The Catholic Church CAN Help Single Parents

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Mother’s Day is right around the corner, but for many faithful Catholics the picture perfect, Hallmark version of Mother’s Day will never happen. For many single moms, Mother’s Day is another day of housework, quibbling children, stress, and exhaustion exacerbated by misplaced hopes that this Mother’s Day will be special.

For faithful, abandoned single dads, Mother’s Day is a day spent without their kids. It is a reminder of just how wrong broken families are. In divorce, kids always lose, even on Mother’s Day. The same is true for Father’s Day.

There is no magic formula to make Mother’s and Father’s Days special, but the Catholic Church and its members can lighten the load of single parenting and welcome the divorced. More importantly, none of these break Church doctrine as giving the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried would.

9 Ways the Catholic Church Can Help Single Parents:

  • Be Proactive 

    Single parents need help but struggle to ask for it. Many have shaken self-esteems and survive minute by minute. They are not sure how to delegate or who to turn to. When single parents don’t get needed help, children lose.

Maybe you’d love to take a toddler to the park but would be nervous driving a bunch of teenagers around. Maybe you love gardening and would like to bring beauty to the family yard or you have extra produce from your own gardens to share. Maybe you can’t babysit every Tuesday night, but you could check on the family cat during a summer vacation.

Brainstorm! Things that seem obvious, silly, or insignificant are often needed and overlooked. Little offerings can remove heavy weights from a single parent’s shoulders. Reassure the single parent that you offer in love not because you think she’s a bad parent or her garden is a disaster because single parents can be especially sensitive.

  • Advocacy 

    Be there to speak for the single parent. Attorneys slice apart family homes, retirements, income, and children. Judges look at worst case scenarios and approve of parents who don’t fall to lowest standards. Phrases such as, “best for the child” and “maintain the same standard of living” are tossed about despite their impossibilities when the covenant of Marriage is destroyed.

Nothing is off limits in divorce courts, and dirty laundry is aired in public. Single parents face this alone and may need help speaking clearly in conferences or when confronted by gossip. They can easily succumb to emotional, mental, and spiritual exhaustion which puts them and their children at risk. Simply having help talking over paperwork makes a world of difference.

  • Listen

    Having someone to listen quietly is as important as having someone speak for you. Be a trusted confidant. Hold whatever is said as if you are in the Confessional. Let the divorced person cry, scream and vent to purge pain privately. Don’t judge, but be strong enough to listen sympathetically, sensing when to step in and make gentle corrections or firmly push towards a positive direction.

  • Offer a Way Out 

    When life falls apart, many will encourage the griever to get onto the playing field again. Even if dating is not pushed, the divorced are pressured to socialize to forget or numb the pain. Sometimes socializing is welcomed. Sometimes it is intimidating. Help the newly divorced formulate and practice an acceptable response to occasional last minute no-shows. Having this in their arsenal allows them to accept invitations they might have otherwise rejected and regretted.

  • Annulment Workshops

    Annulments can be healing for some, traumatizing for others. In most cases though, there are questions about what the annulment process entails, what grounds there are for annulments, and why annulments are required before dating can begin. Even many religious don’t understand this deep call to Marriage and give well-intended and wrong advice.

  • Childcare

    Childcare is essential for Churches that encourage single parents to join programs. Asking for help is hard when a single parent needs to work or bring a child to an activity. In many circles asking for help to attend religious events can present greater challenges. Friends and family might offer to babysit for a date but be reluctant to offer to babysit for Church activities they don’t understand.

“Childcare” must also refer to pastoral outreach. Children are shattered by divorce and need Church support. They need to be taught coping skills and self-worth. They need to learn valuable lessons on heavy topics such as redemptive suffering and on hopeful topics such as the Love of the Holy Family and how it is possible to model their future families on those of the great saints. They also need to understand the annulment and what that means for them.

  • Role Models

    Be a role model for single parents and their children. If you are in a loving relationship, show that love is possible. Don’t complain about your spouse or try to compare your life to that of the single parents’. Don’t deny when things aren’t perfect in your marriage, but speak with gratitude, humility, and love.

Men, teach boys and young men practical things like holding doors, calling to check on moms or siblings, and making birthday cards. Teach them vital things like how Saint Joseph must have struggled, how to love and protect a woman’s entire being including her virtue as Christ Loves the Church, and how manly it is to stand by your family.

Women, teach girls and young women practical things like letting the man open a door, calling to check on moms and siblings, and making birthday cards. Teach them vital things like the power of submission, the allure of modesty, and the call to seek first the Kingdom of God.

Teach both how to play fair rather than play games, the strength and vulnerability of the human heart, the ease with which we succumb to temptation and the value of a Confession with nothing held back and its subsequent Reconciliation.

Some things are better taught by someone else. Lessons traditionally taught by the opposite sex parent cannot be taught in single parent homes. This does not just affect the lonely, disappointed, single parent, but generations of children who never learn valuable lessons until eventually the lessons ingrained over centuries are lost.

  • Prayer

    Pray for the single parent and let him or her know you are praying. Don’t wait! Stop immediately to pray for them or with them. Hearing your words and knowing you care is powerful. Pray in front of their children. Pray for their children. Pray for the disloyal spouse. Sometimes the pain of single parenting is so great a parent cannot yet pray for her abandoned spouse. Remove that burden by letting her know you will pray when she cannot. Let children who are torn in two know that their family is united in your prayer.

 

  • Prevention

    The number one thing you can do to help single parents may be the most difficult:  Stand by Marriage. Patching up broken lives is never going to be as powerful as preventing brokenness. Never be lukewarm in your own Marriage or in anyone else’s. We have become a society that looks at others’ lives with an unwillingness to judge.  We mistake unhappiness for abuse. Real abuse means one needs to leave, but a miserable spouse and nasty episodes, even nasty years, do not equate abuse. Attempting to do so not only destroys families but diminishes the cries of those who are actually abused. If you are a witness to the wedding, you are called to stand for the Marriage!

I have recently been asked to co-admin an online support group for those in struggling Marriages. I know firsthand the pain of abandonment and the lasting effects of divorce as both a child of a broken home and an abandoned wife. The pain is real. The crisis in our families and of our faith is here. What will you do to lighten the Cross of those in the trenches?

If you would like more information, on faithful parenting, divorce recovery, or strengthening struggling Marriages, please contact me.  God Bless…

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10 thoughts on “The Catholic Church CAN Help Single Parents”

  1. Dr. Edouard Belaga

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    pax
    Thank you, dear Strahlen, for you testimony. I have had a lot of experience, being happily married, of single Mothers, in Russia and in France. When confronted, as an immigrant in France, with the catastrophic abortion crisis there, fifteen years after leaving Russia, I started to think and to talk to active pro-life (à la française) people. Finally, I have chosen to help single mothers — especially those, who decided to preserve the baby and not to do abortion. They are particularly unhappy in France.

    1. Thank you Dr. Belaga! I’d like to “Like” your comment, but ther eis so much sadness in it between the unhappiness in France and in abortion! I know some of the trauma of having a surprise pregnancy alone and far more fear than opportunity ahead of you. I also know how thankful I am that I am pro-life! That Baby inspired me every day. I don’t know where I’d be without him! God truly knows what we need!

      Thank you so much for your work. I know the culture of death is strong in America, and I’ve heard it’s worse in Europe and Russia (How can that be true???) Your voice and outreach are so needed! Thank you and God Bless…

    2. Dr. Edouard Belaga

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      pax
      Dear Strahlen, my interest and my compassion came from the inhuman and anti-maternal Communist life in Russia till 1991 (now they have three years of maternity leave from job). So the feelings were very personal and the search for the family truth was long and accompanied by errors and sufferings. Your personal example is tragic and admirable.

    3. Hello again Dr. Belaga, I apologize for my delayed response. Life can get busy here, and I sometimes lose track of my responses. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like to witness Communist life. Thank you for not letting it beat you or pull you down. We need to hear your testimony.

    4. Dr. Edouard Belaga

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      pax
      Dear Strahlen,
      My last article, the seventh, was published yesterday. I am feeling to leave my columnist status — too much to do as a single mothers eventual protector. Take your personal fate with the deepest gratitude: you are still young, strong and motivated. I wish you all success with your kids and with your vocation as you deserve. With love and prayer,
      Edouard

  2. When the author attends Church on Mother’s Day and Father asks all the mothers to stand for a special blessing, perhaps she could say a prayer for all the ladies who were never blessed with children and sink down in their seats, trying to be invisible. They’ll get no “Hallmark version of Mother’s Day” either, in fact they’ll get no version of Mother’s Day at all.

    What does the Church do for them? They might get asked to run your child-care program, after all what else do they have to do?

    The Church does nothing to help singles and the childless, either. So welcome to the Club.

    1. Hi Larry,

      I’m sorry to hear you think the Church does nothing to help singles or the childless. I guess a lot of that depends on which parish you attend and what your pastor’s passions are. You’re right that some have interest in other areas. Maybe God is hoping you pick up the slack! 🙂

      In this article I was focusing on single parents, because no one person or article can cover all the needs of the world. That’s what God is for! But you’re right. There are plenty of women who are heartbroken at never being mothers and men heartbroken at never being fathers. I think of them often.

      I lost my first child to a life threatening ectopic pregnancy. Bleeding began on May 10th 1996. I was around seven weeks that Mother’s day, and the bleeding lasted until almost 11 weeks before the baby was found and I was rushed in for emergency surgery that would kill my baby and save my life. Any medical professional will tell you that is very late. I almost died. I was told we may never have children. I’d have traded places with that baby in a heartbeat – still would. Mother’s Day was no picnic that year.

      On May 10th, 2009, my husband suddenly told me he was leaving for a woman he’d reconnected with on FB. I was five months pregnant with our fifth little boy at the time. The pregnancy had complications. I was very sick, and there was a risk to our baby. Over the next few years, we’d lose our home due to lack of child support and my inability to find a job with my expired teaching license, which led to a foreclosure and wrecked credit rating. I was far from perfect, but the only real fault I had there was trusting the wrong man with my life and my children’s lives.

      In case you’d like to check the calendar, May 10th 2009 was Mother’s Day.

      I know about difficult and painful Mother’s Days. My heart goes out to people who experience them, and I write about it often. In fact, since 2009, I’ve asked others to dedicate May 10th as a day of prayer for men and women in exactly the situations you’re speaking of. Here is just one of my articles… http://www.singlemomsmiling.com/mothers-day-isnt-happy/

      I’m not sure why you’re so unhappy with my saying single parents could use the Church’s help or why you’re so sarcastic. I’m hoping I’m just misinterpreting your comment. Either way, it sounds like you’ve gone through something painful. You have my sympathies, and my prayers tonight. If you’d like me to pray for you in particular on May 10th, please let m know. I would be honored to do so.

      The Catholic Church is made up of humans and isn’t perfect. Fortunately, we don’t join the Church for the small groups, the awesome sermons, or the band. We join for the Doctrine. I pray that is what draws you to the Church too.

      God Bless…

    2. The author replied to me but apparently deleted her comment (she included a lot of personal information so I can see why she changed her mind). I’ll reply again because she really misunderstood my intent.

      Her article caught my eye because it mentioned Mother’s Day. For singles and for childless adults, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day remind us that our parishes don’t even acknowledge that we exist. A clear hierarchy exists in all parishes (all that I’ve ever attended, anyway). Parish activities are almost exclusively for families with children. Preferably two-parent families, but single parents are welcome too. Without children, you’re viewed suspiciously… as an outsider.

      When I wrote that the Church offers no “help” to singles, I can look at the bulletin of one local parish this week and find several support groups for the married: Date Night, Married Couple Groups, Retrouvaille, Marriage Encounter. There’s a Divorced Survival group. And even a “Courage” group for gays. But for singles? A Big Fat Nothing. Other area parishes are similar. And inquiries to start anything for singles are rejected or ignored. Yes, I’ve asked.

      Again, Mother’s Day has meaning to the author. She should be happy for that.

    3. I would like to inform the author before comments are closed on this article, that the lengthy reply which you wrote and apparently deleted, is displayed for a few seconds during the loading of the other comments. Since you wrote a lot of personal information, and I assume you changed your mind about the appropriateness of that, you may want to have the site administrator actually remove the comment. Or make it visible again and edit it and delete all the content.

    4. Hi Larry, Thanks for letting me know. I have been caught up in other things and was unable to get back to Catholic Stand. I actually did not delete the comment and seeing your response is a surprise to me. I am truly sorry for any rejection you feel the Church has done to you. You may or may not believe this, but I have felt the same and that is why I began this ministry and I didn’t take no for an answer when I felt God calling me despite others’ who turned me down. I honestly hope you do the same. Singles are VERY much needed in our Church – Send anyone who questions this to 1 Cor 7.

      God Bless…

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