Commentary: Young singles face great challenge of the family

By Anamaría Scaperlanda Biddick

A year after graduating from college, I found myself at daily Mass with a friend my age and her newborn baby. An older woman, heart-warmed by the sight of a beautiful young mother with her child, came up to us as we were leaving to tell my friend how happy she was to see a young woman living out her vocation.

 The words, meant as encouragement to my friend, stung me: I would have loved for my own vocation to be clearer. I was open to and desirous of marriage and motherhood, but that had not yet been given to me. The lack of knowledge about my permanent vocation led to an uncertainty about my relationships to others as an adult.

 The doubts about the significance and nature of our relationships to others as adults can be compounded in a church that regularly extols the virtuous of marriage and family life, even if it also discusses the difficulties, as at the recent Synod on the Family.

 In his opening address at the Synod, Pope Francis says, “The family has been, from the beginning, an integral part of his loving plan for humanity.”

 Only 26 percent of Millenials, however, are married (a record low for this age group). While the high percentages of single young adults emphasizes the importance of praising marriage, these statements can add to feelings of isolation for these same people, many of whom desire marriage. While they would like to be husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, they are not, often through no choice of their own. As a recent interviewee put it, “To be married, you have to persuade someone to marry you.”

 But the single person is still a sister or brother, aunt or uncle, daughter or son, granddaughter or grandson. The single person is part of a family — something easily forgotten in an age when “to have a family” is equated with being the head of a family, and families are reduced to adult parents and minor children. Families, however, extend above and beyond the nuclear family, to aunts, uncles, grandparents, and siblings — and to the parish family. Each of us comes into this world given to particular people.

 The single person can be tempted to eschew obligations to their natural or adoptive family in favor of fun times out with friends. While socializing with peers also is a necessary part of life, it cannot be at the expense of familial commitments. The words of Cardinal Erdo, relator general of the Synod on the Family, speak to this great challenge of the family when he said that often we equate love with emotions, where the “feel good factor” outweighs any other value, particularly commitment and sacrifice.

 Commitment to one’s family of origin and parish family can help develop a cohesive narrative, viewing life with a consistent mission.

 Such a commitment develops natural virtue, guarding against the pull to selfishness and countering the temptation Cardinal Erdo laid out. He said that often, we live in a world of mere emotions, where life “is not a project, but a series of moments” and “stable commitment appears formidable.”

 Pope Francis’s remarks in his closing homily also speak to single adults, especially those who desire marriage. He said that the most important aspect of following Christ is, “being docile to His will, devoting our lives to Him and working for His Kingdom of mercy, love, and peace.”

 He continued by saying that in following the will of God, we are given a hope that stands in the face of the pervasive cynicism in our culture. “Here is the leaven which makes it grow and the salt which gives flavor to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us.”

Anamaría Scaperlanda Biddick is a freelance columnist for the Sooner Catholic.