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Reilly CosgroveFebruary 14, 2022

In the beginning of 2020, a man broke up with me. It was the start of a new decade, and I finally felt like God had answered my prayers by allowing a kind, funny man who loved the Catholic faith into my life. But before the end of January of that year, he let me know he had decided to discern a vocation to religious life. At the time, I remember thinking, Well, it can’t get much worse than this. Then a pandemic broke out.

While the early days of the pandemic were terrifying and distressing,I selfishly also felt a sense of relief. The world was on lockdown, so unlike my past seasons of heartbreak, there was no pressure to “get back out there.” I was experiencing a time of great loneliness, but I was not alone in it. In fact, most of the world was going through a period of isolation and heartache.

The world was on lockdown, so unlike my past seasons of heartbreak, there was no pressure to “get back out there.”

When shutdowns began, it felt like the world had taken a break from dating. I lost the opportunity for those chance encounters that can turn into a deeper connection. But I also, like many people, was left without my normal, daily connections that make up our days. At the time, I was living alone and completing my graduate school course work. I went weeks without seeing anyone I knew in person. I was cut off from the familiarity and joys of the romantic relationships I had once known. But I also was cut off from one of the main sources of comfort to me in times when I feel alone: the intimacy with God that can be experienced during the reception of the Eucharist during Mass.

At the time, days seemed to pass slowly. But as it always does, time moved on. Life began to open back up, and health officials released guidelines for how we could safely meet in person. Many of my peers began to express an interest in dating again. Sheepishly, I re-downloaded dating apps.

When you are a young adult Catholic, dating in non-pandemic times can be hard enough. Trying to find a partner that not only respects—and perhaps shares!—your faith, but whom you also enjoy being around and find yourself attracted to can seem nearly impossible. On top of that, as Covid cases surge, single people have a new challenge of finding someone who also shares the same comfort level for pandemic precautions.

Instead of leading me down paths pointed toward new people to date, God gave me gifts I would have never chosen for myself.

In the summer of 2020, I checked my dating apps every few days to find new updates to the profiles. Under your name, age and location, there were boxes where users could add in their preference for Covid-safe dates: Would you like to stay strictly virtual for a first meeting? Are you comfortable eating indoors? Would you prefer to wear masks the whole time? As I tried to drudge through pages of strangers, I began to feel burnt out.

For as long as I can remember, I have longed to be married and have children. When I became Catholic in college, I fell in love with the way the Catholic Church describes marriage as a vocation. To see weddings as not just a joining of two people but as a celebration of a sacrament was deeply moving. But during the pandemic, it has been easy to feel like God has put an indefinite pause on the longings of my heart.

I knew I had to find a way out of my sorrow, but I was unsure how. I began to pray that God would show me the way out of this pain. In my mind, I thought this meant that God would send me someone new to date. But as we know, God does not work according to our plans, and allowing myself to be surprised by God these last few years has been my greatest source of strength during a time of great sorrow.

I realize now that while Covid has put a pause on much of my dating life, God was providing for me throughout it all.

Instead of leading me down paths pointed toward new people to date, God gave me gifts I would have never chosen for myself. While I was experiencing troubles being single in isolation, my married friends were going through their own hardships. By allowing me to be single during this time, God gave me the gift of freedom to travel to see my friends who are young parents struggling to raise their children in a pandemic. I was able to provide respite and support for these friends, reading to their children and helping them with chores around the house. I was able to offer up the suffering I felt in my singleness for my friends who had miscarried or were overwhelmed by the difficulties of providing for a family in a public health crisis. In return, I was able to be present as my friends prayed with their spouses and got their children ready for school. I watched as people I loved lived the life I long for, and instead of inspiring a feeling of jealousy, these experiences gave me a deep sense of hope.

I realize now that while Covid has put a pause on much of my dating life, God was providing for me throughout it all. While I continue to long for and feel a deep sense of vocation to married life, I am working on accepting that the pandemic has provided time for me to practice trusting that God knows and will honor the desires of my heart.

In the beginning of the pandemic, I felt alone in every sense of the word. However, after a few weeks passed, I found a church near my apartment that had put a monstrance in the window. Catholics from around the city were welcome to drive into the parking lot and participate in Eucharistic adoration from their cars. I took time to drive over and sit with the Eucharist, asking God to bless my heartbreak and provide for me however he felt fit. Through my time with my friends and their families, he did just that. Though it was not the answer I imagined, it gave me a deep-seated hope for the future. It can’t get much better than that.

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