May 1st, 2007

Singled Out

Some in the ongoing discussion about single life below have rejected the idea of calling the single life a vocation. Perhaps this is because there are no vows involved in becoming single. There are formal ways of embracing a religious vocation or marriage, but being single may or may not be a permanent situation. It can thus feel more like a time of waiting or a default state than a vocation. But the Catholic definition of “vocation” does not exclude singles at all:

Vocation: a call from God to a distinctive state of life, in which the person can reach holiness. The Second Vatican Council made it plain that there is a “Universal call [vocatio] to holiness in the Church” (Lumen Gentium, 39). (see here)

Some have further rejected the idea that the single life can be a calling simply because it is a cross for some. This is a point to be taken seriously as the Catechism is clear in its recognition of the single life being difficult for some people:

“We must also remember the great number of single persons who, because of the particular circumstances in which they have to live – often not of their choosing – are especially close to Jesus’ heart and therefore deserve the special affection and active solicitude of the Church, especially of pastors. Many remain without a human family often due to conditions of poverty. Some live their situation in the spirit of the Beatitudes, serving God and neighbor in exemplary fashion. The doors of homes, the ‘domestic churches,’ and of the great family which is the Church must be open to all of them. No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who ‘labor and are heavy laden.’” (1658)

Can your vocation be a cross? I think so. Scratch that. I know so. No matter what our state in life, are we called to our crosses? Again, I say yes.

Just because you are called to a particular state in life does not guarantee it will be all hearts and roses for you. As every married person knows, saying yes to married life means saying yes to a thousand crosses — some of them big and some of them little. Crosses that come from sharing your life so intimately with another human being. Crosses that come from accepting and raising the children God sends you. Crosses that come from the worldly trials with which you must concern yourself for the sake of your family.

Am I called to married? Yes. Is marriage a cross for me? You betcha.

Am I called to be a mother? Yes. Is motherhood a cross for me? Absolutely.

I have no first hand experience with religious life, but I think we can all readily see the kinds of sacrifices that are part and parcel of saying yes to a religious vocation as well. I think by definition, your vocation is your cross. Your very own cross. Your very own particular means of attaining holiness. That doesn’t mean you won’t find joy in answering God’s call to holiness, but whether you are single or married, a priest or a nun, it does mean that it’s not likely to be easy.

Prayer to Saint Joseph to Know One’s Vocation
O Great Saint Joseph, you were completely obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Obtain for me the grace to know the state of life that God in his providence has chosen for me. Since my happiness on earth, and perhaps even my final happiness in heaven, depends on this choice, let me not be deceived in making it. Obtain for me the light to know God’s will, to carry it out faithfully, and to choose the vocation which will lead me to a happy eternity.

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