Is the Single Life a Vocation?

By: Therese Bermpohl

The single life:  Is it, or is it not, a vocation?  This question goes to the heart of the struggle confronting Catholic singles striving to do the will of God.  The inner monologue can often sound something like this: “Do I or do I not have a vocation?  Am I not working hard enough to discern God’s will?  Am I not praying hard enough?  Is it my own fault that I don’t have a vocation?  Was the guy I chose to ignore on the metro at 7 a.m., whose cheery morning demeanor made me certain of our incompatibility, my one chance at marital bliss…?”  Does God give us one opportunity to say “yes” to His plan for us and if we miss that one opportunity, He proclaim like the Soup Nazi, “No vocation for you!”

While we know it is possible to ignore a call, it is quite possible that the single life is right where God wants you for today.

The life call comes from the Good Shepherd.  It can be a communal call, “Franciscans, over here.  Carmelites, over there.  Married people, on that side.”  Yet even in this, He calls each individual by name.  He forgets no one.  One of Satan’s great illusions is to convince good holy single people that their lives are in a holding pattern.  There is no such thing!  Every moment is weighed.  Every response matters.  The single life may not have a particular structure or rule of life; it may not have a particular community or spouse through which God beckons a committed response, but the Lord is calling the single person by name to holiness, to love and to Divine usefulness.

It could be called a vocation of readiness and flexibility to the daily response to the voice of the Good Shepherd.  If you are single, maybe one day you will be called to marriage, to priesthood or to religious life, but you can rest assured that God has not forgotten you.  He knows exactly where you are and where He needs you to be as part of His mysterious salvific plan. So, as the Lord tells Jeremiah, let us not lose heart but be joyful in the Lord who has for each of us a plan with a future full of hope.

3 thoughts on “Is the Single Life a Vocation?

  1. This is such an encouragement. Being single does not mean that we are in a limbo. God does not forget a single person because he has a plan for each one with a future full of hope. What we do while we are single matters. Every single moment counts so live in the moment with joy.

  2. Although it is true that being single does not mean one is in limbo or that what you do does not matter, everyone who is single is not “called” to a “vocation” of single-hood. Just as there is no lack of vocations to the priesthood, just fewer people who actually answer the calls God continues to make, the same may be true of the vocation to marriage. When I go on Catholic singles websites, I am astounded at the number of men over 40 who have never been married. The same may be true of women, but I don’t usually look at the women. There is a disturbing trend away from committed, permanent marriages as the norm for society and Catholics are impacted by these trends even if they are very committed to their faith. Most people would not say that the lower number of young people entering religious life and the priesthood is a result of God calling fewer people to those vocations. So it stands to reason that the lower number of marriages is likely not due to God calling fewer people to that vocation. God himself said, “It is not right for man to be alone.” We are all impacted by society’s increasing narcissism which makes any life choice that involves significant self-sacrifice difficult. I am a single person myself and I do not have to make the daily immolation of self that anyone living in close community with others – whether in marriage or religious life – has to make. I think we do a disservice to ourselves, the Church, and society if we spend too much time defending a “vocation to singlehood” (no matter how much better it makes us feel about our real life situation) and not enough time thinking about how we can prepare our young people better to accept and embrace the sacrifices involved in marriage and religious life.

  3. Hi Angelus Virata and Balanced;

    You both have made some excellent points and I could not be in stronger aggrement.

    I would like to add an emphasis that Holy Matrimony is elevated to the level of one of the seven Sacraments. As such, Holy Matrinomy has its own unique associated graces. I believe that Church approved statements, approved by the Vatican, show that Holy Matrinomy can in no way be held as inherently inferior or less worthy than the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the Consecrated Religious Life, or the Life as a Consecrated Virgin.

    Are these differing vocations the same in every way? Absolutely not, and each one has its unique aspects.

    Holy Matrimony supernaturalizes human sexuality in a supernaturalization of the love and spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical attraction between a husband and a wife.

    I have not heard much in homilies and sermons during Mass on the lexocography of the supernatural aspects of Holy Matrimony. Just as we treat the Sacraments of Holy Communion, Reconciliation, Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and Last Rites with great esteem, we need to proclaim with equally great esteem, and perhaps even more so at least for the time being, the Dignities and Sanctity of Holy Matrinomy. The fact that we do not is partially why about 50 percent of Catholic Marraiges end in divorce and why artificial contraception is so wide spread among Catholic Married Couples of child bearing age.

    Good Catholic marraiges will lead to good clerical and consecrated religious vocations, but we need to start somewhere that is with the fundamental unit of society, the family life, which reaches its excellence in Holy Matrimony.

    Regarding the single life, this is the vocation I have definitively chosen and I would very likely have entered the Priesthood where it not for some medical conditions that would very likely have resulted in a rejection of any applications to any seminary. As a 49 year old with a history of serious obesity issues and diagnosed poor lower leg circulation and other medical issues, my chances of entering the seminary now are essentially zero although I have not totally given up on the possibility. If GOD wants me to become a Priest, His will will be done.

    Either way, I am happilly and joyfully accepting of the single life with or without any future clerical or religious state.

    However, since I am single, I am all the more obligated to proclaim the dignity of marriage and human sexuality including my own sexuality and to not have a prudish puritanical attitude with respect to my calling as a single person. I feel that I must extoll the virtues of Holy Matrimony so as not to seem like a square or a prude. To not do such would act to turn others off from Holy Matrimony as well as set a poor example to youth and young adults regarding the single life, Holy Orders, and the consecrated religious life and thereby also discourage youth and young adults from proper discernment of a call to these latter vocations.

    Regardless, I say HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    Jim

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