When you've never married, or had children, being single at Mass can really hurt
I find it too painful to go to church some Sundays. I’m 42, never married and have no kids. Every Sunday morning, when I’m sitting alone in church surrounded by couples and families, my loneliness and being single feel more pronounced. The experience can be so painful at times that I often avoid Mass. I hate that I no longer enjoy going and that I end up feeling more miserable after Mass instead of better. I would really like your thoughts on dealing with this.
Pain in the Mass
Dear Pain in the Mass,
I sincerely feel your pain. I’m a suffering single too, but let me tell you, that is absolutely no excuse to miss Mass and put yourself in a state of mortal sin. Stop that right now!
Our Holy Father just released his exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, which focused on the needs of the family, and that’s important, but we will have to wait to see whether His Holiness has something more to say to single parents, or that he might “speak heartening words to the weary” (Isaiah 50:4) who have never married.
In the meantime, let me tell you a story. Once upon a time I hated going to Mass too. Quite honestly, I still don’t like going to Mass on the big days like Easter and Christmas. I don’t have patience for crowds or people who suddenly show up to church after being absent the rest of the year. In fact on a typical Sunday I can be so easily distracted by my surroundings that I’m left feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, “more miserable” as you put it. But the fault for my cruddy attitude is no one’s but my own.
Then one day while praying before Mass I asked Jesus to help me stay focused on him and not on my irritation with that one person that keeps trying to hold my hand during the Our Father. Suddenly, clear as if someone spoke in my head, I heard, “Practice makes perfect. Go to Mass daily.”
You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? Practice makes perfect. Go to Mass daily.
I can guarantee you will not feel the least bit out of place or uncomfortable sitting alone at daily Mass. Daily Mass, either the morning or afternoon, is most entirely made up of retirees and people on their way to work or on their lunch break. It’s the perfect single person’s Mass. Quick, quiet, prayerful and to the point.
This may require some effort to pull off the logistics of attending daily Mass. But the benefits outweigh the effort and inconvenience. If you live in a city there will be more options available to you. I’m lucky enough to have an hour for lunch and work a stone’s throw from a church that has afternoon daily Mass. This may be similar to your situation. Or you may live in the suburbs and commute, which may mean you need to get up earlier before work and find a parish on route. If you live rurally or don’t have access to daily Mass due to scheduling conflicts or location inaccessibility, I would strongly recommend carving out one night a week for Mass or adoration. Most parishes around here have Mass at least one night during the week. Perhaps you can go every Wednesday night and adoration every Friday night.
Just please, whatever you do, don’t let your only experience with the Real Presence be that one obligatory, emotionally painful day of the week.
I’m giving you this very practical advice for a reason. As a sometimes suffering single person myself, I know flippantly telling you to offer it up or dismissively saying the Mass is about him and not you, which I’m sure you already know, does little to acknowledge or alleviate your actual pain and suffering.
I can’t fix your attitude or your situation. I can’t force you to get over it and feel happy. But I can tell you to take it to Jesus, often. I can give you practical advice on how to deal with the pain, not necessarily make it go away. Practically dealing with the feelings you’re experiencing though is the first step to accepting your situation and making peace with being single.
This I can promise: if you make this effort eventually you’ll become emotionally stronger to fight those feelings of loneliness and self-pity that eat away at your spiritual well-being. With the graces from daily Mass and adoration you’ll be able to unflinchingly tackle Sunday Mass; cute couples, adorable families and all!
Katrina Fernandez has a PhD in being single, and a master’s in single parenting with a concentration in Catholic guilt. She’s been writing about these and other life-survival topics for more than a decade. Submit all questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.