A Reader Writes:
I was wondering if you had any advice for young Catholic women who feel called to marriage and family but haven’t met the right person yet? Did you do anything during your single years to prepare for your vocation?
I answered some questions about singles in this post from … YIKES! … almost two years ago. Tonight I am running short on time and brain power, so I will turn things over to my ever-helpful, wise, and insightful readers. It is Your Turn, after all.
Interesting…thinking of the concept of being a 2nd-class citizen: I wonder, whom did Jesus treat as a 2nd-class citizen? Which person was that, of those that we are aware of, in his life? I’m thinking…but can’t come up with one.
Certainly spouses die and single people sometimes do discover partners, at any age. Perhaps it is all about listening, no matter who we are or which Vocation we are in now. Openness seems to lead to hearing & taking seriously any ‘Call’, even a changed one, as with those 2 pretty familiar examples.
Seems like ‘Plan B’ and ‘2nd-class citizen’ might be human constructs, human feelings..
I don’t know if anyone here mentioned St. Catherine of Siena—–great single saint!!!! She was a third order Dominican also and died at the age of 33. Being a lay Dominican allowed her a certain freedom to do God’s great work. She was/is awesome !!! There are some good biographies about her and she even has her own book (dictated to her by GOD) called "The Dialogue"…Check her out
I don’t know if it was correct or not, but what gave me peace while I was single and called to married life was the thought that why would God call me to a certain vocation and not fulfill it? Would he call a man to become a priest and then say, "No, you should not become a priest?" Of course, the calling to a vocation brings with it our cooperation with God. Just as a man and woman are co-creators with God in creating new human life — well, babies just don’t appear out of nowhere! A certain act has to take place. But in the end, it’s God who creates new life. In being single, I knew I had to do all I could to work with God on my vocation. For me that meant getting involved within our parish, in pro-life activities, Catholic singles Web sites, etc. with the hope I would meet someone (and, of course, give my time and talents to these activities, something I can’t do as much of now that I’m married and have babies). Eventually, I did (on AveMariaSingles.com, as many others here have shared, also when it was still Single Catholics Online). And, of course, I had to make sure that I was living a faithful life every day and staying close to God through all of it.
I also feel compelled to share that I was somewhat hurt that many devout Catholics I’ve known who met their spouses in college (or shortly thereafter) assumed that I was a "career woman" and didn’t want to marry because I wanted to put a career first. (I even remember an article in the Register that alluded to such thinking.) That couldn’t have been further from my mind. I always wanted to get married and have a dozen kids as soon as possible! Things just didn’t work out that way. Looking back, I’m glad — I didn’t know my Catholic faith the way I should have until my mid- to late-twenties, and boy am I glad I was the age I was at the place in life I was when I met my husband! I think God calls us to different things at different times in our lives.
Just my thoughts,
I’ll chime in on suggesting Anon and others who dispute the Church’s teaching on whether men and women may be called to the single life in the secular world that they read up on Consecrated Virgins. They have a website. Google it.
I also agree that some/many single people may have thwarted vocations to married life due to the fallenness of the world and people, but that being said, it’s important not to dwell on "what could have been" and instead move on to "what exists now."
God has not abandoned single people nor has the Church. It is true that the vast majority of people marry and have children, but there is always a great need for the contributions that often only single people have time to give, whether it is in church work or like Catherine posting below, in individual endeavors which build the Body of Christ up.
Throw yourself into whatever work God has given you, whether it is in volunteer work, a paid job, religious life, consecrated singlehood or marriage & family should God call you to it. Do not life for the "what ifs" but only for the "now."
Just a quick note to LeeAnn- Consecrated Virgins are not the same as being single without a vow. It appears to me that the subject we are discussing is whether a vow is necessary for a "true" vocation. The question is actually a big one- and if you want to take the radicality of the call to give oneself completely, body and soul, to Christ in this life, well, that only becomes concrete in a vow. That doesn’t mean anything about the individual single people out there, it for sure doesn’t mean they’re abandoned, and I think it does mean this is a fallen world. For God calls all of us to be His completely, body and soul-
thus we have Baptism, which is THE Christian state of life.
But don’t dismiss Anon’s cross as if it’s the same as the cross of either vocation/ state of life- for it is not. It is, truly, the cross of the lack of that cross. This has a TON to do, as usual, with how seriously Christianity takes the body– we are called to give our bodies to God too, not just our souls! 🙂
earth, thanks, I understand that CVs take a vow (from the bishop, I believe). I guess I didn’t understand the direction the thread was going: whether everyone is called to some kind of vowed life or not.
If one has a "failed" vocation to marriage though, by which I mean that a person is of mature age, past the age of normal fertility, yet feels they would like to be married, I guess my question is: does God call people to the married state if He doesn’t intend for them to marry until late in life?
If so, obviously the patience needed and the adjustments to normal hopes for children and family life in accepting this more unusual calling is indeed a difficult cross.
The only thing that continues to bother me about this idea is the reliance on a feeling of "I was meant to be X" whether that X is a priest, a nun, a wife or husband or whatever. To me, this seems to lend itself to a negative attitude of dissatisfaction with life, which can lead to other problems like despair and such.
I have a fair number of friends from high school (I’m almost 36) that have never married, never had children, and many of them I know would like to be; in fact, are perplexed that it hasn’t happened yet. I came from an evangelical background so those options of religious life, or any kind of vowed life beyond the marriage vow, weren’t ever there for us growing up. In the (Presbyterian) church I grew up in almost everyone marries and the idea of not marrying to serve the church is nearly unthinkable. My "little" brother (age 29) also struggles with this problem, although admittedly he’s still fairly young yet. However, when all your friends around you are marrying and having children already, I’m sure it’s hard.
Y’know I never answered the original question, or at least the second half of it. I never did anything to prepare myself for marriage. The fact that I am a Catholic today and have a happy marriage and am the mother of four children is totally due to the grace of God. My husband and I got married for mostly the wrong reasons. I was at a very low point in my faith. He had no faith. We cohabited before the wedding. We had a very difficult first year of marriage in many ways. My parents were divorced when I was 8, and his were married multiple times as well. So we had little in the way of good examples to fall back on. I did nothing to prepare except cling to the idea that I would never get divorced and would rely on God to get me through the difficult times.
I just found this great post at the Catholic Dads blog that I thought addressed the reader’s question very well. It’s advice from St. Anthony of Padua:
"Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone,
To have a deep soul relationship with another,
To be loved thoroughly and exclusively.
But to a Christian, God says, "No, not until you are satisfied,
Fulfilled and content with being loved by me alone,
With giving yourself totally and unreservedly to me.
With having an intensely personal and unique relationship with me alone.
Discovering that only in me is your satisfaction to be found,
Will you be capable of the perfect human relationship,
That I have planned for you.
You will never be united to another
Until you are united with me.
Exclusive of anyone or anything else.
Exclusive of any other desires or longings.
I want you to stop planning, to stop wishing, and allow me to give you
The most thrilling plan existing . . . one you cannot imagine."
There’s more. Read it here:
Yes, I may be a tad bit out of place on this blog site as a man. My wife asked me my thoughts on this subject, and I thought I might as well share them with the people talking about it.
It concerns me that there is an understanding of "vocation" to be either married or religious. This is both an oversimplification and a mistaken view of "religious life." The sacrament of holy orders is quite distinct from matrimony…and is only imparted to priests and bishops. Yet most of us Catholics would easily group them with nuns, monks, and the like as part of "religious life." These non-priests in religious life feel their place in the Church is a "marriage" whether to Christ or Church, gender dependent. Yet they do not take the sacrament of marriage; nor feel they need it to fulfill their vocation. The point I would make is that vocation is not a two-door choice. Nor, would I submit, is it a choice. Vocation is a calling-from God to an individual. No third party can ever be an expert on a persons vocation, because they will not be party to that conversation. So, if one feels called to marriage, and truly understands that is their part to play in the Church, do two things. First, trust yourself to have heard God right. Second, make it happen with your own toil and labor. Marriage doesn’t just happen to anybody. It involves…Heaven help us…another human being with flaws and a temperament all their own. Mr. or Ms. Right might not necessarily look for wedding bells upon meeting you. Prayer can help…sometimes so can a few minutes of honest feedback from a trusted friend on what aspects of oneself might need to be adjusted. And maybe there is nothing wrong – the point is that we human beings are temperamental and imperfect. That must be allowed for.
In addition, it is entirely possible that God’s call lies elsewhere than the altar. Trust Him. The Good Lord is bigger than our cultural thoughts on vocation. Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha did not feel called to marry, nor enter a religious community – she did feel called to remain, single, in her community and love Christ. He is the single persons companion, whether they feel called to marry, to not marry, or to choose Him or His Church as a spouse. The final point I’d like to make is: Trust yourself, and know that marriage is not a theological/philosophical/mystical thing; it’s a human thing, and we humans aren’t always perfect.