Can a woman have a vocation to a celibate life lived among the poor, without becoming a religious?


#1

I have volunteered with the homeless on and off for six years, and over time have felt drawn to live among the poor here in North America. I will, of course, bring this up again very directly and specifically in spiritual direction, but I'm interested in hearing what you wonderful people have to say. So, I know there are lots of people in the past who have lived among the poor, but they ended up starting a religious order. St. Francis, Mother Theresa, etc. I don't want to live in a convent and minister to the poor as a sister. I want to live with them, among them. Celibate. I'm not sure about being a religious. I just want to love them where they're at and actually be one with them. First I'm wondering about safety, seeing as I'm a young woman. Also, I'm just not really sure about this whole thing. I keep saying to myself "it's easy, just follow God. Wherever he leads" but I just don't know if this is practical. I do live in Canada, winters are cold! I don't know what I'd end up doing as one of them, because I'm obviously in no position to preach or anything like that. All I can see is being one of them, being Christ-like among them, going to daily Mass and adoration. Other than that...dunno.

SO my question, really, is this: do vocations HAVE to have a sort of ceremony? I don't know the right term (wasn't raised Catholic, don't know much :) ) But marriage has the wedding ceremony, priests have ordinations, and religious and hermits take vows. So... is this even possible? Thanks!


#2

I believe there are consecrated virgins, I would google it. They are women mostly and are not in a religious group but have consecrated themselves to the Church and virginity in service like you are doing. They take a vow of consecration and then live out their calling in service. Sounds like you are doing wonderful work. God Bless what you are doing.


#3

[quote="clarkest, post:1, topic:319067"]
I have volunteered with the homeless on and off for six years, and over time have felt drawn to live among the poor here in North America. I will, of course, bring this up again very directly and specifically in spiritual direction, but I'm interested in hearing what you wonderful people have to say. So, I know there are lots of people in the past who have lived among the poor, but they ended up starting a religious order. St. Francis, Mother Theresa, etc. I don't want to live in a convent and minister to the poor as a sister. I want to live with them, among them. Celibate. I'm not sure about being a religious. I just want to love them where they're at and actually be one with them. First I'm wondering about safety, seeing as I'm a young woman. Also, I'm just not really sure about this whole thing. I keep saying to myself "it's easy, just follow God. Wherever he leads" but I just don't know if this is practical. I do live in Canada, winters are cold! I don't know what I'd end up doing as one of them, because I'm obviously in no position to preach or anything like that. All I can see is being one of them, being Christ-like among them, going to daily Mass and adoration. Other than that...dunno.

SO my question, really, is this: do vocations HAVE to have a sort of ceremony? I don't know the right term (wasn't raised Catholic, don't know much :) ) But marriage has the wedding ceremony, priests have ordinations, and religious and hermits take vows. So... is this even possible? Thanks!

[/quote]

Of course there doesn't have to have a ceremony.
If you want to spend the rest of your life living among the poor and helping them, that is amazing...you are a big-hearted, unselfish person who will be truly helping the needy. Just go do it.
And of course, if you are Catholic and you don't want to get married, there is no need to have sex if you don't want to.
So you've got it all covered.
I don't think you have to make it any more complicated than that, do you?
There are many volunteer networks and associations that can help you find a place where you can go and help people and they know the ins and outs for safety, etc.

Good luck to you!
And take your toque!


#4

[quote="robwar, post:2, topic:319067"]
I believe there are consecrated virgins, I would google it. They are women mostly and are not in a religious group but have consecrated themselves to the Church and virginity in service like you are doing. They take a vow of consecration and then live out their calling in service. Sounds like you are doing wonderful work. God Bless what you are doing.

[/quote]

Hmm... I'll look into consecrated virginity. I'm not sure about it though.

[quote="DaddyGirl, post:3, topic:319067"]
Of course there doesn't have to have a ceremony.
If you want to spend the rest of your life living among the poor and helping them, that is amazing...you are a big-hearted, unselfish person who will be truly helping the needy. Just go do it.
And of course, if you are Catholic and you don't want to get married, there is no need to have sex if you don't want to.
So you've got it all covered.
I don't think you have to make it any more complicated than that, do you?
There are many volunteer networks and associations that can help you find a place where you can go and help people and they know the ins and outs for safety, etc.

Good luck to you!
And take your toque!

[/quote]

Thank you for your kind words. Perhaps I don't need to make it more complicated, I've just never met or even heard of a person who feels they are living their vocation and has not had some sort of ceremony for their state of life. I'm a traditional type of person so living in a non-traditional way makes me a little uncomfortable, but it's where I feel I'm being lead, and I'd rather do God's will than what makes me comfortable.

And yes, I'll take my toque! And my parka, boots, wool scarf and mittens. sigh:yukonjoe::winter:


#5

[quote="clarkest, post:4, topic:319067"]
Hmm... I'll look into consecrated virginity. I'm not sure about it though.

Thank you for your kind words. Perhaps I don't need to make it more complicated, I've just never met or even heard of a person who feels they are living their vocation and has not had some sort of ceremony for their state of life. I'm a traditional type of person so living in a non-traditional way makes me a little uncomfortable, but it's where I feel I'm being lead, and I'd rather do God's will than what makes me comfortable.

And yes, I'll take my toque! And my parka, boots, wool scarf and mittens. sigh:yukonjoe::winter:

[/quote]

You'll need a devil's advocate.... like:
It's dangerous... what are you, crazy?? You're young... what about a family?.... You can't do it alone! Don't do it!.... what about your family?? and your boyfriend? Or the guy who could be your boyfriend? Won't you be lonely? Who do you think you are??

And all that... Hey, all the best.


#6

[quote="clarkest, post:4, topic:319067"]

Thank you for your kind words. Perhaps I don't need to make it more complicated, I've just never met or even heard of a person who feels they are living their vocation and has not had some sort of ceremony for their state of life. I'm a traditional type of person so living in a non-traditional way makes me a little uncomfortable, but it's where I feel I'm being lead, and I'd rather do God's will than what makes me comfortable.

And yes, I'll take my toque! And my parka, boots, wool scarf and mittens. sigh:yukonjoe::winter:

[/quote]

Nah, no need to make it complicated. You feel strongly about doing it, so investigate it and just go do it. And it's not that untraditional, either. There are quite a few people who never get married...and quite a few people who venture out to help the needy. And quite a few people who combine the two. There isn't a ceremony for wanting to go and help people. You just do it and let everything unfold.
How old are you, if I might ask?
What an adventure it would be!
Also, since you are not feeling a pull to be a nun or anything like that...I would keep open to what does come your way. Maybe you are meant to go help people in some town and in the process, you meet a wonderful man who has the same passion for helping as you do. You never know.
And, by the way, it might be something you do for a while...and then it steers you onto another path. It's all good.
The point is to follow your passion for it.

:-)


#7

[quote="clarkest, post:1, topic:319067"]
So, I know there are lots of people in the past who have lived among the poor, but they ended up starting a religious order.

[/quote]

There are far more of us that have lived among the poor who have founded nothing.

[quote="clarkest, post:1, topic:319067"]
I don't want to live in a convent and minister to the poor as a sister. I want to live with them, among them. Celibate.

[/quote]

To what ends? What do you think you will accomplish by doing this? It is far easier to lift a drowning victim out of the water by standing on the shore and reaching down, than by jumping in and treading water yourself.

The only impact you may make (and it is no small one) may be with yourself. You may need to assuage a guilty conscience or the like; in which case this could be very cathartic for you, but I have a lot of trouble understanding how you think you can do anything for others when you are poor, yourself.

I don't mean to sound harsh. Perhaps I'm missing something.

[quote="clarkest, post:1, topic:319067"]
First I'm wondering about safety, seeing as I'm a young woman.

[/quote]

This is no small issue. Your safety is profoundly at risk. The streets are more cruel than anyone who has not been there can imagine. ... When I think back to the scrapes I barely made it out of ... Grace should never be discounted, but please don't make the mistake of testing God's providence.

[quote="clarkest, post:1, topic:319067"]
I keep saying to myself "it's easy, just follow God. Wherever he leads" but I just don't know if this is practical.

[/quote]

How on Earth do you know that God is the one leading you? It sounds very suspect if it the course of action, if the path youare being lead down, does not lead to His glory.

[quote="clarkest, post:1, topic:319067"]
I'm obviously in no position to preach or anything like that. All I can see is being one of them, being Christ-like among them,

[/quote]

All Christ did was glorify God the Father through love, yes, but through non-stop preaching in actions if not always words.

[quote="clarkest, post:1, topic:319067"]
SO my question, really, is this: do vocations HAVE to have a sort of ceremony?

[/quote]

No. Most do not. My current vocation is "mommy" and there was really no ceremony for that.

[quote="clarkest, post:1, topic:319067"]
So... is this even possible? Thanks!

[/quote]

Think of this logically, you seem to be asking for confirmation that you are part of something bigger by setting off on your own. It doesn't follow. Do you see?

Some of us need to go through these trials in life to gain perspective so that we may help others down the road.

Personally, I was referring to my own motives above and, again, don't mean to come off as harsh (I do not discount that I may be completely missing the point here), but I think it is only fair to help you be honest with yourself about what you intend/expect with this.

-Carol


#8

[quote="InspiritCarol, post:7, topic:319067"]

To what ends? What do you think you will accomplish by doing this? It is far easier to lift a drowning victim out of the water by standing on the shore and reaching down, than by jumping in and treading water yourself.
-Carol

[/quote]

.
I don't think she's saying she's intends to live on the street like a homeless vagrant. I think she's saying she wants to help people, but does *not *want to be a nun and live in a convent to do so.

.


#9

[quote="Pilosopo, post:5, topic:319067"]
You'll need a devil's advocate.... like:
It's dangerous... what are you, crazy?? You're young... what about a family?.... You can't do it alone! Don't do it!.... what about your family?? and your boyfriend? Or the guy who could be your boyfriend? Won't you be lonely? Who do you think you are??

And all that... Hey, all the best.

[/quote]

Yeah. I've already decided I don't want to marry and haven't been on a date in eight years. That is a non-issue. Who do I think I am? Just a nobody, but a nobody who God has some sort of plan for.

[quote="DaddyGirl, post:6, topic:319067"]

How old are you, if I might ask?
What an adventure it would be!
Also, since you are not feeling a pull to be a nun or anything like that...I would keep open to what does come your way. Maybe you are meant to go help people in some town and in the process, you meet a wonderful man who has the same passion for helping as you do. You never know.
And, by the way, it might be something you do for a while...and then it steers you onto another path. It's all good.
The point is to follow your passion for it.

:-)

[/quote]

I'm 25. And you make a good point about keeping open about what comes my way. Yes, a very good point.

[quote="InspiritCarol, post:7, topic:319067"]

To what ends? What do you think you will accomplish by doing this?. . . The only impact you may make (and it is no small one) may be with yourself.. . .Your safety is profoundly at risk. The streets are more cruel than anyone who has not been there can imagine.. . .How on Earth do you know that God is the one leading you? It sounds very suspect if it the course of action, if the path youare being lead down, does not lead to His glory.. . .No. Most do not. My current vocation is "mommy" and there was really no ceremony for that.. . .Think of this logically, you seem to be asking for confirmation that you are part of something bigger by setting off on your own. It doesn't follow. Do you see?. . . it is only fair to help you be honest with yourself about what you intend/expect with this.

[/quote]

Honestly, I don't know to what end. I don't know what I'll accomplish, but I'm currently a university student and am, in the eyes of the world, accomplishing a lot and I really don't care about these sorts of achievements. I don't care if people see no value in what I do with my life, I just want to do His will. I don't know what impact I'll make in the lives of others. I see this desire as a continuation and deepening of volunteering with organizations that help the poor.

How do I know it is God leading me? Well, I don't discount that I'm being deceived, but I'm pretty sure God is pulling me towards something in this. What that something is, I'm not sure. But God wanted me to volunteer at soup kitchens. How do I know that? Before I started volunteering I saw the need and felt a strong desire to do it, and after examining the motives there was nothing bad so I went ahead, and now in hind sight I see all the fruit that has come of it in my own life and in others. IMO the true test of whether something is God's will or not is the fruit that comes from it. It's harder to tell what's God's will and what isn't when you're just starting, but everything is clear in hind sight. I feel so much joy and peace at the soup kitchens and I love the people we serve and feel a huge pull to eat with them and walk out the door and live among them. I don't know how I'll help. I just want to love them more and be a light to them. I want to give myself fully to Christ by giving myself to them. I won't do this without much input from others, especially my spiritual director, my mother and two holy priests I know.

Yes, the streets are cruel. I'm afraid because I know I won't always be safe. But I don't want to not do something because I'm afraid. I don't want to live by fear. But I don't want to neglect my safety either. As for your vocation as mommy which didn't follow a ceremony, normally marriage precedes mommyhood.

No, I don't see. I'm asking for other people's input because they'll ask questions and present this in ways I wouldn't have thought of, because we don't all think the same. Your reply did seem a little harsh, but that's okay. I hope more people ask tough questions. Thank you for responding!


#10

[quote="DaddyGirl, post:8, topic:319067"]
.
I don't think she's saying she's intends to live on the street like a homeless vagrant.

.

[/quote]

I was thinking of living among them. But I'm not sold on that. I want to give myself to them more and that's the only idea that has had a lasting draw for me. Or perhaps not homeless, live in a very very cheap apartment in the slums or something. I'm not sure. But where the needy and rejected live.


#11

I haven’t read all posts - in a hurry …what’s new!!! :slight_smile:

I lived under private vows alone in a suburb beset by poverty and every social problem imaginable. I didn’t plan it. I found myself ill and homeless and after 6 years wandering the government authority finally assigned me a residence - in the very poor suburb I just mentioned and I lived there for 30 years. I wasn’t raised with a silver spoon in my mouth by a very long shot, a very long one - but I was raised in a refined and gentle home although a poor one. I married (annulled many years ago now)and we made a lot of money in business. I had no idea what lay ahead of me, certainly not divorce, mental illness and homeless poverty.
After adjusting to what my psychiatrist called "culture shock’ (took a few years) I became one of them and I loved each and every last one of them with my whole heart and soul. And now the government authority has shifted me mandatorily into a rather affluent suburb, I miss them all dreadfully and am still a little lost here.
Very definitely, one can live celibate amongst the poor. It may not be easy at times with many a problem - but “if God is with us, who can be against us”. Seek a good spiritual director and on an ongoing basis. When I look back on my 30 year journey with my own ‘babes’ (I used to call them “my babies”), I was in many a dangerous situation and rather walked through it all singing like the three brothers in the fiery furnace. I shudder when I look back on those times. I was only in my early 30’s when I shifted into that poor suburb after homelessness and totally unprepared in every way for what I was to face. But The Lord called me and He guided and protected me. Was overwhelmingly Merciful on my many exceptional faults and failings.
As for what you can do among them. I found that The Lord presented me at the time with opportunities a plenty. Most often, it was just to be me with a really caring ear - a listener. At times I cooked for some, I gave some a bed for a period if in their own dire straights. Lent money if I had it - or gave food if I had it. The Lord will show you the way if this is His call to you…
…BUT PLEASE…Do seek a good spiritual director if you do really want to go ahead with your desire - and direction on an ongoing basis.

A very holy priest once said to me "God will always grant all the necessary Graces at THE ACTUAL TIME. He may not however, grant the Grace to deal with one’s imagination (fears for the future). Try not to cross bridges before they are actually there in reality and need to be crossed, then “put your hand in The Hand of The Man who stilled the waters”. God bless you richly.

. I want to give myself fully to Christ by giving myself to them. I won’t do this without much input from others, especially my spiritual director, my mother and two holy priests I know.

You are on a safe path - providing you are docile under spiritual direction and share any advice from others with your director. Sometimes seeking advice from others and they may be very holy can confuse an issue with conflicting opinions. Always share advice from others with your director who has charge of your soul insofar as spiritual direction is concerned. And direction is just what it means i.e. “head that way” (in that direction)
Catholic Discussion sites can be an absolulte wealth of good information and good advice. They can also be a source of not so good information and not so good advice.


#12

[quote="robwar, post:2, topic:319067"]
I believe there are consecrated virgins, I would google it. They are women mostly and are not in a religious group but have consecrated themselves to the Church and virginity in service like you are doing. They take a vow of consecration and then live out their calling in service. Sounds like you are doing wonderful work. God Bless what you are doing.

[/quote]

Consecrated virgins don't take vows. They are consecrated to a life of perpetual virginity. Vows can be undone, consecration can't be.


#13

To share a funny story with you. I was in a potentially dangerous situation once and rang a contemplative prioress I know very well asking her to pray for me.

She "Oh, you might be another Charles de Foucauld"
Me “What do you mean, Sister” (at the time, I knew almost nothing about him)
She "Murdered by the ones he tried to save"
Me “Ahhh geee thanks, Sister. Just what I needed to give me much courage!”
…we laughed…
I came through it all ok, but it was a bit hair raising at times - and murder was never on the cards that I know of anyway. But at least Sister got me laughing.

Another time I rang her for prayer. I was so miserable and depressed about something or other and commented:
"I have never felt so depressed in my whole life"
Sister: "Oh booo hooo"
We laughed. She got me laughing again

I developed a saying for myself “Keep working on it, kid, until you start to laugh” (or “dont take myself too seriously, nor the situation either” Joy is one of the fruits of The Holy Spirit of which healthy, joyful, laughter is a part.)


#14

Bravo and stay safe and heed not the long knives.. Holy Woman of God! Blessings and peace


#15

[quote="clarkest, post:10, topic:319067"]
I was thinking of living among them. But I'm not sold on that. I want to give myself to them more and that's the only idea that has had a lasting draw for me. Or perhaps not homeless, live in a very very cheap apartment in the slums or something. I'm not sure. But where the needy and rejected live.

[/quote]

Can you maybe PM me.. thank you


#16

I like the idea of living in a fairly cheap apartment while you help the poor who live there and near to there. Do you plan on having a job that will cover the bills but leave enough time for those you want to help? PM me also if you have any questions. I, too, have been living on a low income, in public housing. And once I came awfully close to being homeless. Something I wish I could have avoided, and I sure do wish that someone had come along to at least given me some emotional help. Words of encouragement would have been a real blessing.


#17

[quote="Christy_Beth, post:16, topic:319067"]
I like the idea of living in a fairly cheap apartment while you help the poor who live there and near to there. Do you plan on having a job that will cover the bills but leave enough time for those you want to help? PM me also if you have any questions. I, too, have been living on a low income, in public housing. And once I came awfully close to being homeless. Something I wish I could have avoided, and I sure do wish that someone had come along to at least given me some emotional help. Words of encouragement would have been a real blessing.

[/quote]

I have been working as an aid nursing homes and for a private home health care company. I'm thinking, if I keep a job I'll keep the home health care position because the hours are so flexible. But I'm not sure if I even want a job at all. Whatever God's wants. If this job or another is how God provides for the bills if a choose a cheap apartment, then great.


#18

[quote="Deo_Gratias42, post:12, topic:319067"]
Consecrated virgins don't take vows. They are consecrated to a life of perpetual virginity. Vows can be undone, consecration can't be.

[/quote]

Ok, but I've seen the ceremonies on TV and it looks very much like a wedding without the groom because the groom is Christ. I recommended consecrated virgins because that would be support for the OP in doing what she is doing. Christ sent out the disciples by the twos for a reason, they offer each other support in their ministries and the OP's work and desire is very admirable and a consecrated ceremony would just add more graces and support. Whether you want to split hairs over vow or consecration is immaterial here. Instead of being alone, she would have others to refer back to and get support, which I'm sure she could use.
I think what OP desires to do is wonderful answer to God's calling on her life.


#19

Afterthought…

There is a part of you that must do this because of the “us and them” mentality I see throughout these posts.

There is no “them” you see… “the poor” are just people the same as you and me.

When Jesus said “you will always have the poor” he wasn’t making some proclaimation of doom. He was noting the inescapable aspect of our humanity that leads us down wrong paths, or that holds us hostage to our environment.

It seems like you think you are better than “the poor” (maybe you are IDK); somehow seperate from “them”. And you seem to think that your presence among them will somehow help them. I have met many who think this way … it’s almost cliche.

Check out Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild” as one example.

I recently had to take out a stalking order against a woman who had “followed where the ‘Spirit’ led her” for over 40 years. She had completely lost it. Her expectations of hearing from God had grown to such degrees that either her mind invented voices or demons haunted her possibly both.

“Fruits” would be a nice way to determine our paths in life, but they surely do not help us when we are making decisions in the moment. Look at the life of Joseph, son of Jacob if you have any doubt of this.

Persecution seems a better indicator. Every single Saint that comes to mind suffered horrible persecution due to their efforts to advance God’s Kingdom. Believe me, if something is telling you: do a thing and you’ll feel good; you really need to pause and take inventory.

It’s great you’re not just doing that stimulous/response thing; you’re trying to think this through; but you are heading blindly down a well worn path that has no possibility of measurable “success”. You are throwing away the gifts God gave you because you think that’s what He wants you to do. Somehow you think your mom and some priests are okay with this but you’d be wrong. They are just trying to not push you away (have you pull a Krakauer) and have you just go off on your own.

Try to see this objectively:

  • of course you felt good at the soup kitchen; everyone feels good at the soup kitchen there’s a waiting list at ours for people to help out;
  • if you keep a low paying/flexible job and live in a low-rent district, what differentiates you from every other slacker that does this same exact thing?

Please read the sincerity in my words.
I’m *not *saying: don’t do this.
I *am *saying don’t do this blindly.


#20

[quote="clarkest, post:10, topic:319067"]
I was thinking of living among them. But I'm not sold on that. I want to give myself to them more and that's the only idea that has had a lasting draw for me. Or perhaps not homeless, live in a very very cheap apartment in the slums or something. I'm not sure. But where the needy and rejected live.

[/quote]

Well, young one...there are ways of helping people and being among them, but making sure you yourself stay safe and healthy and with a roof over your head.
You can have a full-time or part-time job to pay your rent/food and live modestly and when you are not working, be helping people in a set-up volunteer sense or however you see fit--soup kitchens, shelters, etc.
You can also get an actual job that integrates helping people so that you are paid a bit as you are doing it, enough for you to take care of yourself and help others at the same time.
If you yourself end up not being able to eat or have a place to sleep or get sick, you may not be in any good shape to help anyone.
So make sure that in the process of what you are doing, you keep yourself sane and healthy and safe, else you will not be able to do what it is you set out to do, help others.

It's like in the airplane, when they tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before helping your child or a person having trouble next to you. You must make sure you are breathing before you can help others to breathe.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.