A seraphic look at the single life

  • March 26, 2010
{mosimage}TORONTO - Determined to stay faithful to Catholic teachings and still enjoy the single life, Catholic Register columnist Dorothy Cummings McLean started a blog at the age of 35 on how to be single and stay seraphic.

A selection of those blog posts from her last year of studies at Boston College are now featured in Seraphic Singles: How I Learned to stop Worrying and Love the Single Life, released by Novalis in March.

In this humourous, confessional style book, Cummings McLean, who holds a Master of Divinity and a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from Regis College at the University of Toronto, uses her own experiences — at times embarrassing ones — to give the reader an idea of how she navigated through the dating life and moments of loneliness.

“Right from the beginning of Christianity,  we realized that marriage was a good earthly way of life but that it wasn’t necessary to human life,” she said in an interview. “St. Paul and St. Augustine had to write that marriage was good because so many people were committing themselves to a life of heroic celibacy.”

One of the things she hopes people reflect on while reading the book is the fact that many great people never get married — Jean Vanier, the Canadian founder of the worldwide L’Arche movement, for instance. But on the same thread, many people do get married and chances are that you will eventually meet Mr. or Mrs. Right, like she did after having written all the material in Seraphic Singles.

“I hope readers take home that they should just relax,” Cummings McLean said. “It’s amazing at what young ages girls start worrying about getting married.”

When she started her Seraphic Singles blog four years ago, the 39-year-old Cummings McLean was writing with a friend in mind — “an educated, seriously Catholic woman in her 30s” — and thought that other people could also benefit.

Through a poll, she quickly learned that half of her readers were in their 20s and some admitted to worrying about never finding their spouse as early as 17.

“It made sense. If people are going to get married they tend to do it before they’re 35,” she said. But that shouldn’t become an obsession, she added.

More surprising was the number of male readers her blog attracted. For this reason, Cummings McLean feels confident single men would also enjoy reading her book — especially since the cover isn’t pink, she added with a laugh.

Cummings McLean is definitely no man-hater — something that comes across in a quaint analogy in her chapter “The Caffeine in the Cappuccino of Life.” She insists that even single women, whether marriage-focused or consecrated, should surround themselves with not only good girlfriends, but good male friends too. Men just add something, whether you’re married, looking or not.

After she wrote all the material in Seraphic Singles, Cummings McLean met and married her husband and moved to Scotland where they live in an historic home. She said it was funny to hear people’s reactions to her blog once they learned she was engaged and then no longer living the single life.

“Some said I was abandoning them and they would stop reading my posts. When you take vows a mystery is solved. But I haven’t changed my views on the single life since I got married,” she said.

In fact, she looks at her blog as an opportunity to continue helping her young readers and hopes she can give advice that will help them without hurting them.

The only thing Cummings McLean did change since getting married was her laissez-faire attitude to dating people “making out.”

“As a married person, I now think single people shouldn’t do that,” she said.

Some of the book still reflects that laissez-faire attitude, but it’s something she can’t change now, she said.

Cummings McLean hopes her chapter “No Sex in the City” will lead people to reflect on Humanae Vitae, Pope John Paul II’s teachings on sexuality.

One of the difficulties with finding a husband or wife, she said, is that marriage isn’t the commitment people once made.

“I think people don’t know what marriage is and I also think there’s a new emphasis on romance versus covenant,” she said.

She said many people, including Catholics, make up their identity as they go along, upgrading their possessions and lifestyle, and think they can upgrade from one partner to the next in the same way.

Another difficulty, she said, especially for women, is they tend to look at finding a man the same way they achieve good grades and a good job.

“They think it’s the same thing — if only I work hard enough, say the right thing or have all the right qualities, I will get a good man — which is not true. They need to relax and say (to God) ‘You do the work.’ ”

Cummings McLean was in Toronto for her book launch March 25.

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