US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Read: Party of One

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Party of One
By Beth M. Knobbe (St. Anthony Messenger, 2011)

If you are single, this book needs no justification. Though the majority of us inhabit that category innocently for the first two decades of life, if a third decade waxes and wanes, you find you have some explaining to do. And if you manage to close a fourth decade without a partner, the range of responses often moves from pity to suspicion. What’s wrong with you that no one’s popped the question?

Beth Knobbe has been there, and not done that—“that” being entering into the one condition society more or less expects of viable adults: matrimony. Being Catholic, she’s faced both the questions (Don’t you want children? Are you considering religious life?) and the disapproval (How selfish can you be?) that lay singleness invites. Marriage and vowed celibacy bear the stamp of vocational authenticity. Being simply yourself seems to have no there there. How do you fit in a world geared to dating and mating?

Party of One: Living Single With Faith, Purpose, and Passion is not a self-help manual, nor is it a shared pity party for loners. Through first-person testimonies by women and men who’ve experienced solitary adult life as a temporary or long-term station, Knobbe explores the blessings and pitfalls of navigating adulthood alone with integrity and grace. I especially appreciated the men’s voices in this book, a grateful reminder that being single is not merely a “female issue.” Each chapter closes with scriptures to consider.

Knobbe quotes some famous folks at the start of each chapter. My favorite was Paul Tillich, who noted our language ably encompasses the two sides of being alone: “loneliness” expresses the pain and “solitude” the glory. Having closed five decades of singleness myself, I find that description just about right. While not every voice in this book spoke for me, most single folk will find a friend in these pages.

This article appeared in the February 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 77, No. 2, page 58-59.)