Is Being Single a Failure?

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A wise friend once asked me, “Do you want to marry him or do you just want to get married in general?” Am I really responding to what God asks of me and who He places in my life, or am I grasping with my own strength, trying to achieve a picture-perfect dream that I think will bring me happiness? To what degree am I just looking for emotional gratification and for my own plans?

The most difficult “failure” I had to face and accept this Lent was not being married and not having the beautiful family life I so admire on blogs. It’s beautiful to be married and to be open to lots of children. However… it’s a gift! A successful family isn’t something you can really claim as your own. And using someone (a man for a husband) to obtain this perfect picture of success is… well, using someone, and not loving that person for who he is and giving of yourself.

Reading Mother Teresa’s letters in Come, Be My Light helped me understand that the Catholic world view is different from not only from the world’s view but also from other religions. Getting married isn’t the ultimate goal of life… our wedding vows are “until death do us part”. Marriage is rather a sign, which manifests God’s love and points us to the ultimate marriage in heaven of Christ and the Church, where we’ll be in perfect communion with God and others. Celibacy is so important in Catholic tradition for this reason; it points us to the heavenly marriage and lets us know there is something beyond earthly marriage.

Being single can feel like a painful and endless Lent… how true is that! Reading about Mother Teresa’s life also makes it seem like her life was a painful and endless Lent: she took on the excruciating cross of loneliness and rejection of the poor she served. Yet she was a great teacher of joy and offering smiles. How? She said joy was a product of being in love. She lived in God’s love and in communion with Him here on Earth. She took part in His cross and redemption. She expressed her love for Him in the “distressing disguise of the poor”. In offering every sacrifice she could for the greater glory of God, her life produced quite a lot of fruit. The Missionaries of Charity were born in the “depths of God’s infinite longing to love and to be loved”.

I heard once in a conference that many people think being single is about saying “no”: saying no to marriage and to religious life, when it’s really also a yes in its own right. It’s a yes to God’s will and to chastity. It’s a yes to faithfulness to God, to not “giving up” and engaging in immoral sexual behavior, for example. Marriage is beautiful but, like any vocation, it can’t be forced, only accepted. And it’s not the ultimate goal of life, it’s a means. Living in God’s love, journeying further into communion with Him and others and participating in His redemption would be closer to a goal. And this we are all called to do, to each his sacrifice: the married, religious, singles, widows, homosexuals, handicapped, mentally ill, etc.

Is being single a failure? If it is, and if it is a long and painful Lent, it’s certainly something that can be offered in love for the benefit of many. Love is really the only measure of success.

“I know you are afraid for me. You are afraid that the whole thing [starting her congregation] will be a failure. – What about it? Is it not worth going through every possible suffering just for one single soul? Did not Our Lord do the same: what a failure was His Cross on Calvary – and all for me, a sinner.” (Come, Be My Light, p. 65)

“God cannot fill what is full. – He can fill only emptiness – deep poverty – and your “Yes” is the beginning of being or becoming empty…Take away your eyes from your self and rejoice that you have nothing – that you are nothing – that you can do nothing. Give Jesus a big smile – each time your nothingness frightens you.” (Come, Be My Light, p. 275)




[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Julie Rodrigues is a 25-year-old Portuguese-American who grew up in California, but moved to Portugal for college and has been there ever since. She has a degree in Theology from the Catholic University of Lisbon, is currently teaching English and has special interest in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. She blogs at Marta, Julie e Maria.[/author_info] [/author]

Julie Machado

Julie Machado

Julie Machado is a 30-year-old wife, mother and Portuguese-American who grew up in California, but moved to Portugal for college and has been there ever since. She has a degree in Theology from the Catholic University of Lisbon and has special interest in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. She blogs at Marta, Julie e Maria.

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8 Responses

  1. I so agree with this. I hate how the world views as single people as “the crazy cat ladies” so what if I like cats?

    I once saw a billboard I will NEVER forget. “The wedding we beautiful invite me to the marriage, LOVE GOD” because it is sooo true. We are supposed to be planning for a MARRIAGE not just a WEDDING.

    But as a single person I sometimes feel that this “single time” is just like Lent also a time that will never end. A time I’m just STUCK in waiting for “my life to start.”

  2. Thanks for this reflection! What a great comparison, looking at the single life through the lens of Lent. I also love to look at it through the lens of eternity: like you said, our ultimate purpose isn’t to be married, it’s to spend forever with God. Marriage is just a step on that road…and a gift.

    Still, it’s important to differentiate between singleness as a time in waiting and singleness as an actual Vocation. It’s a vocation–small “v”–in the sense that we each have a daily vocation and the ultimate vocation to holiness, so whatever state we’re in should be living out that vocation. But it’s not a Vocation–big “v”–until it’s consecrated and permanent.

    And I agree wholeheartedly, it’s not a failure. It’s just the particular piece of the cross Our Lord has asked us to carry, at least for a little while. And it’s a beautiful thing!

    I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog. Please do check out mine (, which is all about being Catholic and single. =)

  3. I don’t agree with you at all. This statement “Being single can feel like a painful and endless Lent… how true is that”; well, I’d say it’s not true at all. Your life is a gift, whatever form it takes. Instead of pining about what you don’t have, how about celebrating what you do have. That’s what good living is about. I wrote a book, The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree because too many women focus on what they feel is missing (husband, kids), instead of being joyful about all the goodness in their life, yes, their single life.

  4. I am sure I am much happier being single than being married. Hey, most times I prefer the company of felines than either sex. The only time I really wish I was married or had a female roommate is when there is a storm and it’s very dark out.

  5. It’s telling that I haven’t left my real name – but I do admit to being almost 35, unmarried and…with no career either!

    Marriage is a fulfillment and a vocation, so is an interesting and productive career and yet they are not ‘the ultimate goals’ in life. Sometimes it seems that Catholics around us act like they are – so we feel social pressure and guilt to ‘achieve’ and ‘live the dream of married life’ – to add to our own frustrations and longings.

    Yet – these are NOT the goal – maybe that’s why God has given me neither (at the present time!). My brother says I can be ‘a sign of contradiction’. Yes it’s bitter in a sense – but also – on another level I can accept it with peace and know that it is true.


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