Is lay single life a vocation or is it not?


please vote on the poll

everyone seems all over the board on this one


I don’t think that reliable Catholic sources nowadays contest that the single lay state or lay celibacy can be a vocation. And if they do contest it, it is not Church Teaching at all.
The single lay celibate is a vocation because our Baptism is a vocation and call.

There are some, however, who are in the lay celibate state because they are aware of no call to any other vocation. They are failing to recognise their baptism as a vocation. Such a person probably needs spiritual direction.
We are not baptised by some ‘twist of fate’ or because our parents chose to have us baptised at some stage. We are baptised because God has called us to Catholicism and to Jesus and His Gospel - i.e. to holiness.
Any further call and vocation from God is rooted in our baptism and is the particular role or path we are to take in The Church in our journey to holiness. Such a further call is not an absolute necessity since all the means of even great holiness flow from our Baptism which is our call to holiness through faithful Catholicism and following Jesus and His Gospel.
SRLAUREL, on 20 Jan 2013 - 7:44 PM, said:

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

Here is a good article from the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia
“What is a Vocation”


Our baptism is a public consecration of The Church and vows are made, vows we renew every Easter.

Some can think that single lay celibacy in secular life is the easy road. I can assure you that it is not and that every vocation, including the baptismal vocation, will contain suffering and the cross. In some ways the single lay celibate vocation might even be more difficult and challenging than other vocations if lived with commitment and faithfulness as we are called to do. We can be assured that every vocation, no matter what it is, will have its times of consolations even great consolations, and its times of difficulty and suffering and even great difficulty and suffering. We can be assured trustfully and confidently that no matter one’s vocation, including the baptismal vocation, that God will lead one surely to holiness, even great holiness, if one is faithful to Baptismal Vows and to His many Graces, leading to holiness and even great holiness.

The otherpoint I would like to make is that one would be most unwise (Wisdom is a Gift of The Holy Spirit at Confirmation) to embrace lay celibacy in the secular state as one’s vocation and call without sound spiritual direction and on an ongoing regular basis. Pope Benedict recommended spiritual direction for all:

**Pope Recommends Spiritual Direction to Everyone

Says It Is a Way to Live Baptism Responsibly**
“As she has never failed to do, again today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction, not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord up close, but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his baptism, that is, the new life in Christ,” the Pope stated. “Everyone, in fact, and in a particular way all those who have received the divine call to a closer following, needs to be supported personally by a sure guide in doctrine and expert in the things of God.”

The Holy Father noted how a spiritual guide helps ward off subjectivist interpretations as well as providing the counseled with the guide’s “own supply of knowledge and experiences in following Jesus.”
He likened spiritual direction to the “personal relationship that the Lord had with his disciples, that special bond with which he led them, following him, to embrace the will of the Father (cf. Luke 22:42), that is, to embrace the cross**.”

As Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote, “Love makes us seek what is good; love makes us better persons. It is love that prompts men and women to marry and form a family, to have children. It is love that prompts others to embrace the consecrated life or become priests.” Each vocation challenges us to live our faith more deeply and to follow Christ more closely. Each vocation, if it is lived generously and faithfully, will then involve times of lasting happiness and reward but also suffering and sacrifice. Finally, it is important not to compare the value of different vocations but to appreciate the value of each one and to discover which one is right for you.


It’s both a vocation and a transitional period before a different vocation, if called.


Well said and quite concisely!
Baptism is a call and vocation to holiness; therefore, if one is, or is anticipating, discerning a further vocation (“transitional period”), during this transitional period, one still has a vocation and call to faithful Catholicism and the following of Jesus and His Gospel. For some, however, baptism into the lay celibate state in secular life is discerned as their life vocation - and best and most wisely only done with spiritual direction.

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.”**105

National Office for Vocation UK

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.


that’s the thing though, i don’t think many people think of lay celibacy as a vocation. and the church as a whole didn’t until quite recently. through most of its history, you didn’t really see many people coosing to be a lay single unless they wer really unab.e to marry or enter religious life.

i do not feel a call to marriage or religious life and am tired of being told that not getting married is the lazy thing to do and that not entering a convent is me missing my purpose in life.


Can you define what you mean by “lay single”? My answer depends on how you define it.


i guess you’re probably thinking along the lines of consecreated vs unconsecrated

would it wrong to remain an unconsecrated single?


I do feel for you deeply - and pray and hope that given time it will be overcome. I can bear the same problem and even by some priests.

Our situation is a matter rather wedged in Catholic cultural consciousness, but not a matter of Church Teaching either pre V2 or post V2 - Baptism always was and always will be a call to holiness and to faithful Catholicism and the following of Jesus and His Gospel. Certainly to my research anyway, this was stated by Pope Pius XII re those in the lay celibate state in secular life who make private vows, either completely secretly or witnessed in some way. It also refers to the call to all the baptised to “strive to attain this ideal of perfection”
Pope Pius XII

Address of His Holiness to the Second General Congress of the States of Perfection on December 12, 1957.
Every Christian is called upon to strive to attain this ideal of perfection with all his strength, but it is fulfilled in a more complete and certain way in the three states of perfection according to the manner described in Canon Law and in the aforementioned Apostolic Constitutions. In particular the Constitution of February 2, 1947, on “Secular Institutes” gives access to states of perfection to the greatest possible number of souls who eagerly aspire today to a more perfect life. Although this Constitution states that associations which do not meet the prescribed requirements do not constitute “states of perfection,” it does not claim in any way that there do not exist real tendencies to perfection outside the latter.

We are thinking at this moment of all those men and women from all walks of life who, assuming the most varied professions and functions in the modern world, out of love for God and in order to serve Him in their fellowmen, dedicate their person and all their activities to Him.** They pledge themselves to the practice of the evangelical counsels by private and secret vows known only to God and let themselves be guided in matters of obedience and poverty by persons whom the Church has judged fit for this purpose and to whom she has entrusted the task of directing others in the exercise of perfection.

None of the constituting elements of Christian perfection and of a real tendency to achieve it are lacking in these men and women. They therefore really take part in it although they are not committed to any juridic or canonical state of perfection.**

Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on The Church) - Post V2

ON NOVEMBER 21, 1964
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.

What I mean by “Catholic cultural consciousness” and my own term is that it is the general thinking often of Catholics. It is not, however, nor ever has been the Teaching of The Church. I think this cultural consciousness all came about pre V2 when only the priesthood and religious life were considered vocations per se - and wrongly. Marriage arrived a little later on the scene as a vocation per se. Today, it is well recognised by sound Catholic resources that the lay single state in secular life (baptismal state in life) is indeed a vocation. It can be permanent or transitory.

It is probably a burden that those in the lay single state in secular life (by vocation and choice) do bear even today in that their vocation is often criticized by those not well informed on what The Church has to teach - and this cultural consciousness of inaccuracy can be pervasive sometimes and quite general. It reflects a complete failure, to my mind, to fully understand Baptism. This failure does mean that those who have impediments to priesthood, consecrated life or marriage, do not have a vocation in life. This is plainly ridiculous and rather stupid to my mind and is really a failure to grasp the Goodness of God who loves every single person equally and would never allow any person to flounder in life without a vocation.

It is a cross and suffering we can bear even today and as best we are able.

Many Catholics do not realise that all the baptised are invited (not commanded) :

Catholic Catechism:
915 Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God.”


“Single” is a general social cultural term - in Church terms it is the lay celibate state in secular life. Both do mean the same thing although what each term may imply in society and The Church are probably totally in opposition often. Just as one example only, in general society promiscuity in single life is rather widely accepted. In The Church it most definitely is not. In the single life or lay celibacy in secular life, The Church teaches what that states i.e. celibacy.

Interestingly, Pope John Paul II did use the term “single” at least once to my research. I don’t have time just now to locate the actual quotation in my files.


I will put it this way. If someone is single and is not committed to remaining single for the sake of the kingdom, then it is not a vocation, but merely a transitory state in life.


Who is telling you that you should be a sister?


That is actually incorrect, the concept that pretty much everyone should get married is fairly new and Protestant in origin.


I was young and precocious. In 2d or 3d grade, I.was invited to a retreat with the sisters who taught at our school and the 5h and 6h graders (iirc, just the females). The topic was the “Three States in (or of?) Life.”

We had a presentation from an older married couple, a nun, and a single lady. We had Q&A, and then the normal retreat Mass.

Nope. Now that I think of it, the girls went to hear sister talk and the boys went to hear the priests. The boys also went to talk with a single lay male.

SSA wasn’t addressed; the single state of life is definitely a vocation.

Think of it this way: a married couple does not immediately become parents, and they may never have children. But they are required to be open to life.

Similarly, a single person may embrace being single as a vocation until or unless he is called to a different state in life. This person embraces this state of singleness but also may remain open to an alternate calling, unless convicted that the single state isn’t a transitory period or a period of discernment. If the call to another vocation doesn’t come, there is no shame in embracing the third state.


No. If one has not received a vocation and call to the consecrated life or state, (as defined in Canon Law) then there is no vocation to that state in life and one remains unconsecrated to that particular state in life. One is consecrated , however, and ideally living a consecrated life with baptism, which is a consecration :

**Cathlic Catechism:
#1273 **Incorporated into the Church **by Baptism, the faithful have received the sacramental character that consecrates them **for Christian religious worship.84 The baptismal seal enables and commits Christians to serve God by a vital participation in the holy liturgy of the Church and to exercise their baptismal priesthood by the witness of holy lives and practical charity.85

**#1280 **Baptism imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual sign, the character, which consecrates the baptized person for Christian worship. Because of the character Baptism cannot be repeated (cf. DS 1609 and DS 1624).

“Consecrated life” and the “consecrated state of life” are terminology or terms drawn from Canon Law and have particular and precise meanings in Canon Law, rooted in baptism, and is a further consecration to a particular state in life and as defined in Canon Law usually through particular vows.


I was raised in a very strict Catholic home and pre Vatican II. Certainly, my parents felt I must either marry or enter a convent and with my Catholic education by nuns pre Vatican II, religious life was presented as the ideal vocation for young women (priesthood for boys), or you married. I did not become aware of the lay celibate vocation in the secular state until my early 30’s roughly and only because my then spiritual director and confessor was a theologian and priest religious lecturing in my seminary who answered my quite tentative questions. I have only had a computer for around the past 10 to 12 years and it was given to me.

I am now almost 69yrs of age and the above thinking re religious life, priesthood or marriage would have been very actively presented to me probably between the ages of 11years to 17yrs of age roughly - although the above thinking re religious life, priesthood and marriage only did persevere for a while after Vatican II until the implications of The Council were more analysed and understood.

Be all the above as it may, it has never been an official Church Teaching that the lay celibate state in secular life cannot be a vocation and call from God. Some saints even theologians may have thought that it could not be a vocation. I wouldn’t know.


BarbTh, perhaps a PowerPoint chat would be in order…I get what you’re saying because I feel were on the “same wavelength” but perhaps we need a visual aid. I don’t have my laptop and am posting from my phone.

OP, please take a look at thisthi article:

God calls each of us to a particular vocation in life. The Catholic Church defines both particular vocations as three states of life: single, married, religious, and also a general vocation of all baptized believers.


Very important point. The lay celibate state in secular life even if private vows are made does remain open always to a further call to a different state in life. This is intrinsic to the lay celibate vocation and call. It is a continual openness to The Lord **wherever **He may lead.
Some, I have read, do feel that this makes the lay celibate vocation lacking in permanent commitment - and displays ignorance to my mind about permanent commitment and the lay celibate state as one’s vocation and call. One is committed and permanently and in a quite radical manner not to anything created but to The Lord Himself in His Mystery. Of course, as with all the other vocations, there are exceptions to any and all rules. We are weak and often perhaps only stumbling along human beings. I sure am anyway and constantly reminded of it daily.


I think we are on the same page too :thumbsup:

I am not too sure however that all who read this thread might be on the same page. :shrug:


I actually asked this question in the Ask an apologist forum and I was told that it was not wrong. It was one of the priests who usually answers there who answered my question.

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