Friday, March 05, 2010

Single people...

I must say...
Every so often I come across blog posts discussing vocation discernment issues.  On occasion I note that some people seem to have an almost old fashioned protestant ideal of either/or when it comes to state in life - either marriage or priesthood (or religious life).  I've also noted their insistence that single life is not a vocation.  I suppose that is true on some level, despite the fact it is a state in life.  But what if single people are single because they can't get married, or can't enter religious life, not to mention can't become a priest?  And what if they don't want to?  See - I don't like that type of authoritarian judgement call.  To the ordinary old maid or bachelor loser, it can sometimes sound as if there is no universal call to holiness - as if single people have no place at doughnuts and coffee table in the church basement.
That said, I often think of a mentally challenged woman from a downtown Minneapolis parish.  (I don't know what to call people with mental disabilities now days - I don't want Sarah Palin people suing me for using the "R" word.)  Anyway, let's call the lady Mary Kate.  No matter which Mass I attended, morning, noon or evening, Mary Kate was usually there.  I've written about her before, I'm sure.  Mary Kate had physical problems as well, and I have no doubt she was abused during her lifetime.  She lived in a group home or nursing home near downtown.
Mary Kate seemed to me to be a sort of fool for Christ.  She would regularly shout out corrections to fellow worshippers as they came into Mass - especially late-comers.  I usually got yelled at for wearing shorts - otherwise she was nice to me - I think.  Oh wait, once she yelled at me to get away from her when I knelt in her row - I think she knew I had to get to confession.  She also had a habit of crying out, "I want to be a nun in Rochester!  I want to be a nun in Rochester!"  (I sort of enjoyed that.)  She prayed all of the time and sometimes she would pray out loud, begging the Lord for mercy, while it wasn't unusual for her to weep.  When sympathizers moved in to console her she hissed them away.  (Fools for Christ are not always nice.)
Anyway - I no longer go downtown for Mass, so I don't know if Mary Kate is still there or if she may have died.  She was obviously older than me, and of course single, and I'm assuming she had no family.
Obviously, the poor thing never even had a vocation either.


  1. +JMJ+

    I remember your first post on Mary Kate, Terry.

    I also remember thinking of Sebastian Flyte of Brideshead Revisited, who clearly had a vocation from the beginning of the novel, but was "psychologically unfit" (or whatever the term is) for it by the time he was finally willing to consider it.

    This is something I've discussed with others before: what if it's enough for God that we long for something our whole lives--long for it without the hope of ever achieving it?

    St. Therese of the Child Jesus wrote about having such a vocation in The Story of a Soul. God had given her an intense longing to be a missionary in Vietnam, and then right before she was to leave, allowed her to become very sick with tuberculosis. Her willingness, she said, was enough for God, as well as her suffering for the rest of her life, in longing for that cup He had just taken away from her.

  2. Mary Kate (and you) do have the fundamental vocation; being a follower of Jesus Christ.

  3. As a single gal I will also put in "None of the above."

    I'm not really a "can't", or "won't"..I've had opportunities in life, the proverbial "Y" in the road, take one branch or the other, and no changing your mind and taking the other route...

    But no regrets.. :)

    I excel in my secular vocation and I believe that it truely makes a difference in this world. I am truely happy, which is something that I've noticed that alot of folks AREN'T happy, even though they have the big house, nice job, wife/husband, 2.5 kids, dog, picket fence...

    So far on this journey in my life God's plan for me is to be single, and I'm happy with sadness or excuses or trying to answer the silly question "Why is a nice pretty girl like you NOT married??" (Especially from my Mormon friends.. )

    Think I'll throw my skis in the back of my car and hit the slopes.. :) There's fresh powder..

    By the verification word is "cured" :)


  4. Enbrethiliel - Thanks for that insight.

    Thanks Fr. Eric - that is what I thought.

    Sarah - it sounds as if indeed you are :cured"! LOL!

  5. Austringer4:08 PM

    Father, that says it all!

    Terry, a very poignant story...thanks. It brought to mind cpmments our pastor made last weekend during the announcements: we are not to give money to panhandlers that show up in the church parking lot. I understand where he's coming from, and our church does have a care fund that can be used to help people who come into the office seeking assistance, but, I dunno, it just struck me as uncharitable. Suggesting that people give food cards (like McDonald's has)instead of cash, or some such thing...that seems less harsh. His comments also reminded me of a homily by Archbishop Flynn, who related how he saw a panhandler at an intersection and was annoyed, but upon further reflection he realized that yes, Christ was present in that individual, whether a con-artist or someone in real need. I never forgot that....anyway, not that "Mary Kate" was homeless, but responding charitably towards her no doubt was a challenge.

    I also loved the Ed Grimley photo -- gotta love that floor lamp!

  6. Austringer - a piece like that appeared last Sunday in our bulletin as well - Father warning about panhandlers. I may write about it again.

    Mary Kate wasn't really annoying for me - she taught me a great deal. Especially about praying amid distractions and noise. She used to yell at women who whispered in church and would go on with her reprimand by repeating quotes from the saints about keeping silence in the oratory. I just loved it, by doing so she apparently distracted most everyone else. When it happened during Mass, Monsignor used to gently scold her and she'd calm down. I thought it was lovely.

  7. Oh - I mouthed "shut up" to her once when she was castigating me for wearing shorts to Mass. She did.

  8. I have trouble, too, with the either/or mentality. It's kind of academic for me, I have been happily married for 37 years. But as you say, a lot of people don't fit neatly into the "marriage or religious life" categories. I do sort of understand what those who insist that the single life isn't of itself a vocation are saying; that you have to have some sort of purpose or dedication in your life ("party animal" is not a vocation description!). However, as Fr. Reichstag said, one always has the fundamental vocation of being a follower of Christ. I am concerned that those who take too much to heart the either/or mentality might be tempted to jump into something ill-advised; and be unable to see the hand of God in the circumstances of their lives.
    We have a "Mary Kate" here, too. She has Tourette's or something. Good points about "fools for Christ"; I would not say they have no vocation.

  9. Austringer4:35 PM

    Terry, I would be most interested in your thoughts about panhandlers. I have to say that I was of my priest's opinion for years (and where safety is a concern, I do understand), but that homily by Archbishop Flynn really hit home, and now I try to have McDonald's meal cards always on me.

    I can't remember where, but I recall hearing or reading the comment that the Church must always be on the road where the beaten and robbed man was cared for by the Samaritan...OK, a panhandler may not be a real victim in that same sense, but Christ is there.

    I helped with some preparations for a benefit for St. Stephen's in Minneapolis a few weeks ago. I arrived just as "Loaves and Fishes", a dinner for the needy and homeless, was concluding. A few men looked to be a bit tipsy, but still they had been given a warm dinner. That is a parish, and a priest, on the road traveled by the good Samaritan.

  10. Father Richtsteig, sorry for spelling your name wrong.

  11. Then there are people who are like me -- who would like to be married, and know if married, the option of priesthood remains (Eastern Catholic). It is because of such option that I also think the either/or doesn't work. Indeed, I know as I am alone, I have too many problems that I couldn't be a good celibate priest; but I don't know if that would be the case if married -- and it is why I would say as I am now, I know I am not capable of priesthood, but I would not entirely dismiss it if I did get married (though I doubt I am priestly in either case).

  12. I tell my single daughters, any life lived for Christ is a holy life. I know of some religious people with vocations that seem to be living pretty empty or sinful lives.

    I would have loved Mary Kate. I know several of these people and I'm not fit to tie their shoes.

    Oh, my stars, you wear shorts to Mass?? Which one are you Mr.Terry? You didn't wear knee socks with your "Jesus" sandals to mass now now did you. Even a "mentally challenged" person knows you don't do that!

    BTW.. only one person in my house uses the word "retarded" ... guess who? I tell her to knock it off when I hear it.

  13. A bit off-topic..but pertaining to pan-handlers...

    I was one once myself...I was in the Air Force, travelling from New Mexico to Los Angeles, across the Arizona desert in an old truck with no air conditioning, middle of August, a flat tire..having no credit cards and my ATM card was shut off (the bank probably thought it was stolen since I started pulling money out with it "out of my normal area...") I had no money to get my tire fixed...there was no way I was going to head out across the AZ desert without a spare.. I was, stuck at a truck stop, asking anyone I could if they could give me a dollar or so to help me get my tire fixed...well yeah someone out of the kind could have offered to pay outright to get the tire fixed...but they didn't..but people were kind and dug in their pockets and gave me a dollar or two..and soon I had the $25.00 to get my tire fixed...

    God Bless them who chose not to judge me based on my "story" or my appearance...although if anyone really wanted to see there was my truck with the flat...

    So now I pay it forward, and keep dollars in my wallet and in my car....and whosoever asks me for money I give them a dollar or so..also I pray from time to time for those nameless kindhearted souls that helped me in my time of need with no questions asked..


  14. Awww, Sara is so sweet.

    Miss Sara, Terry enjoys an occasional wearing of the Lederhosen.

  15. Sara - I do the same thing.

  16. Terry: I have to tell you; Mary Kate seems to fit into the "Fifth Order" a friend of mine from a new Franciscan community in the Northeast called it...the rather "special" people that didn't "fit into" the first three...nor the fourth, whatever that that is.
    However; your point about the single life is absolutely right on...we are all called to holiness...priesthood is a "canonical vocation" in the sense that a bishop or major religious superior calls a man to that vocation; religious life is a particular form of following Jesus Christ in a canonical form; married life is a state in life that is a Sacrament; the dedicated single life is a particular form of the universal call to holiness that is indispensable to the Church.
    We're call to be saints, period.

  17. Austringer8:54 PM

    Father NP -- thanks for that excellent clarification.

  18. My problem is that my "Mary Kate" looks like Katrina. (check out the video at 1:00)

    The least will be the greatest.

  19. belinda: LOL! You are right!
    I have to say, I have a sibling with developmental disorders who is highly functional (Yech! I had that psychobabble...anyhoo)...she has, in the past, tried, tried and tried to have relationship with a man (one ended in divorce with a child)...and FINALLY! The light went on; when I was taking her to our parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary party she told me, "John, I don't want a relationship with a man; I'm over it!"
    And I said, "You don't need a man."
    Poor thing.
    She's tried her whole life to "fit in" and be like her other sisters.
    But she has finally realized (after age 40), that living her life as she is and taking care of her daughter is just fine. The creeps that she has been with are enough to curl my hair (and I'm losing a vast amount of it!).

  20. Yes Father, I have the same problem. She's smart enough to know she's not smart enough and she suffers emotional abuse on a daily basis even at times from her Catholic teachers. She's too smart for the slow class but she fails most everything else in Catholic school and for some reason educators can never seem to wrap their brains around this stuff. They always assume that the child isn't working hard enough because hard work solves all problems.They think my husband and I are slacker parents when she fails.
    She learns everything the hard way. Words mean nothing. When I'm at my wits end (usually in tears) Fr.Flannagan interceeds for me and so does Padre Pio.

    I too learn things the hard way. Because of my child I learned a lot about the Blessed Mother and the communion of saints- of which neither I had given propper respect to in the past.

    As I shared with Terry yesterday, imagine how inadaquate Kate must feel.

    Our other daugher Elizabeth is the woman with the red hair.

  21. belinda: I understand.
    I really do.
    My parents went through much of what you are describing; my poor sister was at the mercy of all kinds of bullies, creeps and just evil people when she was in high school (spat on, ridiculed, taunted, shoved, screamed at) was a nightmare.
    How she has ended up as sane and loving as she is, I don't know but for the grace of God, and that our family was not "over the top" dysfunctional (just in an Irish kinda way:<)O!!).
    I'll remember your daughter and you and your husband in my prayers.
    Catholic school should be a place of acceptance/healing/compassion.
    Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

  22. Father, I must mention the many wonderful Catholic educators who have bent over backwards to help Kate over the years and we wouldn't be where we are today without their love , support or prayers. Catholic schools are the best , hands down.

    Disabled people seem to bring out the best or the worst in other people. When you watch people respond to Kate It's like holding a magnifying glass up to a soul . She knows when they're being real or phony too. Because she's unable to read body language she knows when people lie. I would like to see her become an airport security guard except I'm sure she would tick someone off - the first day.

    Kate is going to write a story on my blog about the differences between her Catholic school and her public school math and reading classes and what she's figured it out..

    Thank you for your prayers. My husband and I are grateful,

    Terry, I'm sorry I rambled on your blog. I'll try to do better.

  23. belinda: What a beautiful soul you describe...could you remember my sister that I spoke of? She is being treated for breast cancer. It is Stage III but we are hopeful...she's undergoing chemo now; the poor thing is losing her hair (she had the rest shaved yesterday) but is a real trooper...the ones that will inherit the Kingdom of God.


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