[Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a five-part series on “Renewing the Church and Transforming the World.” Click here to read the first article, second article, third article, and fourth article.]
Singles ministry is and must be vocation formation.
For 1900 years the Church and Catholic parents formed teenagers toward their vocations, both married and consecrated. We stopped doing that in the 1960s, when it was accepted that teenagers were not going off to get married or become priests or nuns, but to go to college and then live as singles. It will be a challenge to return to forming teenagers, though we must strive to do so. In the meantime we must begin to form the 100 million singles who are now the only source for vocations.
(Many people debate whether single life is a vocation. I prefer to handle the topic with this discussion of single and avowed states. But for a direct answer to the question read Mary Beth Bonacci’s article on the subject at www.RealLove.net.)
So, what does all of this require in practical terms? We must trust that God is good, and we can be confident that, as he has promised, his Church will prevail (Matt 16:18). In the midst of these crises we see fulfilled the scripture that “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” (Rom 5:20). For we live in the era of the prophet who will be known to history as Pope John Paul the Great. He has given us astounding resources to bring to bear in this battle.
The man I like to call “The Pope of Love” in his Love and Responsibility, and The Theology of the Body, has translated the Gospel into the language of our era, of our time and culture. He has expressed the deepest truths of our identities as sexual creatures in the most immediate possible language the language of the body.
The job before us is simply to assimilate these teachings as they relate to the single life and then to present those teachings to singles in the most relevant, real, and compelling terms. Through the redemption and the untwisting of our desires for nuptial union, singles may find the way, and a culture consumed with the values of single life may find the way, into the heart of family life in the Church, and from thence to paradise.
All of this is beginning to happen right now in our midst. At the “National Conference on the Theology of the Body” last summer (2004) in Atlanta, Mary Beth Bonacci spoke on the meaning of the single life. To my knowledge, it was the first time that any major conference has ever included the topic of single life. There was a tremendous energy in the air as Mary Beth spoke of issues faced by Catholic singles every day of our lives, issues the vast majority of attendees had never before heard mentioned in any public forum.
The “First-Ever National Catholic Singles Conference” in February, 2005 in Denver was a two-day conference which featured a crowd packed well beyond the auditorium’s 400 person capacity. The crowd, drawn from thirty states, enjoyed two days of talks and activities which addressed the most fundamental truths of living in this society as a single person.
Mary Beth Bonacci, one of its featured speakers, wrote of this conference that “it is the first step in a really positive, beautiful, healthy revolution.” One attendee expressed the sentiments of many when she stated, “this has been a life-changing experience. I had no idea how much I needed to be here.”
Conference organizer Anastasia Northrop is planning several more regional Catholic Singles Conferences. More information, and recordings of the Denver conference, are available at www.TheologyoftheBody.net.
I have been traveling the country presenting a seminar titled “God of Desire: From Dating to Courtship to Paradise.” In the context of a very practical seminar on dating, we see our creator revealing himself, and revealing us to ourselves, through our attractions toward and desires for one another. This is nothing other than the Gospel expressed in the language of the body as given to us by the great Pope of Love. In addition to offering singles much-needed encouragement on the topic of courtship, the www.GodofDesire.com website includes curricula for singles ministry based upon an extensive compilation of excerpts from the writings of Pope John Paul II.
There is no turning back now. The dam has broken. The revolution is launched. Single life is becoming understood and singles are finding homes in the family life of the Church. From these singles and from this outreach the entire culture around us is being transformed into a culture of family, a culture of life.
And from these singles will spring ALL of the vocations of tomorrow. Our Church will thrive. She will prevail, and she will shepherd ALL of her sheep.
Dave Sloan writes and speaks across the country on God of Desire: From Dating to Courtship to Paradise. Dave has appeared on many radio and television programs, including CNN News and EWTN's Life on the Rock. His Twelve Principles Program shows how to begin every relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ, who can discover the wonder of one another without fear while growing ever closer to the God of Desire.
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