How does the Theology of the Body Apply to Single People?

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The title says it all. It’s really easy for a Catholic or Christian single person to try to learn from Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, via Christopher West or otherwise, and feel a bit left out. So much of the imagery and theology is based on marriage.

How does one respond to the natural questions that arise, like this heartbreaking comment from one of my readers over at Kitchen Stewardship?

I have never married, never will probably, I have no children and according to at least one doctor never will. Which leads me feeling rather lost especially when I read things like what you quoted [from session one]: “The fundamental cell of civilization is the family. The nucleus of the family is the mom and dad.” Sometimes I really wonder what about the rest of us who aren’t able to marry or have children where exactly do we belong? Part of my disenchantment with a lot of religion is the feeling I have no value as a person because I’m unmarried and childless.

My best shot, which feels woefully inadequate, was this:

Not everyone is called to married life, and you are certainly an important, valuable part of civilization and the world of faith. Those called to the single life have a role to play just as those of us in the married life or with a religious vocation. You can give birth to love through acts of service, prayer, and giving of yourself to those in need, just as truly as I give birth to children. Your family unit will always be the one you were born into, as well.

I hope that makes some sense and gives some consolation – Pope John Paul II and Christopher West both emphasize that TOB is not just for married people – your body is still a gift to be treasured, no matter your state in life. Your purity can be an example to others, for example. so many people in your community could benefit from your prayer or your time in acts of service…and the single life allows you to spend your time differently than married folks or priests and nuns. All have a place!

Some other readers jumped in with excellent answers to her wonder, “Where exactly do I belong?”

Every person has value, no matter their state in life. Each person is called to a state of life, and maybe yours is the single life. All are important to society. We are all called to be Christ bearers to the world, with or without bearing children. And being a Christ bearer means bringing God (through love) to all. God loves you, don’t ever forget that.

My heart grieved for you when I read your post. NEVER think you have no worth because you are single. God’s Word says, “The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit.” (I Cor. 7:34) You have great worth! Look at Paul!!! He was mightily used by God and he wasn’t married. Just love God and serve those that He puts into your path. You will have a great ministry in that.

What do you think? Although this topic is addressed much more fully in session six, that’s a long time to wait! Catholic moms, how does the Theology of the Body apply to the single life? 

Copyright 2011 Katie Kimball

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2 Comments

  1. Cynthia Ann Costello on

    Dear Katie,
    I was so moved by your reader’s words about being single. I just have a few thoughts to offer. I have studied and taught the Theology of the Body for years – to teens, to women and to engaged couples. God has shown me that the body is His gift to us. It is in and through the body that He calls us to love like He loves. Imitation of His love is most of all a gift of self to others. His most profound gift to us was His life given up on the cross. Real love is certainly made visible in the joy of married love and bearing children, but also in the cross that this and any vocation will call us to carry. It is really in dying to self that we find joy. Marriage and family life involves a lot of this death to self and it is through it that we are made holy. The single vocation too, will be the way in which God calls some to be holy. There will be sacrifice, but I have learned that with the call comes the grace and then the joy! I pray that your reader knows her call first and foremost to be a beloved daughter of the Father King. Her place is in His strong arms. Our peace comes from knowing that we were created to participate, and dwell in the love of the Trinity.
    Then from this knowledge, we see more specifically what our role “in the body” is here on earth- who He wants us to serve and love and how.

  2. Christopher West has a CD called “Theology of the Body and the Single Person” If I were single, I’d want to listen to this and get a full answer from him.

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