Dorothy Cummings McLean, the popular “Seraphic Singles” blogger, made a transatlantic flight from Scotland to discuss Christian singlehood at the sixth annual Edith Stein Project, a student-organized conference titled this year as “Irreplaceable You: Vocation, Identity, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” In her lecture, which she called “Waiting for Your Marching Orders: Staying Sane while Single,” McLean addressed happiness in single life from an autobiographical perspective.
McLean recounted her time as a single doctoral student at Boston College, where she tried to find something to distract herself from what she called “the burden about being single.” She tried to spend her extra time performing service, but after her attempts to find volunteer work failed, she took up blogging at the suggestion of one of her colleagues.
McLean began her blog as a way of redirecting her frustration with single life to satisfaction with it. For more than four years, she has written about the ups and downs of staying single, reminding her followers that “once upon a time, marriage was the only choice.”
McLean provided the audience a brief, general history of the single life. She noted that in ancient cultures, shorter lifespans caused men and women to marry earlier. Over time chastity and celibacy become more prevalent in societies. Today “man and woman both have options,” McLean explained, concluding that we can only “wait in short for our marching orders from our general, God.” McLean suggested that one’s vocation “should be like an invite to a party, not police banging at the door to take you away.”
McLean offered a list of what to do and what not to do as a single person. First, she urged that one must not “catastrophize” one’s circumstances. She observed that people often do not have enough information to make judgments about their futures. Rather than panic or wallow in disappointment, McLean explained, singles should concentrate on the present and be rooted in reality. Singles must learn to love and to know themselves before they enter relationships. By way of example, McLean shared the story of her own difficult marriage and annulment at the age of 25.
McLean emphasized that in order to “stay sane while single,” one must not engage in sexual promiscuity. Once an individual has had premarital sex, she asserted, “it’s hard to break from the hunger for sex.” She added that when one denigrates the single life, one ignores the great men and women of the past who offered up their lives for perpetual chastity.
McLean also spoke against allowing oneself to develop full-blown crushes, through which one becomes lost in the trance of “fantasy-land.” McLean said that, “like a cold, we should not take crushes seriously, rather, we must prevent them from becoming pneumonia of the heart.”
Singles should not isolate or overwork themselves, McLean continued. By separating themselves from other people or by trying to do everything, they are less likely to discover peace in their hearts.
With humor and sensitivity, McLean also recommended that singles determine those situations that make them sad and try to counteract sadness with uplifting activities. They should also strive to cultivate good relationships with family and friends, and, most importantly, they should pray.
McLean reiterated how each Christian is called to a life in service, and that single people in the Church should not be neglected. McLean stated that singles should receive more praise and help, so that they too can recognize and fulfill their very own set of “marching orders.”
Adriana Garcia is a junior theology/honors sociology major who enthusiastically insists everyone follow Dorothy Cummings McLean’s Seraphic Singles blog. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.