As GinaMaria-622671 awaits another Christmas as a single – and her 30th birthday – she’s embracing Advent. “It’s a time to renew my faith in God that He will provide for my needs – and that includes a spouse when the time is right,” said the pediatric nurse practitioner from Houston.
Gina wrote this Advent reflection for “Faith, Hope & Love.”
The year I turned 25, I sat in a crowded pew awaiting the beginning of the Christmas Eve midnight Mass at the oldest cathedral in my hometown.
It was dimly lit, candlelight flickering against the stained glass, and the altar was adorned with deep red poinsettias, golden cloths, and more candles that twinkled as the choir sang Silent Night. It was a special night, when we celebrate the birth of the Savior, the Light of the world, the One for whom the faithful waited.
On one side of me sat my parents, married for 30 years – my mother reading from her prayer book, my father reading the back of a holy card he carried in his wallet. On the other side of me were my brother and his wife, who had just been married a month before. Newlyweds, they sat hand in hand with hopeful eyes, happy to be spending their first Christmas together. I watched as families entered the cathedral, all the infants and children dressed in their best attire for the Lord’s special day.
And then there was me, the twenty-something woman facing yet another Christmas alone.
Would I ever be a newlywed? Would I ever dress my children and bring them to Christmas mass? Would I ever be like my parents still sitting next to each other at Mass after 30 years of marriage? I felt lonely, as many singles do at Christmas time.
So what is a Catholic single person to do?
As a busy professional, how could I find a man with integrity and faith in a society where morals are disintegrating quickly? At 25, I had just moved to a large city where I only knew one person and was not sure how to meet people. I wanted my faith to be the foundation on which to build friendships and courtship.
Turning to the web
My friend mentioned Catholic online dating, and I found my way to CatholicMatch. I’ve been on and off the site for nearly five years. I figured the Internet was one more avenue through which God could bring people into my life.
Around the same time, I also became very active in church-related groups, pro-life activities, and groups such as running and hiking clubs. My life was enriched in some way with all the people I met both online and offline.
Overall, the experience with CatholicMatch has added to my faith life, as it has put me in contact with so many other practicing Catholics who value marriage and are striving to live according to the faith.
Although I have not met “the one,” I still consider my time on CatholicMatch a success. I have connected with good girlfriends who have been a great support.
The number of people on the site is reassuring to me; there are plenty of faithful singles who understand my situation. I have particularly enjoyed the new blog, with entries from a diverse writing staff that are both insightful and thought-provoking.
A bigger plan
Now I am 29 and about to face another Christmas as a single person. In reflecting on the past few years of my life, I have realized the many ways in which God has used my singleness to increase my faith in Him and work for the good of others.
Of course I thought I would be married by 30. However, with the grace of God, I have been blessed with many opportunities to explore my faith and grow spiritually in ways I may not have been able to as a married woman.
Also, I have been able to devote myself fully to my family during times of illness and death. I cannot for a moment think that this time alone has been random; I know it has all been part of a bigger, more wonderful plan. I have had to relinquish my will for my life and hand it over to God.
During the years of waiting for a spouse, I have learned about complete surrender to God and the great humility it requires. I have experienced the severe mercy of God, who at times allowed heartbreak to save me and cultivate my spiritual growth in ways far beyond my understanding.
So I view Advent, the season of joyful hope for the coming of the Savior, as a time in which God is particularly close to me encouraging me to grow into an even deeper relationship with Him. Why?
He asks me to remember Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation, without which there would be no Nativity, no Advent, no Christmas season. Our Blessed Mother bravely and humbly submitted her will to God’s plan.
As singles, awaiting our vocations to come to fruition, we must learn to write God a blank check, forgetting what we think our lives should be like, where we are supposed to live and in what time frame things should occur.
I believe, too, that Advent is a time of joyful expectation as we await the celebration of God’s promise of a Savior. God, too, promises to fulfill the desires of the heart, and Advent is a time to renew my heart and cultivate a grateful one for the many blessings and spiritual graces that have befallen me during my time as a single Catholic. It’s a time to renew my faith in God that He will provide for my needs – and that includes a spouse when the time is right.
It is a time to pray for an increase of faith, just as the Israelites faithfully waited for a Messiah, knowing that God would fulfill His covenant. It is a time of quiet introspection as I find ways in which to cultivate a heart that is ready for the total self-giving love that marriage requires.
But most importantly, the Advent and Christmas season is a time that reminds me to focus on the giver and not the gift. Too many times, I have fallen into the habit of praying for the gift of a spouse, instead of fixating my eyes on the Giver, the Lord from whom all gifts come.
Being Christ-centric, always seeking His face, His way, His word in everything will prepare me for whatever comes in life.
Christ is the true gift of our lives – remember that and the anxieties, which can sometimes accompany the single life, fade behind the illuminating light of the world, which is Christ alone, who comes at Christmas as both the Gift and the Giver.
I rest my heart in that promise, already fulfilled.