Michel Houellebecq’s infamous novel about voluntary human extinction was published as The Elementary Particles in the United States, but in the United Kingdom the title was Atomised, which more economically describes the end state of an exclusively consumerist society, in which personal relationships are more like restaurant meals than expressions of a sacramental life. We live together alone, each at a table for one.

It is a life largely without any context other than consumption.

Here, surrounded by wealth and power that would have stunned a Roman emperor, our churches are full of women and men who are praying for husbands and wives, for family of some kind, or for a friend. And behind the doors that shut so many of us in are millions more who would be making the same prayers if they knew how. We could, in at least this case, answer our own prayers — not individually, one at a time on our own behalf, but together, as a people and as a civilization. The way in which we choose to live is not the only way to live.

Christians once studied the lives of the saints for examples of that. The lives of The Bachelor, picturesque though they may be, offer no such illumination.