Tag Archives: Party of One

Swallowing My Own Medicine

Sage advice for singles who have ever uttered the phrase, “My parish only cares about married couples and families.”
youngwomanpraying
I had to swallow a big dose of my own medicine today, and it didn’t taste very good.  It’s easy to dole out advice to other singles when life is more-or-less put together!  My life has basically been turned upside-down the past 6 months. The result of which has left me searching for a new spiritual home.  Needless to say, it’s been a bit of an adjustment.

Given the demographics of my northside Chicago neighborhood, it would be easy to find a church with a large percentage of single people – even if that meant a little longer commute to Mass on Sunday morning.  It would be even easier for me to continuously “shop around” – hopping from one church to the next, week after week, without ever making a commitment to one particular church community.  Consistency and accountability are important to me, so church-hopping was not an option.  I had a few basic criteria (good preaching, decent music), but more than anything I wanted to find a church community close to home.

So, for the time being, I’ve landed at a large family friendly neighborhood parish.  It’s a short drive (or a long walk) impeded only by multiple one-way streets.  There is a sense of community and diversity that I find incredibly attractive.  The pastor is outgoing and personable; he remembers names and goes out of his way to introduce people to one another.  It’s not perfect (no place is), but it is a place that I find myself drawn to week after week.

Lately, however, I have found myself repeating that often-voiced single person’s complaint:  My parish only cares about married couples and families.  I never imagined that I would use that phrase to describe my feelings about the church!

I have to admit though, there are a LOT of families at my new parish, and they are blessed with a very active religious education program and a large Catholic school.  As I look around the church on Sunday, I know that I am not the only single person.  Yet despite all that is good about this place, I regularly resist the urge to grab a red magic marker and cross off every announcement in the bulletin that is specifically designed for families and circle the one or two options that are available for singles.

It happened again today, and this time I cried.  I noticed an announcement about an upcoming church fundraiser at a local pub (with the pastor and school principal as guest bartenders, no less!).  Finally, a chance to meet people in a fun social setting!  I couldn’t wait to get home and put the date on my calendar.  Once at home, I opened the bulletin again and noticed a detail I hadn’t previously seen.  RSVPs are to be turned in to the school office, and the response form also requested “your child’s homeroom number”.

Immediately, it became clear to me that this was a social event for parents, and my heart sank.

Sure, I could email the contact person and ask if non-parents are welcome.  It would not be difficult for me walk an RSVP form over to the school office, and I could simply mark “N/A” in that spot inquiring about whether or not I have a child in the school.  Perhaps I’m being foolish for overthinking this, and maybe it’s clear to everyone else that this event is open to all parishoners.  But as a new-comer, it’s really not clear WHO is invited.

(And seriously, if it is open to everyone in the parish, then why do you need a homeroom number?!  Retired people don’t have a homeroom number … neither do single people, or young couples with babies, or couples without children, or families who choose to send their kids to public school, or older adults whose children have graduated! Argh!!! Sorry, end of rant.)

THE AH-HA MOMENT
PA280024What I’m realizing, for the first time, is that community is not automatic.  Showing up for Mass is not enough.  Meeting people takes a lot of work, and truly getting to know a person takes consistent effort.  Furthermore, the fruits of those labors are not immediate.  I’ve exchanged friendly good-morning greetings with dozens of people over the past 4 months.  But knowing names does not constitute community, and seeing the same person three weeks in a row does not make you friends.

The perfectionist in me, the part of me that hates being a beginner, quickly grows frustrated.  I keep telling myself that those with a vocation to the single life have a unique role to play in the church.  In theory, I believe this.  In reality, I’m struggling to know how to do this.  At one point, I even thought, “someone should really write a book about … oh, yea… this.”

So, it’s time to swallow some of my own medicine on the subject.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SINGLES IN A FAMILY FRIENDLY PARISH

Years ago, my wise older sister and her family moved to a new city, and she developed 3 simple criteria in their search for a new parish – prayer, participation, and presence.  I think the same criteria applies to singles looking to find their place in a family-friendly parish.

1. PRAYER: Is this a place where I can pray well and feel connected to God?  Do I experience God’s presence in the physical space, as well as during the liturgical celebration?

I have to remind myself that church is not about what I get out of it – this isn’t a concert! It’s not about “feeling good” when I leave.  The purpose of our communal prayer is to give glory and praise to God!  We praise God by our singing, by our active participation, by our attentive listening, by greeting one another with a sign of hospitality upon entering, by sharing with one another a sign of Christ’s peace, by receiving Christ reverently in the Eucharist.  We praise God in all these ways.

So, as a single person, how do I praise God when I am constantly distracted by the chatter of small children?

Well, I certainly have a much greater appreciation for family dynamics after spending time with my siblings and their kids!  I’ve been the doting aunt standing at the back of church with a two-year-old who cannot sit still.  And it’s given me a tremendous amount of compassion for parents who are raising their children in the church.

Perhaps my greatest gift as a single person is to welcome, acknowledge, and empower the presence of families – especially those for whom Sunday morning can be a struggle.

Last week, I was well aware of the family of four sitting behind me.  Yet, despite their fair share of squirming and parental hushing, these two grade-school aged youngsters belted out every single word of the Lord’s Prayer with tremendous gusto!  (I found it delightfully humorous, because they reminded me so much of my nephews!)  At the sign of peace, one parent politely apologized for their kids’ antics.  I don’t remember my response, but I’m sure it was something like, “You have a beautiful family, and I’m really glad you’re here!”

Finally, I have to admit that I much prefer extended periods of silent prayer – which is not always possible at a busy parish on Sunday morning.  So, I experiment with different mass times.  I take advantage of time spent at home reading the Sunday scriptures.  Being in a large city, I know the secret hiding places where I can find a quiet prayer space during the week.  Sunday morning liturgy isn’t about me (see comments above); it’s about “us” being the body of Christ together.  The more I attend to my need for quiet time and personal prayer, the better I am able to be joyfully present and appreciative of our entire church family on Sunday.

2. PARTICIPATION: Does the church welcome participation in the liturgy, especially from women, children, lay people, families, single people, young adults, new comers, etc.? Are there opportunities for fellowship, catechesis, faith-sharing, social justice programs, etc.?  Is this a place where I could see myself participating in some way? 

I gave a presentation for singles at a parish several years ago.  During the Q&A, a woman raised her hand and insisted “there is nothing here for singles.”  I was grateful that the Director of Faith Formation was in the room.  She quickly pointed out that most events were open to the entire parish and very few things were exclusively for couples.  Sometimes, it is really a matter of perception.

I find that I need to be brutally honest about what I notice.  As I glance through the Sunday bulletin, the options for families are quickly apparent – religious education for children, a monthly family mass, marriage retreats, a spotlight on one of the teachers.  Sometimes my bitterness makes me blind, and I miss what’s right there in front of me – a book club, bible study, women’s group, food pantry volunteers, garden club, music ministry, a pilgrimage, retreat programs, etc..  If you find yourself saying there is “nothing” here for singles, look again.  Or better yet, look for opportunities to create something for singles.

3. PRESENCE: Am I called from here to be the presence of Christ for others? Are there opportunities for outreach to the community, the poor, and the wider church? 

It’s tempting for me to look at my current situation and say, “I’m not getting anything out of this” and go someplace else.  But then, I know I would be missing out on everything this great multi-generational church has to teach me.  And to be honest, they would be missing out on what a generous single woman like me has to give!  Being new, I sometimes have to remind myself of the most basic things:

Show up!  Do something that requires no commitment other than to be present.  Donuts and coffee after mass is a great example.  It doesn’t get any easier than this!  Grab a cup of coffee, say hello to people, and trust that God is at work in bringing you together.  Building community takes time, but you have to take the first step.

Volunteer!  The possibilities are endless: the food pantry, the choir, bible study, visiting the homebound.  Meet people, ask their names, ask if they live in the area, and ask how long they’ve been members here.  In turn, share something about yourself and give people a chance to get to know YOU.

Remember, you belong here!  The body of Christ includes all of us!  That’s true for men, women, children, teens, families, single parents, widows, divorced, vowed religious, gay, straight, people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, the uber-pious, the biker gang members (yes, there was a tattooed motorcycle gang at church a few weeks ago!), believers, beginners, the hopeful, the doubtful, the lost and the found, all of us!

Each person brings a unique set of gifts, life experiences, ways of prayer … and single people in particular, at whatever age and stage in life, bring a unique vantage point.

WHY I’M STAYING HERE
I guess the primary reason I’m committed to staying here is because I can answer YES to those three questions.  Yes, I pray well there – it is a beautiful space, where I continue to feel drawn in.  Yes, I participate there – and I’m especially looking forward to the garden club convening again this spring!  Yes, I’m called forth to be Christ’s presence from there.

If you ask me where I experience the presence of Christ most profoundly these days, it’s at the dining room table (an altar of sorts?) of my best friends – where we have shared copious amounts of bread and wine, simple home-cooked meals, endless cups of coffee, and a lot of gelato!  My friends are endlessly exhausted with raising 3 kids under the age of three.  Their constant refrain is, “It really does take a village, and we’re so grateful that you’re part of ours….”

The “church” I experience in their home is messy, imperfect, filled with laughter, and sometimes interrupted by a toddler announcing she needs to use the potty.  My best friend’s willingness to listen, ask tough questions, and her ability to accept me for who I am is unsurpassed!  We don’t expect each other to be perfect, and we manage to bring out the best in each other even on our worst days.

The time I spend with my friends reminds me that the presence of Christ which I experience on Sunday in this beautiful, imperfect, holy place called “church” truly does prepare me for being and experiencing the presence of Christ in the world.

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Accepting the Single Life is Not Admitting Defeat

I’m excited to be speaking this week for Chicago’s annual Theology-on-Tap summer speaker series.  I love going to new places, meeting young adult Catholics from across the diocese, and hearing people’s single life stories!

For anyone who is thinking about coming to an event – or perhaps second guessing whether this is something for you – I’ve recently learned that there is a growing MYTH and misperception about the book, the speaker, and the single life.

For anyone who has read Party of One, you know it’s all about debunking the myths of the single life!  In the book, I talk about how we can use various tools from our spiritual lives to live full and abundant single lives.  Whether you are content to be single, actively searching, casually dating, or almost engaged – I would really encourage all of you to join us for some great conversation this week.

However, before you go, I want to share with you the most recent MYTH that I’ve been confronted with:  Attending a Talk on the Single Life Means You’ve Been Defeated.

Last fall I was giving a talk in Chicago, and someone I know invited a friend to attend the event.  My friend later emailed me and said, “You might be interested to know why my friend declined the invitation to come along.”  She basically said, “I don’t want to be single forever, so why would I go to a talk that’s trying to convince me to stay single. Furthermore, there is something about buying a book or going to a talk on the single life that feels like I’m admitting defeat.”

Ouch.  I’m not sure how she got this impression.  For the record, I’m not here to convince anyone that you should be single forever!  I speak strongly in favor of an abundant single life, but I’m certainly not anti-marriage.  (I’m quite in favor of marriage, actually!)  I try to make it clear that all options are on the table – dating, marriage, single life, religious life, etc.  I discuss spiritual strategies for dealing with loneliness, address concerns about pressure from family, answer questions about intimacy, and enter into authentic discernment about the future … oh, and what to do about that pesky, ever-ticking biological clock!  Ultimately, for those who are called to marriage, I also hope it sets a strong foundation for healthy and holy relationships in the future.

Most myths are based in fear – unsubstantiated, but very real nonetheless – and I suspect this myth has some fears lurking behind it.  Perhaps it is the fear of never finding a partner or wondering if I have somehow failed at the dating-thing.  Some of us worry about other people’s perceptions of us or a lurking feeling that being single makes us “less than” our married counterparts.  There may be specific fears based on a previous relationship, or perhaps coming to a talk like this opens up some old hurts and resentments.

However, attending a talk or buying a book does NOT mean that you’re defeated!  It does not mean that you are doomed to be single forever!  It means that you’re a consciously aware human being.  If you’re feeling defeated, and wondering if a church basement full of other singles is the place to be this week, ask yourself these questions:

How do I really feel about being single?  Am I excited about my life?  Do I enjoy my social-life, my friendships, and my freedom?  Can I find meaning and purpose for my time as a single person?  Or do I find myself jaded and bitter about my single status?  Am I grieving a recent breakup or envious of a friend who recently got engaged?

If you come to a talk on the Single Life telling yourself “I’m really OK being single” – and deep down you’re really not OK – then you’re likely to walk away feeling defeated.  Consider talking with a close friend about “where you are” with your single status.  Better yet, take this into prayer and honest conversation with God.

In our couple-centric society, people often deem marriage or couple hood as “success” and singleness as “failure”.   I cannot think of anything further from the truth!  Whether you are single for now or suspect that you’ll remain single for a long time, being single can be a fulfilling and fruitful way of life.  No one is giving up on YOU and your potential for a full, meaningful, purpose-filled life – regardless of your relationship status.

Come out and share in some great Theology on Tap food, beverage, and conversation!  I hope to see some of you this week.

LIVING SINGLE WITH FAITH, PURPOSE, AND PASSION

Sunday, July 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm:  Theology on Tap                                       Fat Man Pizza Pub – 36309 N. Route 41, Gurnee IL

Hosted by Our Lady of Humility and St. Paul the Apostle.   For information contact Kate Kinser at kkinser@ourladyofhumility.org

Monday, July 23, 2012 at 5:30 pm:  Theology on Tap                                       St. Peter’s in the Loop – 110 W. Madison, Chicago IL

For information contact Fr. Ed Shea at edsheaofm@comcast.net

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 7:30 pm:  Theology on Tap                                       St. Matthew – 1001 E. Schaumburg Rd., Schaumburg IL

Theology on Tap takes place in the Hughes Center. For information contact Tammy King at tammy26@wowway.com

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 7:30 pm:  Theology on Tap                            Dominican University – 7900 W. Division, River Forest IL

Theology on Tap takes place in Lewis Lounge, located on the first floor of Lewis Hall.  For more information contact Kari Hamende at khamende@dom.edu

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 7:00 pm:  Theology on Tap                          Mrs. Murphy’s Irish Bistro – 3905 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago IL

Hosted by St. Andrew & Ravenswood Catholic Young Adults.  For more information contact Vince Lacey at vincentlacey@saintandrewchicago.com

 

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Reflections on Recording the Audio Book

A mysterious package arrived this week from Franciscan Media (formerly St. Anthony Messenger Press).  I’m always happy to receive a package in the mail, but until I tore it open, I had no idea what might be inside.  Much to my delight, the box contained two complimentary copies of the audiobook of Party of One!  We finished the recording way back in September, and I had completely forgotten that these were on their way.

The first question I often receive about the audio book is, “whose voice is on the recording?”   Well, it is me.  Answering that question again this week brought to mind this unfinished blog entry that’s been sitting on my desktop for nearly six months.

Prior to sitting down in the recording studio, I skimmed through the book – mostly to take note of a typo or two that were missed in the last round of edits.  I did not, however, read through the entire manuscript page-by-page.  Several hours into reading the book aloud, I wish I’d been more prepared!

Upon completion of the manuscript, I felt more confident and comfortable with the single life than I’d ever been before.  Sitting there alone in a soundproof booth, just me and a microphone, with the sound engineers three doors down the hall – I felt a surge of emotions that I had not anticipated.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being single!  Most days I am content and completely happy in my relationships, my work, and my personal life.  This is truly the place where God has called me to be.  And yet, as I’m sure is true with any vocation, there is that occasional nagging “if only” voice.  If only I were in a relationship.  If only I had made different choices along the way. If only things could be different.  Is this really where I’m supposed to be?

Reading the book cover to cover allowed me to reflect on the current state of my single life, and I was surprised at how much I need to hear my own advice.

Gratitude

I was amazed at how often I talk about “living in the moment.”  Staying present in the moment is not always easy.  Invariably, we sometimes give in to worry or comparing ourselves to others or a need for control.  Gratitude is a helpful spiritual tool for staying present to what’s in front of us.

Ultimately, gratitude shows me where love is present in my life: where intimacy resides in my relationships, where laughter overflows in my friendships, and how the generosity of friends and strangers alike provides for what otherwise seems to be missing.

Generativity

I tell a story in Party of One about a pottery studio in southern Utah that I visited many years ago.  I also spent a significant part of the summer on the East coast on retreat and visiting friends.  All of this reminded me of how much I love to travel, and how desperately this sense of adventure has been missing from my life!

God, who first breathed life into us at the beginning of time, is the ultimate Artist.  It is in God’s very nature to be generative. As children of the Artist, we all have inherent creative instincts. … As single people, it is important that we find an outlet for being generative in order to fulfill that hope and desire that our activities and relationships become life-giving for others.

Creativity and new life come in many different shapes and forms.  I made a New Year’s resolution to take advantage of opportunities to “try something new”.  So far this year I have eaten octopus at a local Korean BBQ, attended a bris at the invitation of a Jewish colleague, and taken my first (and probably last) music lesson on the french horn. (One of my students needed a guinea pig for his music pedagogy class, and I enthusiastically volunteered!)

Hope

Finally, I’ve been reconfiguring my work-life balance, and the chapter on hope rang true on many levels.  As I’m now finishing this blog entry at the half-way point of Lent, it also seems fitting to mention that hope is at the heart of the Pascal Mystery.  As we allow pieces of our past to die, we trust that new life is on the horizon.  My Lenten journey has been all about “breaking up” with bad habits and allowing new opportunities to unfold.  That is how transformation happens.

Hope means letting go of the past, holding onto what is good, and re-imagining the future. What remains when all else is stripped away? What in my life, what of my purpose, my identity, my mission, and my values in life still remain?  Maybe there is nothing obvious at first glance. But perhaps there is a tiny seed of hope buried deep in the darkness.

Party of One: Living Single with Faith Purpose and Passion – Available in paperback, Kindle edition, and now in audio format!

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Party of One: Living Single with Faith, Purpose, and Passion

It has long been my dream to write a book that encourages Christians to discover joy and purpose in the single years.  With the insights of many friends and the help of a great editorial team, I am excited to introduce Party of One: Living Single with Faith, Purpose, and Passion!  Please join me in celebrating the release of a new book and the start of a new chapter in my life.  Even if you are not in the greater-Chicago area for these inaugural events, I still hope you will pick up a copy of the book for yourself or for a friend!  I love to travel, too.  So please let me know if you’d like to host a book signing in your area.

Wednesday, August 24 – Vespers, Lecture and Book Signing

Old St. Patrick’s Church,Chicago IL

6:30 pm- Vespers in the Church (700 W.Adams)

7:00 pm- Lecture/Book Signing in the MissionCenter (711 W.Monroe)

Parking is available in the lot across from the church at the SE corner of Adams/Des Plaines

Wednesday, September 7 and 21 at 7:00 pm

Two-Part Workshop and Discussion with author Beth Knobbe

Join other young adults for this candid, hopeful, and optimistic look at how to enjoy being single!  Discover spiritual tools for living a full and abundant single life.  Come for one or both nights.

Notre Dame de Chicago Church

1334 W. Flournoy,ChicagoIL

Sponsored by ReCiL Young Adults – recilyoungadults@yahoo.com and Reflect Christ’s Light, the Archdiocese of Chicago Pastoral Strategic Plan

Thursday, October 27 at 7:00 pm – Lecture and Book Signing

Sheil Catholic Center at Northwestern University, 2110 Sheridan Rd., Evanston IL

Party of One: Living Single with Faith, Purpose, and Passion takes a candid and hopeful look at how to enjoy being single!  Using the insights of scripture and ordinary people, Beth Knobbe shows us that the single life can be a place of abundance and joy. Party of One addresses the fears singles face, the assumptions people make, and the questions singles ask themselves.  Each chapter also includes practical and spiritual advice for finding happiness and contentment during the single years.

Available in paperback or Kindle Edition, with an audio book forthcoming in 2012.

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Let the Party Begin!

I am excited to announce that this little project, known up until now as The Single Life, is finished and in the capable hands of editors and marketing directors. As of today, it also has a new title – Party of One: Living Single with Faith, Purpose, and Passion.

Upon sharing the news, my mom replied “Awww… your book has a name!” It was a rather endearing comment. When we give anything a name, it takes on a new character. Furthermore, in the Christian tradition, changing one’s name often marks the beginning of a new identity. Abram becomes Abraham. Simon becomes Peter. Saul becomes Paul.

Invariably, each year on our mission trip to Nicaragua, a number of our travel companions adopt a nickname – like my friend “Azulita” (little blue one) so aptly recognized by the blue streaks in her hair. Or my friend Abigail better know as the “Waimea Canyon Warrior Princess” after our hiking adventure into the grand canyon of Kauai. These experiences change us, and we spend the rest of our lives living forth from that experience or living into that newfound identity.

So, this little book on how to enjoy being single has been given a new identity. As I’ve learned, books also have a strange way of taking on a life of their own! I’m excited to see where this new one leads, what kind of opportunities will come my way, and ready to hear the reflections that this book will open for those who read it.

Thanks to so many of you who participated in a focus group, allowed me to interview you, contributed essays, passed the invitation along to a friend, and shared your single life stories with me in person or in writing. 

Someone recently asked, “What are you going to do now that it’s finished?” I quickly replied, “I’m done writing books (for the moment) and ready to start living what I wrote about.” For now it’s time to celebrate, and let the “Party (of One)” begin!

Party of One: Living Single with Faith, Purpose, and Passion is scheduled for release in Fall 2011 by St. Anthony Messenger Press.

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