Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Single Life

Commonly, when people talk about discerning their vocation they are talking about the religious life. Should I become a priest? Maybe just a brother? If you are a female you may ask, "Should I be a sister?" Which religious order? Do I want to be in an order or do I want to be a diocesan priest? The other option besides being in the religious life seems is the married life. Do I want to get married?? Well, in my personal opinion (as in--this isn't dogma, and I realize that it can probability be torn apart theologically and you can believe what you want) is that there is a third vocation--that of the single life.

Now, I realize that the argument against this third vocation is because because you do not make vows. You are in more of an in-between state of life. If you enter a religious order, you take vows of celibacy. If you become married, you take vows to be faithful to your spouse. But with the single life, while you are presently chaste (or SHOULD be chaste) celibacy is not permanent necessarily.

I know too many people though who are single and potentially will remain single. Some of them seem perfectly happy remaining single but don't belong in a religious order. Some of them would prefer to be married but can't seem to find the right person. Others, are struggling and still trying to decide whether they should be religious or married. Whether it be a transitional or permanent, I don't think it's fair to say that it's not a vocation.

Again--that's my opinion. I'm sure the argument would be that a vocation is a permanent state in life. That is not my point. My point is, that I think the single life should be looked at as a vocation, whether it be transitional or permanent, because every day we need to try to decide what God wants us to do with our lives. We should always try to trust in God and try to do His will as opposed to our own. It may not seem fair. We may feel lonely and want a spouse to spend our lives with. We may want children. The fact that you can't pursue the goals that you want may make you angry at God. We need to step back and say, "not my will, but your will be done."

I'm not going to say that your life will be easier. You still may have a lot of suffering in your life (that is a post for another day). I am saying that by putting aside what we want in life and doing what God wants us to do with life we will be closer to him. Remember that everything we have, our very life and existence, is a gift from God. Should we not be doing with that life what He wants us to do?

If the single life is your vocation please remember that you are never alone--especially if you are pursuing God's will. God is with you. God loves you. Rejoice that by being single you are given the opportunity to spend more time with God getting closer to him.
Now, you can feel free to let me have it. Am I an idiot of thinking of the single life as a vocation??


  1. I'm new to your blog :) and I love it!!!! No you are not an idiot for thinking the single life as a vocation, at least not in my opinion, ha! I read through several of your past post and plan to read through many more. Have a great day,
    Marie Wimsett

  2. Speaking as a single woman discerning her vocation and having come full circle...the Single life alone is NOT a Vocation.

    Also, the Church recognizes 3 Vocations: Priesthood, Marriage, and Religious Life (of which there are MANY expressions). Of course as a woman that means I have two Vocations open to me.

    The problem is that if someone is indeed called to be Single, there has to be a particular call within that, a particular dedication to God. This can be done privately, as in private vows of celibacy, and that person's single life should be dedicated in some way.

    I didn't used to feel this way; I wrote many blog posts somewhat akin to yours, but now having explored religious life and knowing I'm not called to marriage (unless God surprises me in a really big way), I can't say that the Single life *alone* is a vocation. There has to be an anchor of some sort. And that's perhaps what I'm discerning now. If I am indeed called to be single...what does God want me to do with that? What specific thing is He calling me to, and does that mean I'll be preparing to make a private vow of celibacy (which is canonically binding.)

    As an aside, here is an interesting factoid for you: Canonically, there is only ONE of the three I mentioned that is actually a Vocation. If you look in Canon Law, it uses the word "Vocation" ONLY in reference to....the Priesthood. Not Marriage, not Consecrated Life.

    Interesting, isn't it?

    God bless, and thanks for your support of single people. As it isn't dogma it is something that is always being discussed in the Church, but in the context of "Vocation" we have to take care not to mislead in any way what the Church DOES teach about it.

  3. Well, I hope to heck (being good here) that you're wrong. :) I see your point and there are some beautiful examples of it amongst Christian women I have read about, but to me, if that is my calling, then why does my heart ache every single day? If that is my calling, why was I created with ... er, lady parts and hormones? If that is my calling, and actually, I don't believe you're necessarily saying that it is, you're just suggesting a possiblity, then why must I ever fall in love and suffer the pain of loss over and over again? If that is my calling, then if God would please have some freaking mercy on me and take away the desire for anything else, that would be immensely helpful. :-) But, I hadn't thought of this perspective. I will think on it.

  4. Wow, I never realized how many people would be against the single life being a vocation. No vocation is easy- there are always crosses to bear. What about those people who choose marriage as a vocation and their spouse dies? That marital bond is broken so are they then forced to choose to marry again just to have a "vocation" that means something? How about a woman who never married but had children? Of course her vocation is mother, but since that isn't one of the "Three" does that not count? I don't think vocations are purely black and white.

  5. Marie, Thank you very much for your kind words.
    Adoro---those are some interesting things you brought up. Thanks for making me think. :-) and God bless you in your discernment.
    Robin, obviously I had you in mind when I wrote this. The main point that I was trying to get across is that we need to asks ourselves what does God want of me. Sometimes he blesses us with struggles that in order to makes us stronger. I hope and pray for your happiness.
    Maggie, I was also thinking of you as we've had some interesting theology on tap discussions over this issue.

  6. Haha, Ryan has been burning what we recorded at the family reunion to DVD's and there was a little snippet of our discussion. You could see the fire in my eyes as I was trying to defend my point, haha. Everyone here has great points, I just wanted to add my two cents! God bless y'all!

  7. Maggie ~ You're missing the point. You're misunderstanding what Vocation is about. Remember there is sin in the world, and through sin, children are born to parents who are not married. The children are still willed by God and the sin is not theirs, so don't get the issue of sex mixed up with the topic of Vocation.

    Yes, those who have children are called to motherhood, whether it was God's original Call for them or not. (For example, it could be that I'm suffering so much because originally God intended me to be a Consecrated Virgin. Uh...through my own sin, not an option.)

    Women who are widowed, men who are widowers...doesn't mean they are "forced" to marry again. It only means that we don't escape suffering, no matte what we are called to.

    I would advise you and anyone who sees this as you do to look into the lives of the Saints. Look especially at St. Frances of Rome. (I'll not tell you about her...do a google search...you'll find her.) Quite enlightening.

    No, Vocation isn't "black and white". God may call someone to one Vocation, but then Call them to another. I know of priests who were first called to the married life, widowed, and then when their children were grown, were called to the ordained, celibate priesthood. I know of religious sisters who were mothers, definitely called to marriage and motherhood, but widowed, and when their children grown, called to give themselves entirely to Christ through religious vows.

    I know of people called to be married, widowed and called into another marriage.

    It's discernment. It's asking IN EVERY MOMENT what God is calling one to do. Those who are widowed...maybe at that point they aren't called to marriage anymore. Maybe they are called to living a consecrated life.

    I'm not sure if you're familiar with the Vocation of Consecrated Virginity as it is a Vocation now finally being revived. It is parallel to the Vocation, forgotten for awhile, of Consecrated Widows.

    It seems to me your ultimate question is: does God abandon us?

    No, He doesn't. He abandons no one. We tend to abandon Him. If you're not finding what you're looking for in the Church, it doesn't mean it isn't there; it means you're asking the wrong questions and you're not looking deep enough. Don't prejudge the options. Vocation fits into the established categories. Just because it's not all on the surface doesn't mean there aren't answers.

    Keep seeking, don't give up. And don't stop asking questions...that's where you meet God.

    God bless.

  8. My two cents

    I'm called to marriage, but still stuck being single. I have no idea what to call myself, and can rarely even talk to people about my life without them immediately shutting me up ("No marrage is better than a bad marriage, etc. etc.") I am in pain every day because my husband is missing, and I don't even know his name. And, I can't even mourn his absence out loud because this society won't allow me to do so. I truly wish we had a name for adults like me (I just turned 50) that wasn't an insult, or a joke, and which indicated that, even though it's supposed to be impossible, we're still searching for our spouses, and will do so until we die because to do anything else would be to stop being ourselves.

    Google "lay apostolate" -- there's every variation and then some out there, for want-to-stay-single-laity, for couples, for families, for cloistered but economically independent from the Church, etc. etc. etc.

  9. I noticed Jamies blog as I was researching on line.
    I would like to give all concerned some renewed perspective on vocation and consecrated life. While you probably were already aware of it, it is too often taken for granted, and must be everyones starting point.
    While Cannon law speaks of three kinds of vocation or states of life, the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of a fourth (though it is actually the first on which each is rooted)
    784 On entering the People of God through faith and Baptism, one receives a share in this people's unique, priestly vocation:

    This means that in virtue of one's baptism each on has a vocation. Only by recognizing this gift is one able to discover another within this first call to holiness.

    "Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men, has made this new people 'a kingdom of priests to God, his Father.' The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood."209

    "And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father," (Colossians 3:12-17)

    God bless you,

    Fr. Jeff

  10. I agree with you. I'm a female, and there's a program that will air on EWTN, I think in the fall called "The Catholic View For Women". One of the issues they're going to be talking about is the single life as a vocation. I always thought I would be married, and since it didn't happen I thought maybe I had missed God's call and that I was supposed to be a religious...even checked it out a couple of times...just spoke to vocation directors, never went on a visit. It bothers me a lot to think I may not be following God's call especially when I hear about the vocations of either marriage or religious life...seems like a lot of people do say that, but even though I wonder if I was supposed to be a religious I have no desire for that life. There are people in my life that God has given me to help, guide, and love that I couldn't be available for if I were either married or a religious, and when I'm with them it gives me a joy beyond comprehension so I have to believe I'm exactly where I'm meant to be, and that the single life is indeed a vocation. God Bless You.

  11. I just sent a comment, but am not sure if it went through so if it did please accept my apology as I send it again. I completely agree with you about the single life being a vocation. I'm an unmarried female. I always wanted to be married and thought I'd be married, but it didn't happen. I checked out religious life a couple of times. I feel quite often that since I never married perhaps God was calling me to the religious life, but I have no desire for that, and if that's really where I'm meant to be wouldn't God put the desire in my heart? There are people in my life, some kids that I help and love. I believe God put them in my life for this reason. If I were either married or a religious I wouldn't be available to them as I am now. For this reason I believe I'm right where God wants me to be....living my vocation as a "2nd Mom" and as a single lay person. There's going to be a program on EWTN this fall called, "The Catholic View For Women." One of the topics they are going to discuss is the single life as a vocation. I get so frustrated when I hear anyone, be they an expert, religious, priest, etc. saying that the only vocations are marriage, priesthood, or religious life. Thank you for bringing this up.

  12. I will be 33 years old (my Christ Year) in August. My, mother always told me that there are 3 spiritual vocations and I believe the right man will flow into my life. Right now I am in the single vocation and single life has been a choice of mine for many years because I liked being my own person and finding my own path to God. Being single has allowed me to be more active in my church and discover new ways to make a difference in people's lives.

    I don't believe in looking for a spouse, if that is God's plan for me, then the right person will flow into my life. I am not trying to meet a deadline. Some of the best friendships I have in my life, just flowed into my life without my having to actively look for them.

    Even though I not think I want to be a nun or something, I am staying open to the Idea. So Single Vocation, yes that is me. Is it permanent? I have no idea:-)