Is being single an official vocation?



Is being single an official vocation, what does Church Fathers & documents say? I’ve heard we need to make a commitment or take vows to God to no marry if we remain single, so we aren’t truly single? Please share official church teaching and links, not personal opinion.

Thank you so much!



However, as a general rule, when promoting vocations, dioceses refer only to priesthood and religious life.


It depends.

If you are single simply because you haven’t’ found Mr. or Ms. Right yet, then no.

If you make a conscious decision to remain single for the rest of your life, then yes I could be considered a vocation. Even if there isn’t a vow.


One option available to single women who truly wish to consecrated their singleness is the vocation of consecrated virginity. Consecrated Virgins are rarely spoken of in the Church - they are not to be confused with religious sisters or nuns (though women religious can also receive the consecration to virginity in addition to their religious consecration in some cases).

Simply choosing to be single on one’s own is a valid choice and could be one’s calling in life in the loose sense of the word, but it can’t really be compared to the vocation of consecrated life which is confirmed and blessed by the Church.


It is not necessary to consecrate oneself to the single life or take a vow, although consecrated single life is an option. I think that the more fundamental option is to consecrate oneself to the following of Christ through prayer, worship and service, and to dedicate ourselves to doing God’s will, wherever that leads.


There is the single life (lay celibate state) which is transitional in that those in this state are anticipating or discerning some other state in life. There is also a more permanent lay celibate state where those in this state of life feel a call and vocation to the celibate state in the laity (or the single life) and commit themselves to it in some way. This is in prudence and wisdom is best discerned with spiritual direction and on an ongoing basis.

ON NOVEMBER 21, 1964

Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification”.(215) However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others; in a very special way this (holiness) appears in the practice of the counsels, customarily called “evangelical.”*** This practice of the counsels, under the impulsion of the Holy Spirit, undertaken by many Christians, either privately or in a Church-approved condition*** or state of life, gives and must give in the world an outstanding witness and example of this same holiness.



  1. And while this perfect chastity is the subject of one of the three vows which constitute the religious state,[9] and is also required by the Latin Church of clerics in major orders[10] and demanded from members of Secular Institutes,[11] it also flourishes among many who are lay people in the full sense: ***men and women who are not constituted in a public state of perfection and yet by private promise or vow completely abstain from marriage and sexual pleasures, in order to serve their neighbor more freely and to be united with God more easily and more closely. ***


Thank you for all of the responses. Is not by definition the word vocation or calling, something which involves a direct willful faithful commitment to God in some capacity, like a giving of self to Him as a Priest or Religious, or in the Sacrament of Marriage, you are giving yourself fully to God by promising to commit faithfully to your spouse? I heard something along those lines in the past. And that single life involves no true willful faithful commitment to God as a vocation.


Thank you for sharing!!!


We are called by our baptism to holiness and to Jesus and His Gospel. This is a vocation and call. If “single life involves no true wilful faithful commitment to God as vocation” as you have stated, then it would display a very real (and very sad!) misunderstanding of Baptism. It would also be to contradict what has already been quoted in Vatican Documents. While Baptism is our vocation and call to holiness, a particular vocational call is the road or role we are to take in striving for holiness and to follow Jesus and His Gospel.

What is a Vocation? (National Office for Vocation)

The fundamental vocation is the call to be baptised or, for somebody baptised as a child, the call to affirm that baptism personally. To be baptised is to accept Christ’s call to follow him in a new way of life. This is the way of holiness; it involves loving attention to the needs of others and to Christ, strengthened by the Holy Spirit and living as an active member of the Body of Christ, the Church.** As a congress of church leaders put it: “Holiness is the universal vocation of every person. It is the main road onto which converge all the little paths that are particular vocations**.” The root meaning of vocation is calling and the first calling shared by all Christians is holiness as a member of the Church.

Once a person takes seriously their personal call to holiness, then the other dimensions of Christian vocation are opened up. Another dimension is the state of life to which Christ calls people.** There are four basic states of life within the Catholic Church: marriage, consecrated life, priesthood and the single state as a lay person. Each of these is demanding and people need help to discern which of these Christ is calling them to.**


I don’t believe it is. It is a state in life that some may unwillingly end up in, so that doesn’t make it a true primary vocation.


The primary vocation is the general call to holiness, to follow Jesus and His Gospel. The particular and personal vocation is the role or road to adopt in striving for holiness and to follow Jesus and His Gospel.

Without quotations, personal concepts are just that and valid as personal concepts only, but not necessarily at all the teaching by the Universal Church. Your personal concept above is not a teaching of The Church. If one is unwillingly in the lay celibate or single state, then one is in need of spiritual direction.

If one finds oneself in the single celibate lay state, but does not want to be there, nor can grasp it as a vocation and call to holiness and in a specific manner as outlined in Lumen Gentium, then spiritual direction is needed. Lumen Gentium (“Dogmatic Constitution on The Church”) is very clear re the Laity and their vocation. Scroll down to Paragraph 32, Chapter IV “The Laity” and much too long to quote here in full. I am quoting only in part. If required, I can quote too a Papal Document
prior to VaticanII.
ON NOVEMBER 21, 1964
But the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven**. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer./****

  1. By divine institution Holy Church is ordered and governed with a wonderful diversity. “For just as in one body we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another”.(191**) Therefore, the chosen People of God is one: “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”(192); sharing a common dignity as members from their regeneration in Christ, having the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection****; possessing in common one salvation, one hope and one undivided charity. There is, therefore, in Christ and in the Church no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex, because “there is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all ‘one’ in Christ Jesus”.(193)

Also refer to “Christifideles Laici” “The VOCATION and Mission of The Laity” which is a whole Vatican Document dedicated to the vocation of the laity. This document mentions celibate laity (the single life) in several


Thank you for clarifying… Living out our baptismal vows is every Christians’ vocation, but further in we find one of the four paths that leads us deeper into that very same vocation. Sound right?




This is always a troubling question, one on which there are many divergences of opinion. I think the lynchpin here is what you might mean by “official.” By this, are you asking if an entry is made in a parish register and a certificate issued stating the fact that one is unmarried? Of course not. Are you asking if one is in a canonically irregular state if he remains an unconsecrated lay celibate after a certain age? No, not at all.

So maybe it would be good to elaborate upon what you are trying to get at.


Baptism is a consecration. Marriage is a special state of life in the laity and is a Sacrament.
Catholic Catechism #1294: Anointing with oil has all these meanings in the sacramental life. The pre-baptismal anointing with the oil of catechumens signifies cleansing and strengthening; the anointing of the sick expresses healing and comfort. The post-baptismal anointing with sacred chrism in Confirmation and ordination is the sign of consecration. By Confirmation Christians, that is, those who are anointed, share more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit with which he is filled, so that their lives may give off “the aroma of Christ.”

We are in a consecrated state through baptism, consecrated into the lay state and insofar as one is not married, consecrated into the lay celibate state. Holy Orders consecrates a man into the clerical state of life and the various forms of consecrated life, consecrate members into the consecrated state of life. But our baptism and confirmation is a consecration into the lay state and we have a Document out of Rome “The Vocation and Mission of The Laity”
This is one of the things that came out powerfully from Vatican II. That the lay state is a quite specific state of life in The Church and a vocation and call from God. We have a call to temporal and secular affairs and life and to be a leaven in the mix for Jesus and His Gospel. For some this may be transitory as they discern or anticipate a call to another state of life. For some, however, a call is experienced to remain in the lay state with its attendant duties and responsibilities. One would be unwise, I think, to embrace the lay state as their call and vocation in life without sound spiritual direction and on an ongoing basis. It is not at all an easy road, not the least because the lay celibate state as one’s life vocation still struggles to be recognised and valued in Catholic cultural consciousness - though it is very valid theologically and recognised by The Church as valid theologically.


I believe the single life is our default. No one is born already married or born a priest. Everyone is called to live the Catholic life. From there we may be called to the religious life, ordained life, or married life. But we should be living the Catholic life no matter what. I always tell my friends who are dating and are good practicing Catholics, “If you’re not married you’re single,” or “Until you receive the Sacrament of Marriage you’re still single.” If everyone lived by that idea there would be less co-habitation and less premarital sex. We should see our greatest vocation as the Catholic life, and be good practicing single Catholics until we are called to another vocation (if we are called to another vocation).

It’s true. The unconsecrated single life is not a vocation, as the Catholic Church formally defines it. But that’s not to say we’re “vocation-less,” or that we’re any less important in the life of the Church, or any less worthwhile in the eyes of God, or any other conclusions you may draw.

Is Single Life a Vocation?
Posted January 5, 2014 by Mary Beth Bonacci

But none of that raises unconsecrated singleness to the level of a “vocation.”
Why not? Traditionally, “vocation” has been understood to indicate a call from God – and a subsequent public vow – to completely give oneself and one’s life to someone (or Someone, as the case may be.) As the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes says, man finds himself only in a sincere gift of himself. And just plain old singleness doesn’t do that. Not that single people can’t be giving people. In fact, unmarried people are often among the most giving, generous people I know. But we haven’t taken a vow or formally given our lives to someone – and that, in the strictest sense, is the definition of a vocation.

“Called to Singlehood?”
By Mary Beth Bonacci


One thing (besides other things) that becomes glaringly obvious for those who contest that lay celibacy or the single life (i.e. baptism into the lay state of life) can be a vocation is where those who may have an illness or some other impediment to the various states in The Church are left floundering without a vocation. They are not, in truth, because our baptism is a call and vocation to follow Jesus and His Gospel. Further, our baptism and consecration with anointing is always a very public ceremony and consecration in The Church. It is a specific call to the temporal and the secular and to be leaven in the mix, unless a call is experienced into another state of life in The Church.

Vatican II has made the call to the lay state very clear in its duties and obligations as a state in life and vocation, which I have quoted in this thread previously - i.e. “The VOCATION and Mission of the Laity”

Our baptism is not something that happened willy-nilly as it were - a situation that came about because of our parents or some other circumstance or incidental factor. The theological truth is that we are baptised because we are chosen and anointed by God to go forth (mission). For some, this may mean a call into another state of life. But it is “for some” and not for all without exemption and nowhere whatsoever has The Church stated that it must be for all - rather to the contrary especially since Vatican II.

There are four distinct states of life in The Church and She has written about each of them: priesthood, consecrated life, married life and lay celibacy in the laity. Each of these states of life is covered in Canon Law
That truth is that every baptized Christian has a vocation and a role to play in the missionary work of the Church. Every Baptized Christian is called to follow the Lord - and not just once, but repeatedly. Our response to the call can express itself in various ways, states in life and even evolve over a lifetime. However, we are all called into the Vineyard of the Lord.

Here is a good post from Sr. Laurel Er Dio from Phatmass Phorum on the subject of baptism as vocation:


Exactly right, and not really off-topic I don’t think. Baptism represents a public commitment and consecration. I would suggest that the failure to take Baptism seriously as an exhaustive call to holiness is not due only to the laity’s failure, but has been the fault of the Church (hierarchy, theologians, etc) which really nutured the laity’s tendencies here. The tendency to hierarchilize everything has not served the Church well. Most of the time it is an entirely too-worldly (non Jesuan) way of thinking or proceeding. We have tended to reflect on and esteem the gifts of certain vocations at the expense of others. In the main this has happened because of a Greek way of thinking about reality which has permeated Catholic thought and which actually stands in direct conflict with Jesus’ (and more Semitic) paradoxical way of seeing reality.

In this thread there is a sometimes tacit and sometimes more blatant tendency to disparage vocations to secularity — as though those conflict with consecrated standing. They don’t. One of the second Vatican Council’s greatest contributions was it’s clear teaching on the universal call to holiness. We need to take that with absolute seriousness, just as we take the saeculum as the primary place people are called to work towards the Kingdom.


Sister Laurel M O’Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Diocese of Oakland

And here is a quote from Pope Pius XII (before Vatican II)


  1. And while this perfect chastity is the subject of one of the three vows which constitute the religious state,[9] and is also required by the Latin Church of clerics in major orders[10] and demanded from members of Secular Institutes,[11] ***it also flourishes among many who are lay people in the full sense: men and women who are not constituted in a public state of perfection and yet by private promise or vow completely abstain from marriage and sexual pleasures, in order to serve their neighbor more freely and to be united with God more easily and more closely. ***
  1. To all of these beloved sons and daughters who in any way have consecrated their bodies and souls to God, We address Ourselves, and exhort them earnestly to strengthen their holy resolution and be faithful to it.

  2. However, since there are some who, straying from the right path in this matter, so exalt marriage as to rank it ahead of virginity and thus depreciate chastity consecrated to God and clerical celibacy, Our apostolic duty demands that We now in a particular manner declare and uphold the Church’s teaching on the sublime state of virginity, and so defend Catholic truth against these errors.


Those who may have some illness or impediment that precludes them from any state of life except the laity, and not their choice or desire at all, have a quite specific and very valuable call and vocation in the life of The Church - that of suffering born as well as one can for the Love of God and neighbour. It was known pre Vatican II as “The Apostolate of The Sick” and those suffering. We do not hear anything about it nowadays to my knowledge but the theology still is valid and applies - the theology is never dated and never can be. It is the theology of The Cross in the life of a baptised person and we see this theology lived out and exampled in the lives of our saints - we also see in their lives that suffering and The Cross can take very many forms. The underlying theology remains the same and always will be the same.



While all humans are called to holiness, that doesn’t have anything to do with singleness being a vocation. I agree with someone who described it as a “default.” Marriage, religiousb life and consecrated virginity are the only valid states in which a permanent vocation is chosen. Doesn’t mean singles are without value, but singleness is not a vocation.


So are singles who are not consecrated religuous committing mortal sin if the are not able to get married?

This is one of my chief fears. I try to look live a faithful life, following the teachings of the church, availing of the sacraments, but I will go to hell because
I was not able to get married or become a nun.

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