &c) were right about the dissipating effect of talking to others. Likewise if service is too much, draw back. It’s not a point of emphasis as much as prayer is. It is worth clearing away some of the things that interfere with your prayer if it is not truly needful for you to do them. Equanimity is remote preparation for prayer and its regular facilitator since you need to have the ability to concentrate and focus on what you are doing without emotional chaos arising internally and clamoring for your attention.

    In all this it is helpful to have a spiritual guide who can help you develop greater prudence. Aim to cultivate this virtue specifically even if a guide cannot be found, and read works of spiritual direction. It is also helpful to have some friends who also love the Lord and are similar to you in that they are not married or do not have children. If you are particularly inclined to share your prayer with others, a spiritual work of mercy or apostolate I recommend is teaching catechism to children.

    Persevere. The life of consecrated virginity is of the third way, oriented to the perfect. While common to all, the consecrated virgin has a proper claim to the spirit of adoration: the free and loving submission of our whole being to Almighty God.

  33. APX says:

    Why not invite in the childless and ask them to do the nursery so the parents could have a break?

    It’s very difficult for those who want children and can’t have them to parent other people’s children.

    Personally, as a single person, I don’t want to look after someone else’s children (especially those who weren’t raised to be well-mannered and respectful). Now, my niece and nephew, that’s a different story. They’re quiet, respectful, and well-mannered. Believe it or not, some people’s children are brats. Not that it’s their fault, but the parents didn’t put in the leg work to teach them to be disciplined and well-mannered.

  34. Marion Ancilla Mariae II says:

    Dear Privately Vowed One: Thanks so much for your consecration and dedication to prayer. What an extraordinary help to the Church your decision has been. Instead of feeling sad or left out at any Mass, you ought to feel like a member of the Court of Heaven – of the Royal Household of the Prince of Peace, not because of anything you yourself are or have been or have done, but because Jesus has graciously seen fit to call you to Himself even while you live here on Earth. What a singular privilege. As such, you live midway between Heaven and the world.

    That midway position isn’t necessarily always comfortable, or delightful. And it can be difficult and lonely. So much the better! What marvellous ways does Heaven have – to have called us to a spiritually privileged position (and we know it!) . . . yet to keep us humble, to keep us on our toes, to keep us close to the Lord. We have to stay close, because we sometimes feel literally suspended in mid-air, not unlike an airborne soldier whose parachute has become caught in the treetops, and there he’s stuck. He has plenty of fire cover from his comrades on the ground, but while he’s in the trees, he feels very, very vulnerable and uncomfortable!

    I think perhaps you could use community with other consecrated virgins who’ve made private vows. Does such a group for privately vowed women exist? If not, it would be perfect if such women could form a private association.* In our age of instant communication, such a group, even if its members were widely distant and spread across the world, might be a real source of sisterhood and mutual support. There could even be annual or semi-annual meetings in different cities, retreats together in different areas, renewals of vows . . . all kinds of happenings.

    Also, would you consider looking into membership in a society of Catholics associated with one of the religious orders? Some of these are known as “Third Orders,” others as “Lay Fraternities,” and the Dominicans have them, so do the Franciscans and the Carmelites, and probably others. In addition to your consecration, you would share in the mission and spirituality of the Order, while living your vocation in the world. Are you free to do such a thing (I don’t know).

    Anyway members of these Third Orders are usually not consecrated to virginity, but are married or open to marriage – however some groups might very much welcome consecrated virgins. You should check with your Director whether membership in such a group is a good idea for you. If so, you would “come and see” by being invited to attend a few meetings by the person you’ve contacted . . . both you and the group would discern whether there is a good mutual fit, and then, if so, you’re off on a journey that might give you extra focus and direction for the vocation you already have. I think that kind of focus and direction, plus the prayers and fellowship of the group might help you to feel not quite so alone in your parish . . . not quite one so standing out.

    Good luck, my sister in Christ. And God bless you!

    *(perhaps a private association of consecrated virgins not officially Church-affiliated, because if you’re quite orthodox, Church leaders who don’t like orthodox groups would have the power to shut you down, just for being “too rigid” or “too old-fashioned) – i.e., “too orthodox”. But a non-affiliated group would not be subject to such official obliteration. See what your Director advises.)

  35. APX says:

    Just for the sake of clarification, a Consecrated Virgin is not the same as a person who makes a vow of virginity (be it a private or public vow). Consecrated Virgins don’t make a vow; they are consecrated to a life of perpetual virginity (once it’s done, that’s it. It can’t be reversed and the person can not ever be free to marry, so it’s not something to rush into, especially given the lack of formation programs. Many bishops treat it like a private vow). Consecrated Virginity is a public vocation in the Church. They have canonical rights and responsibilities within the Church above and beyond what a regular lay person would have. They also are on their own to fend for themselves to support themselves. They receive no financial assistance from the Diocese (something which is different than what the ancient order of Consecrated Virgins had). They aren’t even assured of being able to have competent spiritual direction, which is contrary to what St. John Chrysostom counseled to priests with consecrated virgins under their care.

  36. JabbaPapa says:

    You write many true and beautiful things, Magdalena, about the consecrated virginity, that I think are also mainly true, from what I understand, about the consecrated widowhood.

    I have a far “simpler” life of just abstinence, which has not all the same virtues of that consecration, but even this poor man’s version not properly exemplifying that ideal is conducive for the spirit towards God and the Faith and the Catholicity.

  37. ChesterFrank says:

    There is a pecking order in society, just as there is in its individual organizations. Its no surprise that a single person would be at the near bottom of a parishes social hierarchy. Since many parishes have schools, parents with school age children and teachers often are at the top of the pecking order. Those families that have been going to the same church-school systems are at the pinnacle. Christmas does place an emphasis on children, and therefore parents with young children. By the time Holy Family Sunday rolls around the subliminal emphasis placed on young families and children might be enough to make one scream. Still, I would rather listen to a homily on the virtues of the traditional family than listen to a homily that applauds the modern family. I recall one priest who started his homily with “I always hate when this feast day comes around, my family was nothing like the Holy Family…”

  38. Elizabeth D says:

    There is a new book recently released that some will want to know about, it is good in some ways and weak in others, it did not address any the major questions I have, for instance the author is seemingly a virgin and has not encountered the difficulties that “fallen women” encounter in regards to vocation in the Church environment where it is so important for celibate women to be literally virgins or married, and the question of whether someone is a virgin becomes a chronic source of anxiety and humiliation. It is a pervasive blind spot, also of clergy. But for someone like this questioner this is the book they have been waiting for. It’s called “Single for a Greater Purpose: A Hidden Joy in the Catholic Church” by Luanne D Zurlo and published by Sophia Institute Press.

  39. Elizabeth D says:

    It’s really important for there not to be two Churches, the “church of virginity” emphasizing the importance of not having sinned in the first place and permanent degradation of sinners, which is terrifying to those who want to come home to the Church–and the Church of Mercy where Jesus is for sinners.

  40. Charivari Rob says:

    JesusFreak84, that is much of what I was thinking reading all of the responses. You said it better than anything I had half-composed in my head, though – thank you!

  41. maryh says:

    Part of the problem may be because we’re not sure what the “protocol” is for singlehood anymore. When you see a large family, you have an idea of how to involve them. The same is true of a religious. But what about a single person who is not discerning marriage or the religious life.

    Yes, there needs to be more catechesis on the “third” vocation: singlehood. But I’m thinking in very practical terms, like just being comfortable asking a single person what vocation they’re discerning. And then having an idea of what to suggest if they have or are discerning a single vocation.

    As Catholics, we have a tremendous advantage because we have a tradition of viewing singlehood as a vocation. Among the protestant denominations, it seems that the only role for a non-clerical person is marriage, and that not to be married is de facto seen as a cross or a failure.

    Some people with a single vocation may see their role as helping families in various ways. Maybe some would be more interested in volunteering at the parish. Maybe there could be some sort of devotion that is the purview of those with a single vocation in the parish.

  42. Cincinnati Priest 2 says:

    APX: Thanks for the comments. To clarify, I did not mean that the priests and parish staff should not thank people. I do, and I especially go out of my way to try to thank in person and talk to the “behind the scenes” volunteers doing humble service that nobody else notices, but are absolutely essential to maintaining the parish’s operations (those cleaning the church, quietly taking care of altar linens, those getting up at the crack of dawn to buy donuts for socials, etc. – the list is very long because of so many good people in the parish).

    My point rather was that it as soon as you try to enter into a more public appreciation list or event (printing thank you’s in the bulletin, recognizing folks Mass, etc.) this becomes fraught with the danger of people comparing who was on the list and who was not. I learned this early as a priest, years ago, when I would put a thank you in the bulletin and the parish secretary told me of the multiple calls she received from “Jane Doe”s asking why “Suzie Smith” was thanked but not her because she thought what she did was just as important. There is nearly always someone who complains about “where the line was drawn.” She prudently advised not to do written thank yous anymore.

    That is one reason so many priests have resorted to thanking privately but not publicly.

    So when the self-proclaimed “experts” criticize the priests for not doing “more (public) thanking,” this is management theory advice for those who have no knowledge of the effects in real-world parish situations. The mistake in their thinking is that they are transferring corporate philosophy into a parish setting. A manager in a business may have a few direct reportees, while a parish priest has dozens and dozens of volunteers of varying capacities. It would be a full time job keeping track of who to thank for what. Some volunteers work countless hours and want no recognition; others give a few hours of service and get in a snit if they don’t receive profuse appreciation for it.

    I always say that the self-proclaimed “experts” who think they can run a parish better than the pastor should sit in the parish secretary’s chair for a week (they are the poor souls who end up fielding countless complaints from parishioners) before they make their arm chair pronouncements!

  43. Transportsjoie says:

    A good priest gave me a simple piece of. advice after I complained to him that I had been overlooked for a position that I was well-qualified for in another parish.
    He said, “Don’t take it personally.”
    The Feast of the Holy Family is about Jesus, Mary and Joseph – a liturgical observance – not a statement about states of life of the faithful.

  44. Hidden One says:

    Dear Questioner,

    Thank you for your service to the Church. You will be in my prayers. May we meet in Heaven.

  45. JesusFreak84 says:

    maryh, Protestants are NOT the only people who view being unmarried as a cross or a sign of failure. Especially in my age range, (older millennial,) we imbibed the same late 90s/early 00s “purity culture” that the Protestants did, with its same implicit assumptions about older singles, (with “older” for a woman meaning anyone over 28, when the slooooooow march towards menopause begins.) ***This isn’t just a Protestant problem.*** If anything, it can be worse for Catholics, since people tend to presume that single = called to the priesthood/religious life. I’m 35 now, and it’s taken being too old for most orders to accept me to shut that up in my own family.

  46. Marion Ancilla Mariae II says:

    JesusFreadk84 wrote: “I’m 35 now, and it’s taken being too old for most orders to accept me.”

    A lay, male friend made a not dissimilar comment about being turned away from the couple of orders he had applied to some years back. He added that had he entered one of these orders he might no longer believe in the Catholic faith, so far had these orders strayed from what the Church believes and teaches.

    God has his ways of blessing us and taking care of us and protecting us. Sometimes these ways can be experienced as rather difficult, even unpleasant . . . lonely, hard going, and so on. However, on the other side, we’ll see the truth of what He’s done for us.

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  48. kimberley jean says:

    Why not invite in the childless and ask them to do the nursery so the parents could have a break?

    My husband and I do not have living children. I would find this invitation insulting.

    As for the OP, I’m sorry dear, but you probably need to find a new parish. At my old parish single people YOUNG people were treated very well but once you got over 40 people looked at them differently. The single middle aged men are assumed to be gay or and are discouraged (quietly, Father knows nothing about it) from having anything to do with children’s activities. We have a consecrated virgin who is the sacristan and she is treated with great respect. Single women who have not taken public vows and are over 40 are treated like eccentrics and are expected to do the volunteer thing because it’s assumed they have nothing else to do. My fellow parishioners pretty much acted like single or childless people were just there taking up space. My husband and I left and went to a Dominican monastery for Mass. It’s much better.

  49. jflare29 says:

    I will suggest seeking a parish with a TLM Mass, not a Novus Ordo.
    I too have found the Holy Family feast quite annoying on occasion, though not for celebrating the Holy Family. Too often, the feast has been, for my perspective anyway, a means to “embrace” any ol’ family who might claim to be Catholic. In this era, too often these families’ lives overall lives…reflect Catholic faith more by exception than by norm. Put differently, in the average diocesan parish, too many families may attend Mass each Sunday, yet their lives reflect little serious concern for faith. Appearance of hypocrisy can be a serious detriment to one’s faith.
    I thus suggest a traditional parish. While these won’t be perfect either, families who attend them tend toward doing so by choice; they usually reflect a greater concern for actually living the faith. Even if you’re still celebrating the Holy Family feast and never receive a word of thanks, you’ll at least be more likely in environs in which people have a care for being faithful, not secular.

  50. maryh says:

    JesusFreak84 I completely understand that Catholics can also have the attitude a person who is not married is a failure or that is their cross. I was trying to say that, unlike most protestants, Catholics in fact have a tradition that is otherwise. It’s another aspect of traditional Catholicism perhaps to be revived. Things like the third orders, perhaps?

    Unfortunately, I think people like you are going to have to reach out and educate people in the parishes about what people who have a single vocation can contribute to a parish. No doubt some people are uncharitable — we’re Catholic, not sinless — but it has been my experience that a lot of people just don’t know how to react. Our tradition helps because it gives us lots of examples of how to integrate those with a single vocation.

  51. Liturgy Lover says:

    Not really trying to pile on here, but I agree 100% with the critiques of the suggestion of inviting infertile/childless couples to “do the nursery.” Please never do this. My husband and I went through several years of infertility at the start of our marriage. Believe me, this kind of “invitation” would be one of THE most tone-deaf things you could possibly do. To us, it basically comes across as flaunting what you’ve got in front of us. And even if you don’t mean it to be taken this way, it feels to us like we’re just being thrown the “scraps” – the second-rate version of a “real” parent job. And then to be told, on top of all of this, that we’re “babysitting” so that all of the parents can get away and take a break for a while? NO. No no no. If you want to include infertile and childless couples, get someone else to watch the kids and invite those couples out WITH you for an enjoyable evening talking about something other than kids. The commenter above me said it quite succinctly: everything about this suggestion is just massively insulting to infertile couples.

    Apropos of the original discussion, I used to dread Mother’s Day homilies for similar reasons. But I wouldn’t expect the entire parish and the huge amount of mothers and families in it to forego any kind of homily/sermon about these matters simply to avoid making me feel bad. It’s the vocation most people are going to be living, and they need that exhortation and encouragement from their spiritual fathers.

  52. JesusFreak84 says:

    Marion Ancilla Mariae II, I never at any point felt the least bit of calling to the religious life. I bring it up only because it took being “too old” for people in the family to see any role for the devout Catholic single besides being a nun/sister.

    And ditto to the above comments about not presuming that single Catholics exist just to watch your kids. Especially for those of us who are infertile, it can feel like a kick in the gut–a reminder of what we cannot have even if we got married tomorrow. There’s a fine line between, “Single lay people can give of themselves in a way that the married cannot,” and taking advantage of them. It sounds like some of us in this comment thread have run into the latter.

    kimberly jean touches on why I’m dreading turning 40…

  53. Lurker 59 says:


    Having single friends that are both Catholic and “traditional Protestant”, the single Protestants have it worse for there truly is no place for a single Protestant as everything for singles is geared to get people married. Catholics have unfortunately borrowed heavily from their models and programs especially in nations where the religious background is Protestant. As small of a place as there can be for singles in some parishes, there really is none for traditional Protestants and it has a massive impact on their relationship with God and their self-worth. Protestants don’t have a theology of redemptive suffering so the sense of failure can be interpreted as abandonment by God/punishment / that they are amongst the reprobate.

    That said, both of your posts point out that there is a real problem out there regarding “singlehood’ and parish life, for a lack of a much better term. I have multiple Catholic friends, male and female, who are single, your age and older, who are not married, some by circumstance, some by choice, some by failed vocations. Parish life can be really hard as so much of the para Church groups are family orientated and the last “for singles” groups are 30-somethings and one is encouraged to find something else if they are in their late 30’s. However, none of them would want anything recognizing their situation or preaching out of the normal regarding “singlehood”. Mass is time for worshiping God and none of them want the focus on anything else.

    There is another issue that you touch on — the “busy body” factor of the parish. It really is a cultural thing that pushes certain people/groups to focus in on this or that. That is what makes people who are or who are in outlier situations feel uncomfortable. Different parishes different results.

    kimberley jean makes a very important point about certain assumptions regarding single middle-aged men. This is a real issue as it will push men further out of parish life than they already are. There is a real problem in the culture at large that discourages male-only (especially single male) bonding. However, all of this, including what kimberley spoke of regarding children is very cultural. I’ve been after a friend of mine to switch to my parish for years as everything that they get looked askew for at their parish is fine and commonplace at mine.

    I do want to close with saying that I very much understand where you are at and the experiences that you, and others here, have unfortunately had. Those who are outliers always have a more difficult time.

  54. Marion Ancilla Mariae II says:

    I call myself a “childless Mom,” one never able to have children, but yet with a very maternal heart – a heart not necessarily for children only – but especially as I grew older, for all those, young and old, who need prayers. It seemed that I might please God by devoting myself (in part) to being a “spiritual mother,” that is, in the sense of frequently offering prayers and sacrifices especially for priests, deacons, bishops, seminarians, all religious, and especially for the Holy Father, the Pope. And for the whole Church. And for my country, the United States. And Moms with large families of their own may not have much free time to do this very often.

    My “children” will never know me, but when I see them, I can take some pride in the hope that my prayers have been found worthy by God to be added to the many prayers of all the Church, for the continued success of their vocations and for holiness, wherever it is found.

    There need be nothing “without” or “less than” about not having been blessed by God with children of the flesh, priceless though they are. We ought to offer praise and gratitude to God for everything about our lives – the joyful and the painful (except for sin, where it be found), for both the joyful and the painful come to us by Divine Providence leading us to Heaven. If God in His Providence sees fit to lead me to Heaven by way of childlessness, then who am I to mourn over this state? becomes the question, I suppose, particularly when I am able to do good in the state I am.

    (I could be wrong.)

  55. The Masked Chicken says:

    Some people read this feast as, The Feast of the Holy Family, and spend a lot of time riffing about families, but I think it should more properly be read as, The Feast of the Holy Family. This is not nor was it, I think, intended to be called merely, The Feast of Families nor The Feast of Marriage. It is the one feast of the liturgical year devoted to understanding the significance of a special, holy (= separated for God’s purposes), unique family. That is the key to understanding the Feast and the key to getting rid of any feeling of superiority or inferiority with regards to ones state in life.

    Look, there will never be another family like Jesus’s family:

    1. The husband and wife went into the marriage deciding never to have children together, which, except by an act of God, as in this case, or a bishop (a so-called, Josephite marriage) might be grounds for an annulment, these days

    2. The husband and wife will not consummate the marriage – again, children are the natural results of marriage, so this is hardly representative of how to begin a family

    3. How does one raise a child to be virtuous if your child is Virtue, itself?

    4. Each family is supposed to have God at its center, but this one, literally, does.

    5. The wife is supposed to help her husband get to heaven and the husband, likewise, for the wife, but 2/3 of this family are without sin and one already enjoys the Beatific vision

    6. How many engaged woman, today, can claim that their pre-wedding/betrothed pregnancy is by the Holy Spirit?

    7. How many Temple virgins are still around to even get married?

    8. How many men are going to find a wife by the blossoming of a lily?

    This is hardly the recipe for a natural family. The point is that this Feast is not about celebrating families, per se. It is about celebrating The Holy Family. What does this mean?

    Jesus links the idea of holiness and family in Matthew 12: 46-50:

    12:46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.
    Mat 12:47 [Other ancient authorities insert verse 47,] Some one told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you.”
    Mat 12:48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”
    Mat 12:49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!
    Mat 12:50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

    This Feast is not about families, per se, but about The Holy Family, but what is the Holy Family? Jesus is quite clear that Mary and Joseph are merely the visible portion of the Holy Family. Everyone who does the will of Jesus’s Father is his brother, sister, and mother (but not father – He can have a million brothers, sisters, and mothers, but only one Father – sorry, St. Joseph, you can be the Lord’s mother, but not his father). Everyone who does the will of the Father is a member of the Holy Family, regardless of whether they have their own natural family or not.

    This Feast is about virtuous relationships and the bonds that they create in the supernatural order. This is one reason why same-sex marriage is never going to lead one to Heaven: it does not have a virtuous relationship – one that does the will of the Father – at its center.

    Now, married or not, single or not, the married wife and the unmarried woman can claim sisterhood and motherhood in the Holy Family. One may give rise to children on the natural plane by the giving of their body, but both are called to sacrifice their lives for children in the supernatural plane.

    Thus, this Feast is for married and single, alike. It is a Feast about virtue, about doing the Father’s will. If a vow of chastity is God’s will for you (and discern this well), then, I say, you have, indeed, by this act, found your family as surely as the married woman on her wedding day.

    Many things create relationships – the heart hungers for relationships – that is why vows of marriage or religion are so fulfilling, if properly followed, but even the single, non-vowed women or man can claim the blessings of spiritual siblings and motherhood if only they keep the Word of God. Thus, the single unvowed person has nothing to hold their head down about on the Feast of the Holy Family. The Holy Family is your family, if only you live by its rules.

    The Chicken

  56. The Masked Chicken says:

    Should read: vow if virginity.

    The Chicken

  57. The Masked Chicken says:

    Should read: Vow of virginity.

    The Chicken

  58. Cafea Fruor says:

    I’m disappointed in most of these responses, as they mostly approach the issue from a standpoint of “The OP is clearly at fault for her feelings; she either needs to get over herself or just change,” rather than one of a little empathy and support and compassion or one of seeing that maybe the parish could do some changing. Oh, and maybe she could solve her problem by volunteering even more than she already does. Seriously, would we say the same thing to a priest who was fighting loneliness and feeling unappreciated as the sole priest in his parish and blame him for not being humble enough or not volunteering enough? No; we’d complain that there aren’t enough vocations to put more than one priest in a rectory and that priests are stretched too thin. And we’d probably hear people suggesting ways to help him, like, “Why not invite your pastor over for dinner if he’s lonely?” Were the OP a married woman, would we say, “You just need to suck it up and be more humble if your husband never says he appreciates you”? No, we’d tell the husband to man up and express gratitude to his wife. Etc. Yet we won’t really hear, “Wow, OP, we will pray for you. Your life must be challenging even if rewarding. Hey, by the way, thanks so much for everything you do. Oh, and maybe you’d like to come over to dinner some time?” Rather, we effectively tell the OP she’s not as important as families and blame her for not being humble enough or grateful enough or whatever. But just like loneliness can plague even the humblest parish priest, it happens to single people as well, even if they are consecrated singles–and maybe even more so, as the devil fights particularly hard against anyone consecrated. I do recall Scripture admonishing us to care for the widow and the orphan (precisely because they don’t have families to support them) very well, and a woman who never married (even if one under a private vow) is not so terribly different, because she is alone and has to fend for herself. Now, should the single woman be happy and never let loneliness or never hearing her worth from another human weigh her down? Sure, in an ideal world, but being lonely can be much, much harder than family life. Married people will say all the time, “If only I had some quiet time to myself for once!” and contend that single people should be so thrilled for all their alone time. But there’s a significant, fundamental difference between needing a break from your family now and then and having no family at all. I’m 40 and still single, despite all my best efforts at discerning, and you know what? Coming home to an empty house 365 nights a year stinks. Spending New Year’s Eve alone AGAIN because my family lives far away and my married acquaintances don’t think to include the singles stinks. Doing everything for myself 100% of the time stinks. Not having anyone to do anything with for weeks at a time because even friends are too busy and no one is committed to me stinks. Not having that push toward growing in holiness that can only come from family or community life stinks. Going months without a hug because I’m alone stinks. Etc. I may be happy with my life 95% of the time, but there are times when singlehood is a massively heavy cross, and I would give anything to receive a little support myself, rather than platitudes and suggestions that I’m at fault. I generally hear what the OP hears–volunteer more and get over it. Not, “Hey, your burden is just as legit as the burdens of married folks, only different. What can we do to make yours a little lighter?”

    And as JesusFreak84 put it so well, “Some parishes do make the lay single people, especially women, feel like second-class citizens.” Spot on. In my experience, the only outreach ever done toward singles has always been by other singles, and when I was running that young adults group, the pastor literally only stopped by our meetings for a visit when he wanted work done. It was all about what we could do for the parish, not what the parish could ever do for us. And now that I’m 40 and not a young adult, it’s even worse.

    It’s probably not intentional or even something of which most non-singles are aware, but it does happen that we singles can be treated like the redheaded stepchildren of the parish. Perfect example: a few Epiphanies ago, the parochial vicar at my church was handing out blessed chalk after Mass for people to take home for the blessing over their doors. Father smiled and handed chalk to all the families and couples. Then I got up to him and asked for chalk, and he had this surprised look on his face and asked, “You want to bless your home, too? Okaaaayy…” as if a single person’s home is somehow less of a home and less in need of a blessing than the home of a family. I kind of wanted to smack him and say, “Why the heck not?” And a friend of mine even reported that, when she went to confession at a parish that wasn’t hers, Father replied to her “Forgive me, Father…I’m 30-something and single,” with “Oh my goodness. What’s wrong with you!? Aren’t your parents worried about you that you’re not married yet?” Again, the assumption that something is wrong with us.

    We in the Church really need to figure out what to do with singles, because the presence of singles in the Church is increasing–especially single women, since the ratio of single women to single men is rising with the shortage of single men coming to church. Plenty of people have tried hard for years to find a spouse or, as in my case, a religious community, and are coming up empty-handed. Among singles, while some chose to be single, many found it forced on them by circumstances, and we’re not all called to third orders.

    And to the idea that maybe singles/childless should be invited to watch the kids so the parents can have a break. No. Just no. I know it was well-intentioned, but the message that comes across is basically, “Hey, you know that thing that you don’t have and wanted so much? Well, I’ve had that, and I’ve had so much of the thing that I have that I need a break from it.” It’s one thing for a single person to offer to watch the kids, but to suggest that asking them to do so will magically make them feel included is insulting. Oh, and the married people with kids feel like they need a break? If we were to use the same logic as many of the posts here, one could respond, “Well, maybe they just need to suck it up; after all, that’s the vocation they pursued. Maybe they need to change their schedules and build more breaks into their own lives rather than seeking help.”

  59. Gianetta says:

    Some of these reactions against families/children are very discouraging for this young mom. :( Why would I reach out to single people, when I fear in their hearts are negativity and resentment? How am I to hang out with a single person if my very status as a woman with children is apparently an affront to them? I know that many do NOT have those thoughts, but hearing the refrain so many times here has sent me looking for a place to hide. It’s bad enough that the wide world clamors for child-free flights, kid-free restaurants, and all manner of other ways to escape the scourge of small people who don’t use all the manners we’d like. Now we have to wonder if the people at our parish (people I know nothing about, because they never talk to me, despite ME being the new person at the parish) are also wishing for a child-free space.

    I felt that the OP seemed lonely and the Feast exacerbated that. I felt sorry for her and was reminded of several single people my parents included in our family circle growing up. They were always welcome and we enjoyed them, and I presumed they enjoyed us. But after such a string of comments I’m discouraged and isolated (being a mother is very lonely), and disincentivized from reaching out to single or childless people.

  60. Lurker 59 says:


    Perhaps some of what singles, and those who know singles past, say 34, posting here isn’t coming through. It is not the case that older catholic singles want to be in a “child-free” environment, it is just that they are not particularly interested in “your children” or that they are seen as a “charity case”.

    —>How am I to hang out with a single person if my very status as a woman with children is apparently an affront to them?

    By understanding your question as “How am I, who has XXXXX, to hang out with a person who does not have XXXXX when lack of XXXXX is seen as a social stigma?” You do so by not making the disparity of XXXXXX the reason for hanging out.

    If you, or anyone, wants to reach out to single people, do so because they are people, not because they are single. Reach out to people not to adjectives.

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