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Dear Mary Beth,

I’m in my early 50s, never married, and I’ve finally met a wonderful man! He’s slightly older than I am, a faithful Catholic, and also never married. Everything I read about Catholic marriage talks primarily about children. So what about us? What would be so special about our marriage, since we’re beyond child-bearing age?

Mary

 

 

Dear Mary,

This is a question that a lot of older, faithful Catholics deal with as the contemplate marriage, or re-marriage. Their faith is important to them, but they don’t see where a childless marriage fits in to the Catholic scheme of things.

Here’s the thing. Marriage is about fertility. It’s about a husband and a wife giving themselves completely to each other in complete openness to God’s will, and God working through that openness to bring new life into the world. We see that most tangibly when that new life is physical — when a baby is conceived. That’s a beautiful thing — a new human person with an eternal soul comes into the world through the love of a husband and wife. We love that. We celebrate it.

But that doesn’t always happen. It doesn’t even happen most of the time.

Between some couples – those who are medically infertile or just past the age when they can conceive – it doesn’t happen at all. What then? Where is their fertility?

[40, Single & Childless]

Here’s what we believe: God’s fertility is not limited to physical fertility. There are many, may ways to give life in this world, and God is not limited – or less likely to shower His Divine life – just because the physical capacity for procreation is no longer operational.

In Familiaris Consortio Blessed John Paul II said, “It must not be forgotten however that, even when procreation is not possible, conjugal life does not for this reason lose its value. Physical sterility in fact can be for spouses the occasion for other important services to the life of the human person, for example, adoption, various forms of educational work, and assistance to other families and to poor or handicapped children.”

This is beautiful. But it’s important to note that it isn’t just to say (as is often said of singles), “You have more time because you don’t have kids, so you can do other stuff to help.”

That’s true.

[Too Old To Become A Mother: Am I Missing Out?]

But I believe the reality is much deeper. When a husband and wife given themselves to each other in sexual union, in complete openness to God’s will – He will bring forth life from that act. That life may not be physical, but it will be real.

He is there, in every conjugal act between a husband and a wife. And, if we are open to it, He will work through it to increase His life and His love in the world. And so, husbands and wives spiritually conceive in a way that is no less real that the conception of a child.

A priest once told me, “In this world, there is a lot of physical conception without spiritual conception. God needs people who are willing to conceive spiritually, to bring His life and His love into the world.”

Childless spouses, just like parents, need to give themselves not only to each other, but to the life or lives that result from their union. For the childless, this means a marriage that is not myopically focused on each other, but is instead open to the ways God is bringing life to the world through them, and calling them to participate, to share and participate in that love.

I count among my dearest friends several childless couples. They have done amazing things – fighting for the unborn, reaching out to those in need, making the world a better place. But I don’t believe they did those things on their own. They were a result, a response, to the grace God provided through their gift to each other.

So yes, Mary, later-in-life marriages are fertile. You just need to keep the focus on Him, and stand ready to nurture whatever new life He blesses you with.

 

 

 

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14 Comments

  1. Stephen-725391 September 23, 2012

    Excellent and timely – physical intimacy necessary to spiritual intimacy – that is to often dismissed as unnecessary, even in marriages that did achieve the procreation of children. Thanks.

  2. Dave-146273 September 23, 2012

    Definitely relevant, timely, and thought provoking for many of us singles that are getting older.. are we looking for that Spiritual union first before that physical union?? Thanks for a great article.

  3. Theresa-110510 September 23, 2012

    Don’t you dare think for a minute your life or marriage is less special because you couldn’t meet your spouse when you were younger so that you could have children! God’s blessings and love to you both now that you are married, no thanks to the Catholic Church. Even if you met on this site; this site was only created due to nothing for Catholics once they hit puberty and its leaders have to deal with that taboo topic: s-e-x.

    Mary Beth points out that ‘Marriage is about fertility. It’s about a husband and wife giving themselves completely to each other in complete openness to God’s will, and God working through that openness to bring new life into the world.’ God also gave a command ‘Go forth and multiply’; not a suggestion.

    Yet the Catholic Church has never made a point of having programs for its people in growing in their faith from childhood through adulthood, readying its congregants for sacramental marriage. It has never had programs for youth (oh sure, you can find them scattered in various parishes throughout your archdiocese where you won’t know the people since you/your kids aren’t belonging there;) – and not just for a couple of years at a time as volunteers come forward, desperately trying to somehow make time for this need on top of their full time jobs; as their pastors don’t care. These groups have to be in formats mandated by the Bishop, with spiritual guidance, and be MANDATORY for each parish to have. It is not acceptable to God to ignore members right after they make their Confirmations, when their bodies are changing and things start to get tough for the clergy. So much of the time when a parish does have one of these groups it is no different than attending any secular singles group, with lecherous guys; couples meeting and hooking up like they just met in a bar; pregnancies abounding. For those scandalized by this it often only serves to completely cause them to fall away; and to waste more precious years when they could have had better luck in finding a mature, socially adept person looking outside Catholics for marriage.

    I know a fellow Catholic who after experiencing one of these said never again to Catholic singles groups. He joined a Protestant one where he has met life long friends; attended weddings – and throughout their dating the couples adhere to the faith Christ taught us to the best of their ability. It is always paramount. How wonderful to be able to share the thrill of dating with someone with the same views and morals!

    Catholics have no real opportunities to meet to make these marriages as God intended; and since we know what His intention is towards marriage; and that that is the lifestyle approximately 95% of Catholics will follow – IT IS THE CHURCH that is going against God’s will here. Catholics are ignored as the priests/bishops don’t want to talk about the realities of life with us; so they can stay within their comfort zone they ignore His Mission and leave us to get snatched up by the world. God help these clergy is all I can say.

    People who give up their lives for their faith are saints. If any of you think you need to go your entire life without love and happiness to get into Heaven as the Church has misled you to think that, I believe that applies to you. I do feel sorry for you; as this was never God’s intent; but I totally understand how that happens.

    There are loads of protestant churches (some not too different from us in beliefs or practices) that you can belong to for community and to meet someone to fall in love with and marry. I am not saying to leave Catholicism; you can still go to Mass on Sundays too – that’s all we do anyway. You will have lots of friends your own age, not just your parents ages; and will be more involved as there will be more things to choose from (including missionary work.)

    I’ve spoken to many in my archdiocese, of the cloth; and have given up that the Church will ever choose to involve all ages in it within my lifetime. I believe I need to belong to the Church which currently is following His will and teachings the closest.

    There are millions of people meant to be born who are not due to their Catholic parents never having met; possibly more people than are being aborted. Catholics would be the majority of society had the Church been filling its command; the world would be completely different – but the Church chose to let the world influence it rather than vice versa. I’ve seen so many good Catholics fall away as they were not willing to sacrifice this part of their life; and knew they should marry soon to save themselves from sinning. We are meant to marry in our 20′s; not 50′s – our bodies make that point perfectly clear to us!!! Once people marry outside the faith that is usually it; their partners want nothing to do with Catholicism. If a choice was offered; many if not most would stay; having fallen in love with Christ at a young age and wanting to remain to live their lives for Him. As it is all the things those people who should have lived were to do will never happen – and we will only know what those things were when God reveals it – again God help the Church for its cavalier attitude to His commands.

    If a person has to spend 20, 30, 40 years dating trying to find someone – honestly – do you really think their married life when they are now the age they are at is to be spent working in the Church since they have ‘time on their hands?’ That is their choice; but let’s be real here! Finally two singles have a partner to share the rest of their lives with – they have a lot of living to make up for (!) – and likely less energy than they had in their 20′s to be doing all this work anyway. You’ve sacrificed enough while single; now it’s time to enjoy yourselves and all married life has to offer!

  4. Mary-755567 September 25, 2012

    Some of us truely are blessed with healthy pregnancies late in life. You never know God’s plan. The 52 year old pregnant woman is very rare, but they truly exist.

  5. David-364112 September 25, 2012

    This is a GREAT article. Thanks. Yes, one major purpose of marriage is procreation, but human beings are not bloodstock. Marital intimacy is a gift from God. We’re not barnyard animals – coupling only to produce offspring. Marital intimacy is a concrete expression of the exclusive mutual love which the spouses have for one another. It is a holy thing, akin to a sacramental. As with all forms of human love, marital intimacy is a reflection of God’s love for each human soul. God loves each soul with that sort of tender intimacy just as God loves each as a father, friend, brother, and so on. So it is wrong to say that there is no reason for marriage or continued marital intimacy if a couple is incapable of conceiving a child. Marriage is a holy vocation and God does call to marriage people who are older or otherwise unable to conceive. We must always open our hearts to love and be loved – by God and by the person God calls us to marry.

  6. MaryBeth-278310 September 26, 2012

    Thanks for the comments! A friend of mine who is not a CM member wanted to respond to Theresa, so he asked me to post this for him:

    “Theresa – I appreciate your candor – yet your tone is one in which I sense much anger. Not sure where that comes from yet I do understand that you and perhaps some of your friends have had bad experiences within singles groups in the Roman Catholic Church – and for that I apologize. I would caution you to not throw the whole Catholic Church ‘under the bus’ as a result – my challenge is if you are a single Catholic – make the change in the Church. Why run away? Love has no room for fear. I know of MANY healthy single Catholics who married within the Catholic Church and are living testimonials to Christ’s love in the world.”

  7. Ellen M. September 27, 2012

    After living through the experience of a sick husband – diagnosed with stomach cancer in Nov. 2011 and died in June 2012, and all the revelations that come with being pulled closer to God on this journey, it became acutely apparent to me that the ideal expression of marriage is that a husband be an earthly expression of God’s love to his wife and that a wife be an expression of God’s infinite, graceful and complete love for her husband. No matter the age. Sex is a gift to married couples no matter the age.

  8. John L. September 28, 2012

    “Marriage is about fertillity” Hmm, thought Marriage was aboth both spouses helping each other get to heaven, not about being a baby factory…… and Theresa, i see where youre coming from and you have a point. But the Church is so big and so complex (There’s 1.3 Billion People in it worldwide and only ONE pope, give him a break!) that things like singles groups arent exactly #1 on the Bishops list! First of all, the Pope oversees more of the Bishops’ Activities than you may think. You have to keep in mind Apostolic Authority. The Bishops have to make sure the Diosesan Finacial House is in order, upkeep the Catholic Schools, keep the Catholic Charities afloat, Perform an average of 1-2 Confirmations a month, probably 3-4 in the fall and winter, appear at different ceremonies and events AND be the boss of all the priests. And Priest scedules are even WORSE: Daily Mass 5 days a week then an average of 3-4 masses on the weekend, Average of a Marriage a month (with 6 months worth of Pre-Cana Classes and Counseling.), 3 funerals a week at big parishes, They have to be on call at all the local Hospitals and Hospices to perform last rites when need and some are even on call between 12am and 6am of the person goes to be with the Lord early in the morning, they have to meet with the finance council every week, meet with the parish council every week, attend the Knights of Columbus meeting if he’s a member (Shoutout to all my Brother Knights reading this!) AND after all that is done, organize all the programs and ministries go mon at the church. In my particlar parish, my beloved priest runs about 15 different ministries, attends everyu meeting, Has a monthly Pro-Life mass and Healing Mass, attends our Youth group (Which caters to the age group 14-21 and which I am a minister in) and iss the Pro-life activities director for the diosease. So, Dear sister in Christ Theresa, YOu tell US where either a bishop or Priest can find the time to devote to Catholic Singles…..

    • Stephen-725391 September 28, 2012

      NO, just ask the Shakers!

    • Theresa-110510 October 1, 2012

      John,

      I know there is only one pope and how busy the bishops and the priests reporting to him are. Just so you are aware where I am coming from – I do know and appreciate that. However, you make an interesting point about the bishop’s requirement to be in attendance to perform confirmations. If administering this Sacrament is important to him (and the parents at least of the kids receiving it); we know it is important to the Pope with his starting World Youth Day (or week) events – with the intention that his bishops see to ministering to ALL the flock from womb to tomb to stop the mass falling away that at least he gives a damn about.

      As to where do priests or bishops find the time? It is up to them to find the time or to hire the workers. Myself, I believe it would be best if priests focused on administering the Sacraments and hired deacons for the more human tasks of ministering to the people -possibly one per deanery – which when people’s needs are met and they are spoken to where they live – you know, the way Christ did – people will return in droves and we’ll be able to afford the fees for the full time deacons hired. I know that CEO’s of businesses don’t do the filing, bill paying, supply ordering, reception duties for their companies – still they know the work must be done if they are to be a successful business – so they hire the people! Nor is not up to the file clerk to run the company.

      Still, because I love Christ and His Church I have presented my ideas to various people including priests and shown them how other churches make thinkgs work and keep people in and involved. I did this as recently as last night when a speaker from the States came to do a seminar. When one woman asked about programs for singles and to keep them in the Church,from following away, he said “We still haven’t figured that one out.” It’s not rocket science! All it is is a lack of will or concern for this segment of society. As I said when I spoke with him afterwards: “If I am going to be inviting someone back to the church, there is a responsibility on me. If there is nothing for this person to belong to when they come n, they’re only going to fall away; and who knows how long there are on this planet for. If Catholicism doesn’t care about them due to their demographic or how much money they make – it would be better for them to go to another Christian denomination where they WILL encounter Christ and be able to be helped in their walk through life by having others in their parish they can consider friends; as well as things to belong in in their church so their faith isn’t just an hour on Sunday, but their life.” He agreed withall the points I was making; but found that these groups in his experience must be coming from the pastor – that the bishop can’t mandate all members be ministered to (why on earth not?!) – and so obviously the church will never change.

      So John, you tell me: if the Catholic church only really wants already married people in it: why would any young married couple want to be in it knowing their own children will not be able to have a life long relationship with Christ as they won’t have anything to belong to or be considered of value until they are also married and working? and so will have likely fallen away by then as stats show approx 95% of their peer group will?

      That there are 1.3 billion Catholics in the world is because we have infant baptism; these people are Catholic not by their own choice and a huge amount of them have left it; the workload is significantly less – however; I thought we wanted more in it… If the church can’t handle the people in it – why on earth would we want to grow?

      Look – everyone is single until they are marreid or take a vocation. Most are called to marriage. If the church truly cares if we marry the right person – one of faith rather than applying later for a Catholic divorce- this would be important to them. I also know for a fact that whether it is a priority of any of the clergy or not; that ALL

      • Theresa-110510 October 1, 2012

        people are called by Christ to know Him and to be with Him in Heaven. ALL are His priority. Any church saying otherwise does not speak for Him or His Father.

        Theresa

  9. Kellymarie-907953 October 14, 2012

    I am post menopausal and I’m still interested in love and coupling. I don’t understand what’s the big deal ? I just want a good loving man that likes to cuddle and make love.

  10. Kellymarie-907953 October 14, 2012

    Also I didn’t like the questions that asked how many children did I want to have and how long after I meet someone do I want to start a family having children . This is because I am past the child bearing age and those questions did not apply to me. I believe in love in all it’s different forms. I believe I can still love and find a man that can still love even though I’ve just turned fifty years old. I believe we are never too old to love and be loved. ~Kelly

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