If you ever hear me on my live meditation sessions on Insight Timer, you might be surprised that I'm Catholic. Yes, I bring up my faith every once in a while, but I also acknowledge how other spiritual traditions inform my walk.
Although I serve in my current church as a reader of Scripture, I can't say that there is much community for people like me.
Many Christian churches--Catholic and Protestant--often form community through various groups. There are usually Bible studies and such for kids. There is usually a teen group. There are marriage groups, young adult groups, and senior groups. There are groups that form for a special reason, such as losing a child or spouse.
As many groups there are in my church, none fit into my category. I'm single, but I'm not a "young adult." The single groups were either about leading to marriage or religious vocation. Even when I belonged to a somewhat older adult group of women when I was in Florida, most of those women were married. Most of those discussions focused on raising a family.
Here's where the Catholic Church--and many church groups--are losing out. They don't offer much guidance for people over 40 who haven't been married.
We are the few you might see in church who attend alone. Our friends don't attend church, but we do. We smile as we see people our age with several kids and their spouses. Yes, perhaps we'd like to get married some day, but as we've gotten older and somewhat more independent, it no longer sits at the forefront of our motivation.
As we approach our midlife unmarried, our focus turns to something more important--finding meaning.
Many of us in midlife--those who attend a religious service and those who do not--face an existential question: Is this all there is?
For myself, I've embraced my spiritual practices much more now than I ever did. It allows me to find the most profound peace in solitude.
Yet when I turn to my own faith, who are the leaders? Many of them are religious sisters and brothers, which is fine. However, when it comes to the lay ministries, the leaders are often married. So many of the devotions geared towards lay people point to the struggles of raising a family. They use that as a selling point for why we should listen to them: "Jane is a devoted wife of 15 years and a mother of two."
How does that speak to someone like me?
Similarly, if someone is single and offering words of inspiration about being single, it's often from someone in their 20s. Very rarely do you hear from single people over the age of 40.
To be honest, the people I relate with the most have been those over 60. The Bible study and prayer groups that don't point to a specific demographic have been those that have fed me the most. Although many of them have raised families of their own, their discussions aren't centered on raising a family or finding a mate. The discussions are about their spiritual walk.
I look to the larger Catholic websites whose mission is to nurture faith, and too many of them are doing the same thing. They speak about married life or raising children. They're quite conservative and don't welcome what might be true in other religions.
There's not much for those like me who've never been married. They don't speak about how one can walk alone in communion with God. There's not much about solitude.
Right now, I'm not finding it in my church. Although I'm still a Catholic, I really wish there was a spiritual community that would speak a little more about those who aren't married.
As more and more people delay marriage or don't see it as the key to a happy life, they will approach midlife with that same search for meaning. Spiritual and religious groups might want to open up their list of contributors to speak to this hungry group.
This is the rough draft of an article I published on Medium.