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Honouring Your Identity 2: Single/Wolna/Célibataire

Saturday, August 24, 2013
"You can't wear that dress!" shouted my sister as I packed for our brother's wedding, now five years ago. "You'll look like a spinster aunt!"

"I AM a spinster aunt," I replied, but I don't remember if I wore the spinster aunt dress. What I do remember is that two years of blogging about my life as a Single Catholic made it easy for me to be proud to be a spinster aunt.

Besides, I wasn't legally a spinster aunt. Legally I was a divorced aunt, which from a Catholic point of view is much more depressing. Fortunately for my peace of mind, my annulment papers made me spiritually a spinster again. Not a virgin again, obviously, but still a spinster, free to be the me I was supposed to be.

It turns out I was not supposed to be a spinster aunt for very much longer. And the moral of the story, leetle gairls, is that if you flee from a bad marriage and it is quite obviously over and very probably was never sacramental and you have no children whose feelings you have to take time to consider, apply for the annulment as soon as the ink is dry on your divorce certificate. Don't wait until Mr Right turns up. Get the annulment ASAP and return to being a Catholic spinster, so that if Mr Right or Right Convent of St. Right in Rightsville breaks into your life, you will be ready to say "Yes."

In Canada it takes a year's separation to divorce and at least a year after that to get the annulment, if applicable, so that is two years for you to wait out Divorced Person's Insanity. Divorcing young Catholics should be locked away in a convent or monastery for at least a year, but very possibly two, for their own good. It is just so awful. It is so awful the primary purpose of this blog is to make you feel so happy and hopeful as Singles you do not just march into a bad marriage hoping everything will work out just 'cause. In short, I don't want you getting divorced and going off the rails.

I hate divorce even though I am grateful to divorce because it made me free, which reminds me that the proper word for "Single" in Polish is not "Single" (pronounced "SEEN-gluh"), which is sort of an insult, like "hipster" ("HEEP-stair"), but wolny for a man and wolna for a woman. And this is a much better word than Single because it is the same word for FREE.

"Jestem wolna" means "I am Single" or "I am free" and it points to the beautiful heart of Singleness which is that it makes you free for marriage, or for religious life, or for life in a L'Arche community, or as a numerary in Opus Dei, or for any commitment to which God calls you, in His own good time, through the medium of history.

We can only read the history of our lives backwards, so I see in my own life that God inspired me to start my Singles blog, which made me happier to be Single, which came through in my blog, which attracted B.A.'s friends, who alerted B.A., who read my blog and, when I wrote about coming to the U.K., invited me to visit. Hey presto. God working in history, both the history of communications technology and the history of little me, to show me my true state-in-life vocation at the age of 38. And because I had got my annulment almost ten years before, I was wolna, free, to say yes at once.

Incidentally, my writing in the Catholic Register inspired a lovely group of nuns in British Columbia to write to me personally suggesting I try my vocation with them.  Isn't that sweet? At the time it made me a bit cranky, though, as when deep down you really want to get married, religious life really seems second best and just not something you want to embrace. This makes you feel bad, of course, since religious life is the highest form of life, so what is wrong with you for not wanting it? Are you a bad Catholic, etc., etc? No, not necessarily. You probably just do not have a call to religious life.

Therefore I think it's not just the events of history but what God writes on your heart that you must read to understand what God wants you to do, and I apologize to the Vocations Director of the IBVM in Toronto for wasting an afternoon of her time. Oh, and to the VD of the Tennesee Dominicans for wasting some of her time although in her case I am not really sorry because I love to tell people that the Tennessee Dominicans turned me down sight unseen. Hee hee!

Where was I? Oh! The French also have a better word for Single identity, for it is célibataire.

Now, we English-speakers often use the word "celibate" to mean we don't have sex. This is not the proper use of the word "celibate", which in English means what it does in French--an unmarried person, like a priest. However, there is something in the word that makes us think of not-having-sex, so this is also positive, from a Christian point of view.

Why? Because to not-have-sex when you are Single means that you are not a slave to sex, at the mercy of all that sex can throw at you without the safety of marriage. Sex is a fine servant but a really cruel and nasty master, and if you doubt me ask anyone who is addicted, actually addicted, to internet porn. Ask the poor young woman now known as "Slane Girl", or read the British papers about the children of women who let new lovers into the house as if with a revolving door.

"Single" is a problematic word because it suggests that you are alone. However, you are not alone. You are a free and (I hope) celibate woman with a family, friends, community and, most of all, loving Saviour.  And you have nothing to be ashamed about. As a single person, you have the freedom to be there for your family, friends, community and loving Saviour in a way a married woman can't. For example, I could not be at my nephew's birthday dinner in mid-August because I am married and living abroad. Were I still his spinster aunt, I would have been there. And it hurts me a little that I was not there, and even more that I couldn't get it together to get to the post office on time, etc.  However, I have to put my husband and our Old Worldy stuff first, just as St. Paul thought so problematic.

So if someone asks if you are Single or, worse, "still Single", you may say "yes" happily and hopefully instead of feeling terrible. You are not alone but wolna to God's call, whatever it is, and to take care of your family and friends in a way you might not be able to later, and--I hope and pray--you are célibataire in the chaste way that keeps you safe.

Update: I have been wondering whether to write about poor Slane Girl at all, but the one saving grace in the whole awful story is that she isn't known by her name (and please don't look for it, poppets) but simply as "Slane Girl." This should make it easier for her to get on with her life. Meanwhile, thanks for nothing, Sexual Revolution. Now it's got Ireland, with a spandy new permissive abortion law and everything. Is Poland next? I seriously hope not--and there is hope for although Poland has allowed abortion since Communist days, there are comparatively few abortions in Poland. (Still, have some more children, ludzie.)

Okay, I wrote about Poland again. I just really love Poland. Yes, I know it's not Catholic Disneyland. But it is so much more Catholic than here. Have I mentioned how well the Poles take care of the graves of their dead...? And what Poles do instead of celebrating Hallowe'en....? I don't care how annoying Babcia is, she's right: Poland is almost like heaven compared to wherever she is now--only with, ahem, a lot of car thieves. Married car thieves who use contraceptives. Bad! (I don't care about the cars.)