Ann Widdecombe meets others who live a single life, including Roy Castle's widow, Fiona, and Benedictine monk Father Christopher Jamison.
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Hello and welcome to Songs Of Praise -
for one week only, with me, Ann Widdecombe.
Presenting Songs Of Praise has been a bit of a dream come true for me
and I'm going to be looking at something for which I'm famous.
No, not as a Conservative politician
and certainly not for my skills on the dance floor,
but as one of Britain's well-known spinsters,
I'm going to be exploring being single.
On Songs Of Praise today - choosing a life of celibacy,
life as a single parent,
and being suddenly single after over 30 years of marriage.
Fiona Castle talks about life after Roy.
Plus music from Kristyna Myles and some of my favourite hymns.
MUSIC: "Wedding March" by Mendelssohn
When I was young, I assumed I'd marry. It was simply the norm.
When I was a student at Oxford, I was in love and, again,
I assumed I'd marry.
But it just didn't happen.
So I've never walked up a church aisle in a long white dress.
For me, being single was a matter of chance and choice.
Chance, because Mr Right didn't happen to come along,
choice, because it was never a priority to go out looking for him.
Some people are single because they want to be,
but, for others, they just haven't found somebody,
or they've become suddenly single as a result of life's upheavals -
divorce, perhaps, or bereavement.
Our first hymn reminds us
that God is faithful through all the circumstances of our lives.
# Great is thy faithfulness... #
Father Christopher Jamison has been described as TV's favourite monk.
He appeared in the BBC Two series The Monastery
and is now the director of the National Office for Vocation.
Literally, a vocation is a calling and the person doing the calling,
regarding a Christian vocation, is God, so it's what God calls us to.
The church offers four basic states of life as four basic vocations -
the vocation to be a priest,
the vocation to be a monk or a religious sister,
the vocation to be married and the vocation to be a single layperson.
You, and many like you, decided from the outset
you were going to be single,
you were going to consecrate your lives to God,
you were going to forswear any relationship
or a family or grandchildren.
-Are you glad you did that?
-Yes, I'm absolutely delighted I did that.
When I was 21, when I made that decision,
my friends thought this was pretty strange and peculiar
and they went off to get married and were full of the joys of married bliss.
I felt called to be a monk,
but I felt very frightened at the idea of being celibate.
But with the support of other people
and by the grace of God I persevered in responding to that call,
and it's that sense of fulfilling something very special in your life
which sustains you through moments
that might be difficult to remain faithful.
It doesn't supply the intimacy
but if you are in a monastery or in a convent,
you are surrounded by other people all the time,
you've always got somebody to talk to, to confide in.
The single layperson doesn't have that.
I'm very happy in that state
but most people think I'm quite mad. Am I?
Well, of course, whether you're mad or not, Ann, is a separate question!
But whether you're mad because you live on your own,
I think the answer is no.
Because the Christian tradition has always valued...
Going way back to the early church you see, actually,
pictures of the great martyrs of the church
and then the virgins of the church
and there was this great valuing of those who could live the single life.
Of course, the most famous example of singleness was Christ himself.
-Is that significant?
-Yes, it's very significant.
We know that in our Lord's day, most people got married.
We also know that there was a significant but small number of single people
who saw their singleness as a very special way
of being dedicated to God and to the coming of the kingdom.
As a single woman, I don't think my life is in any way incomplete,
but some people assume I can't possibly be contented,
that I must be missing out on something, and that's nothing new.
William Shakespeare, in both The Taming Of The Shrew
and in Much Ado About Nothing, referred to the old saying,
that women who died unmarried were destined to lead the apes into hell.
And still spinsters are portrayed as lonely and bitter,
like Miss Havisham,
or simply as just desperate for a man, like Bridget Jones.
Like Bridget, Julie Dunlop was keen to meet Mr Right,
but it just hasn't happened.
I turned 40 this summer
and I guess if you had asked me when I was growing up,
even when I was 25, 30, even 35,
how I would have felt if I was single at 40,
I would probably say the prospect would have filled me with dread.
I was brought up in a Christian home,
and my dad is a retired Baptist minister.
Being in the Christian world,
I think there is more pressure to get married
and to have a family
but it hasn't worked out that way.
Throughout my 20s and even 30s, I did date a lot of non-Christian men
and what became very clear for me was that it was important for me
to meet somebody that I can not only share my faith with
but somebody who I can grow in faith with.
It is difficult meeting Christian men.
My dad talks about fishing in the right pools,
and, as you get older, those pools tend to be smaller anyway, and also,
you know, if looking for a Christian, that pool then becomes even smaller.
'I go to a really amazing church
'that is very inclusive.
'Having said that, some of the churches I've been involved with
'in the past have focused very much on the family
'and if you are not married with children,
'it was very difficult to feel part of the church.
'For me, I can honestly say that I have found contentment
'being on my own.'
I think principally because I have realised
the importance of the quality of relationships
we have in our lives, as opposed to being in A relationship.
By relationships I mean our relationship with God,
our relationship with our families, with our friends.
You know, I really would like to meet the right person.
Having said that, if it is God's will for me
to be on my own for ever, I'm OK being single.
# Now, there have been times
# I've felt down
# I didn't think anything
# Would turn me around
# But I know
# That your healing hand
# Can guide me back from
# The path from which I have strayed
# Now, I may gain power
# Or money on earth
# But if I don't have you, Lord
# What is it worth?
# What is it worth?
# See, I may climb
# My way to the top
# But if I don't come up the ladder with you
# I will surely drop
# Your love, it takes away all pain, all fear
# Gives me hope
# Your love, it gives me strength to fight the fiercest of storms
# Your love, I can do anything in my life
# With you by my side
# With your love, your love
# And I see
# A change in me
# How I love, how I love you
# I know why I've got a new-found strength in me
# Because of your love, your love
# Your love, it takes away all pain, all fear, gives me hope
# Your love, it gives me strength to fight the fiercest of storms
# Your love, I can do anything in my life
# With you by my side
# Because of your love, your love. #
In 1995, David McCabe was happily married
and expecting his first child.
He never imagined he would become a single father.
I met my wife when I was 21 years old.
I was in the Navy and met her on a night out and I thought,
"Yeah, this is it."
So I got married and nine years later we were expecting our first baby.
-So there you were, all excited...
-..rushing off to hospital...
Everything was going OK for a while but then all of a sudden, Ann,
things went seriously, seriously wrong.
Annalise was stillborn.
They resuscitated her,
and the doctor had said to me,
"We don't think she's going to survive more than a couple of hours."
Annalise did survive but she was left with cerebral palsy
and Irene, David's wife, found the situation unbearable.
The pressures of that
took its toll on the marriage
and, as sad as it is, she...
..left the house and...
-..I was left holding...
-And left you?
And I was left holding the child.
The couple divorced
but Irene continued to help David with Annalise,
who needed round-the-clock care.
Then tragedy struck again when Annalise was seven.
Irene was diagnosed with cancer and she later died.
I felt I was completely on my own. I was isolated.
So while you were in these dreadful circumstances,
all on your own, how important was faith?
At the time, Ann, I didn't have a faith.
But it was when I went on a holiday with several other families
in similar circumstances to myself, I met two families who were Christian.
They had a relationship with Jesus.
Then I realised, Ann,
that Jesus wanted to have a relationship with me
at a time when I felt like nobody would ever want to have a relationship with me.
'Finding faith released me from the feelings of being in a prison
'and I felt more like it was a privilege to be Annalise's father.'
Is this what you want?
It was about four years
after we had started going to the church
that Donna walked in
and I just went, "Wow."
I'm afraid to say, Ann, it took me about a year before I asked her out
and a couple of months after we'd started dating,
I asked her to marry me.
And she said yes.
# Love divine... #
This arboreal delicacy was devoured in a record-breaking 89 hours.
You haven't got a chocolate log, have you?
Roy Castle was the presenter
of the BBC children's programme Record Breakers for over 20 years
and generations of young people grew up watching him.
22-year-old Fiona Dickson saw him on TV
and knew she just had to meet him.
It was through Eric Morecambe. I was at their home,
Joan, Eric's wife, and him,
and Roy happened to come on the television
and I just said to Eric, "Oh, if you ever do a show with Roy Castle,
"can I come along? Cos I'd love to meet him."
I was in love with him at that point!
So eventually Eric did ring me
and said he was doing television with Roy, would I like to go along?
Just before the show started, Eric introduced me
and I thought it was going to be the best moment of my life
and it turned out to be the worst cos he just said, "Roy, this is Fiona, she's in love with you."
It was so embarrassing.
And then you were married for 31 years, you had a family in that time.
We had four children, yes.
It was a very happy marriage
until at one time I got really low in my spirit,
my self-esteem was rock bottom,
and it was then that I cried out to God and just said,
"Help, I can't go on like this any longer."
I was, really, almost suicidal.
And that day I invited Jesus into my life
and everything totally was transformed from that moment onwards.
In 1992, aged just 59,
Roy found out he had terminal lung cancer.
Roy was very matter-of-fact when he came home and told me about it,
but I just felt as if I'd turned to stone, I couldn't move,
and I started to pray and I just said, "God, what are you doing?"
And it was almost as if I heard an audible voice at that moment,
saying, "Stand back and see what I'm going to do through this."
And suddenly I realised that God hadn't abandoned us,
he still loved us and he was just going to see us through.
# Lead, kindly light... #
When TV presenter Roy Castle died in 1994, aged just 62,
his wife Fiona found herself single
after over 30 years of happy marriage.
Two days after Roy died I had to do an interview for GMTV
and I'd never done anything like that in my life.
And I panicked and I thought, "Oh, no,
"I stammer and I can't get my words out and I'll make a mess of it."
And so I started to pray, "God, you can't be expecting me to do this."
And again it was like God spoke into my heart and just said,
"Rise to the challenge."
And it was a defining moment in my life,
and I realised that I needed to rise to all the challenges,
and it keeps me out of my comfort zone.
I was absolutely hopeless at doing anything DIY,
couldn't even knock a nail in a wall,
and I was hopeless at paying any of the bills
and those sort of things,
and suddenly I was having to do all of that,
as well as cope with a very busy life that that I had at that time.
And also I found that, you know,
when I'd had an interesting day, I'd come home and want to share it -
there's nobody there to share it with.
So those are the things you have to learn to deal with
once you're single again.
Not only must you have felt so alone when Roy died,
but suddenly everything changes.
What do you do now?
I'm still as busy as I ever was.
But if I do have time to relax, I love to run.
To just get out in the fresh air and I can pray
and look at the sunshine or the showers.
Do you believe you're going to see Roy again?
That's an interesting question, Ann, because I believe in heaven,
I believe in eternal life.
The Bible does say we'll have new bodies
so whether we'll recognise each other or not, I don't know.
But I think we'll be so taken up with Jesus and Heaven
that we won't have to worry about things like that.
Are you expecting to stay single?
I've had a few opportunities not to,
but it just doesn't interest me at all.
I'm totally content as I am right now.
One of the things that I learnt through Roy was, he said,
"We must never grumble. We've had a wonderful marriage, we've had a wonderful life together,
"we've got nothing to complain about.
"Let's be grateful for all we've had."
And I followed that on after I was widowed
and realised I had so much to be grateful for.
And whenever I've looked, "Oh, poor old me,"
I've turned it round to, "But thank you, Lord,
"I've had this, this and this. I've had such a wonderful life."
Father, we thank you that even in those times
when we find ourselves alone, we are not alone if we know you.
Thank you for supporting us through break-ups and bereavements
and leading us when we don't know in which direction our lives are going.
And, Father, show us how to fill our lives,
and those of others, with friendship and love.
There's no doubt that missing someone can be difficult,
whether it's the soulmate you've never found,
the spouse who's passed away
or the partner with whom things just didn't work out.
Our final hymn was written by a son wanting to comfort the mother
who was missing him.
Joseph Scriven was in Canada
when he sent these words to his mother in Ireland.
What A Friend We Have In Jesus.
Next week, on Remembrance Sunday, Eamonn is in Enniskillen
where an IRA bomb exploded at the town's cenotaph 25 years ago.
Local churches and choirs come together
at St Macartin's Cathedral to sing hymns
and remember those killed or injured in all conflicts, past and present.
Subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing by Red Bee Media Ltd
Ann Widdecombe meets others who live a single life, including Roy Castle's widow, Fiona, and Benedictine monk Father Christopher Jamison. Ann also introduces some favourite hymns and singer Kristyna Myles.