Is singleness a vocation?


#1

I am 45 and have never married. Because of some health problems and my age, I don't feel a call to the religious life, but I've been most happily single. Can the Lord call people to the single life?


#2

Yes, ill let others develop my answer here though.


#3

It absolutely is!

There is a great book called “To Save a Thousand Souls” by Brett Brannen. The vocation of being single is discussed. It was something I’d never really given much thought to before reading this book.


#4

Undoubtedly, The Lord could call a person to live celibate in the single or lay state of life. The Lay State is a unique state of life of its own in the life of The Church, just as with the priesthood and religious life, and with its own particular duties and responsibilitities in the life of The church - see Christifedeles Laici (vocation and mission of the laity) vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_30121988_christifideles-laici_en.html

For many reasons I tend to think that a call to the celibate lay state is not a common call and probably best discerned with spiritual direction. Increasingly, I have noticed, the single state as a potential vocation is being given mention on diocesan websites. It is also mentioned in some Vatican documents calling it simply "the celibate state". Private vows to the evangelical counsels in the lay celibate state is mentioned in the Apostolic Exhortation on the Consecrated Life "Vita Consecrata". This comes under the heading of thanksgiving for the consecrated life vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_25031996_vita-consecrata_en.html

Since you probably have impediments to religious life due to health - and have never felt the call to religious life in the first place, at 45 years of age and happy in the celibate lay state, it probably is your vocation and call; however, I do think that a real consciousness of a call and vocation to the celibate lay state is important (as consciousness of call is with any vocation) and probably spiritual direction can help you along this path. In fact, for any person who takes their Baptism seriously along with The Gospel and a committed spiritual life, spiritual direction is absolute gold and almost an absolute necessity. Pope Benedict not all that long ago recommended spiritual direction for the laity also.

There is a vast difference between the celibate lay state as a 'default position' anticipating a further call from God to some other state in life - and a real consciousness of being called to the celibate lay state in life and as one's call and vocation from God.


#5

Third Orders and other organizations within The Church would enable one to retain single lay celibate status and it might be worthwhile considering them - at least considering. It is in this that spiritual direction would also be a great guide and insight.


#6

I treasure the fact that singleness is a valued and honoured vocation within our church.

I once attended a Brethren church, where, as a 50 year old single woman, I was not allowed to Greet at the Door ( not married), sing in the choir (too old to be seen with the rest of the singers), join the prayers of the faithful (women not allowed to speak in church), or run the Singles Group (not married!!!!!!!!). I didn't stay long!!!


#7

[quote="TiggerS, post:5, topic:315243"]
Third Orders and other organizations within The Church would enable one to retain single lay celibate status and it might be worthwhile considering them - at least considering. It is in this that spiritual direction would also be a great guide and insight.

[/quote]

Another option I omitted to mention is perhaps Consecrated Virginity if one is still a physical virgin. I dont know a great deal about this vocation, but you wil find much information here: consecratedvirgins.org/

While The Order of Virgins (consecrated virginity) is a form of consecrated life per se (but not religious life per se), one does remain in one's own home, supporting oneself in every way and one's vocation is to secular life. The consecration is in the authority and hands one's diocesan bishop. Much more than that, I do not know - that I have retained in memory anyway.


#8

Thanks everyone for your great responses.


#9

[quote="TiggerS, post:7, topic:315243"]
Another option I omitted to mention is perhaps Consecrated Virginity if one is still a physical virgin. I dont know a great deal about this vocation, but you wil find much information here: consecratedvirgins.org/

While The Order of Virgins (consecrated virginity) is a form of consecrated life per se (but not religious life per se), one does remain in one's own home, supporting oneself in every way and one's vocation is to secular life. The consecration is in the authority and hands one's diocesan bishop. Much more than that, I do not know - that I have retained in memory anyway.

[/quote]

I am currently in the discernment process for this vocation with a spiritual director. This is a very specific public vocation. There seems to be some confusion with people, including priests, who treat it like a fall-back vocation when nothing else works. (Ie: "I'm past my prime and still a virgin. Marriage doesn't look viable, nor does religious life. I guess I should become a consecrated virgin. Yay!) Even my vocations director discouraged me from discerning this because I'm "still very young (I'm almost 30, and won't even be petitioning the bishop until I'm at least 32) and there is plenty of time to find Mr. Right." :rolleyes: Nevermind the fact that I've been hearing a call to this vocation for over a year, and my faith experiences have lead me to strongly believe that I have been called by Christ to be his spouse and spend my life dedicated to the Church praying and doing penance for priests, particularly lukewarm and/or wayward priests, particularly those who committed very grave sins, and those who seem deluded and lost in their vocation (Ie:those who think their vocation to the priesthood is on par with Protestant preachers.) Enough about me though.

If one believes one is being called by Christ to be his spouse and has no impediments from receiving the consecration, then by all means discern it. But it is not an easy vocation from my reading and studying of the discernment guide, as well as what all the Church Fathers have written on it (and they've written a lot). Like the priesthood, it is a life of sacrifice, prayer, and penance, as the Spouse of Christ, and as such, you suffer what He suffers, while still living in the world fully supporting yourself somehow.

I don't mean to sound discouraging, but people just need to be aware that this is a public vocation and a serious life commitment. It's not something that should be done on the whim, or done just because nothing else worked. There are other options such as private vows, or secular institutes.


#10

Absolutely, a vocation and call from God is not something to be treated lightly. It is a quite serious matter and asks careful and prayerful discerning - and ideally with spiritual direction. Such discerning also asks that one fully understands to what one would be committing.
I would certainly hope that any vocation and call from God would be lived out with serious application and commitment, whether it is a call to public consecration or not. If God is calling one, one can be assured of His Grace in all things.
From my own reading, Consecration to Virginity is not at all an easy road and there seems to be a fair bit of discussion even disagreement about it. The final discerning as to whether one does have a call and vocation to the life of virginity and Consecrated Virginity is the decision of one’s diocesan bishop. Once discerned with diocesan confirmation, one can be absolutely confident that The Grace of God will be with the person in their journey as Consecrated Virgin - or to whatever vocation one is called.
The Church is the Spouse of Christ and therefore every baptised member is His Spouse since The Church is its’ members and by virtue of their baptism into Christ and His Mystical Body on earth.
Some are called to a quite public witness to the Spousal nature of The Church to Christ and this occurs with public consecration by The Church.

lst Corinthians Ch12 "[26] And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it. [27] Now you are the body of Christ, and members of member. [28] And God indeed hath set some in the church; first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly doctors; after that miracles; then the graces of healing, helps, governments, kinds of tongues, interpretations of speeches. [29] Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all doctors? [30] Are all workers of miracles? Have all the grace of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

There seems to me to be much individualism in The Church and perhaps particularly in the matter of one’s personal vocation and role in The Church. The above quotation illustrates that we are not an “I and me” - but a “we and us” and we all share in each others sufferings and holiness. Just as we all share in the shortcomings and failings of each member. Holiness in an individual builds up His Body on earth, just as our failings and shortcomings detract from it. Pope Benedict stated not long ago that the only thing we need fear are sins and sinfulness IN The Church. Each of us has been called to different role in The Church building up the Body of Christ on earth and what is most important in all things is fulfillment of The Will of God no matter what this might be. To be not inflated nor deflated because of one’s particular call from God, rather humbled to the dust to be called in the first place and by Baptism to a particular role in the Life of The Church. The credit and glory is all to God’s Will always inspired, motivated and supported in us by His Grace. All credit and glory to God in all things most minute and most great. The Lord is calling each of the baptised to holiness and will grant all The Graces necessary to achieve that holiness for the good of His Body, The Church - and in whichever journey of life to which we are called.
We need a shift of consciousness in The Church to my mind from “I and me” to “we and us”. Through baptism we are all members of each other.


#11

Philippians Chapter 2
Let nothing be done through contention, neither by vain glory: but in humility, let each esteem others better than themselves: [4] Each one not considering the things that are his own, but those that are other men's. [5] For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
[6] Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: [7] But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. [8] He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. [9] For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names:

Jesus in His own life here on earth does not advertise nor claim the Glory that is rightly His. Rather he totally humbles Himself and as one of the least of His creation and lives out His life amongst the most humble including prostitutes, sinners and social outcasts.


#12

I think there are many ways to serve the Lord as a single person. I’m not eligible for the consecrated virgins route, but I might consider a third order or secular institute. I will continue to pray. Thanks everyone for your great responses.


#13

God bless your discerning.


#14

[quote="Lisa1967, post:12, topic:315243"]
I think there are many ways to serve the Lord as a single person. I'm not eligible for the consecrated virgins route, but I might consider a third order or secular institute. I will continue to pray. Thanks everyone for your great responses.

[/quote]

Thank you for starting such a wonderful thread.


#15

You’re welcome!

Thanks to all who have responded–please keep the responses coming.


#16

[quote="Lisa1967, post:1, topic:315243"]
I am 45 and have never married. Because of some health problems and my age, I don't feel a call to the religious life, but I've been most happily single. Can the Lord call people to the single life?

[/quote]


#17

[quote="mtngal25, post:16, topic:315243"]

[/quote]

Singleness can be a vocation but the way it works for most of us is that most of us start out wanting to get married, however, due to certain circumstances or not meeting the right person, we end up single even if we did not plan it so. I look at it as a situation we can make the best of by realizing that sometimes God chooses for us some of our paths to walk. He knows what is best for us even better than we do and the only way I was able to handle the single situation was to leave my life in the hands of God, pray for His help, and accept His plan in my life. Now I know I can be a good friend to others and have the time to help others that family people may not have. I have a purpose as a single person to reach out to others in a deep way. We are all one big spiritual family as Catholics and we can make the best of our situation by keeping a positive attitude and realize that if we could not meet someone who could help us get to heaven, then we are better off without them. Singleness is a situation, our vocations are being the best nurse we can be, the best friend we can be or the best in whatever work we have to do. Our goal is heaven so let's work to get there single or married.


#18

I don't think it is a vocation the way being called to the priesthood, religious life, consecrated virginity or marriage is. It's talked about as a vocation but I haven't seen any document that discusses it the way the vocations I listed above are discussed.

I think it's good that vocations are being encouraged and talked about but it seems that there is another vocations crisis brewing: what does it mean if my vocation is not fulfilled? Singles can feel invisible or that we are "less than" if we are single longer that we like. And it clearly makes other people nervous, too. We're not weird: we have a "vocation". Please. :rolleyes: (Don't take offence: I suddenly got riled up.) :o

By the way, I think that people who identify as gay and lesbian may have vocations to marriage or the religious life that may not happen for specific reasons. That it doesn't happen is okay. It can smart a bit for sure but it doesn't make a person as mntgal25 said, we have a purpose.

:popcorn:


#19

[quote="Bruised_Reed, post:18, topic:315243"]
By the way, I think that people who identify as gay and lesbian may have vocations to marriage or the religious life that may not happen for specific reasons.

[/quote]

How could a gay person have a vocation to marriage? They're gay. They'd be lying to their future spouse saying they're attracted to him/her. I don't think a gay man would be able to have sex with a woman without fantasizing about some guy... he's not attracted to women and so would not be turned on by his wife at all. Not her fault, just the way he is.


#20

The Church does not formally to date refer to a "single vocation" rather to the "celibate state".

"Single" is probably more a cultural term than a term The Church would use for the celibate lay state in life.
Those who are living single are in the celibate state of life and can, in potential, be called to the celibate lay state for life. This is not the single lay state which is a default position as it were awaiting a call from God to another state in life, rather it is a call to live in the celibate lay state as one's vocation in life and "for the sake of The Kingdom". I think that it does need to be stessed that where "single life" is concerned that as a vocation it needs to be consciously embraced as a call and vocation from The Lord and for the sake of The Gospel and The Church.

Certainly Vita Consecrata mentions under "Thanksgiving for The Consecrated Life" :

VITA CONSECRATA (The Consecrated Life)
"We are all aware of the treasure which the gift of the consecrated life in the variety of its charisms and institutions represents for the ecclesial community. Together let us thank God *for the Religious Orders and Institutes devoted to contemplation or the works of the apostolate, for Societies of Apostolic Life, for Secular Institutes and for other groups of consecrated persons, **as well as for all those individuals who, in their inmost hearts, dedicate themselves to God by a special consecration."*

CCC 945 Already destined for him through Baptism, the person who surrenders himself to the God he loves above all else thereby consecrates himself more intimately to God's service and to the good of the whole Church.

catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=32393 CELIBACY:The state of being unmarried and, in Church usage, of one who has never been married. Catholicism distinguishes between lay and ecclesiastical celibacy, and in both cases a person freely chooses for religious reasons to remain celibate.

Lay celibacy was practiced already in the early Church. The men were called "the continent" (continentes) and women "virgins" (virgines). They were also known as ascetics who were encouraged to follow this form of life by St. Paul. According to the Apostle, "An unmarried man can devote himself to the Lord's affairs, all he need worry about is pleasing the Lord . . . In the same way an unmarried woman, like a young girl, can devote herself to the Lord's affairs; all she need worry about is being holy in body and spirit" (I Corinthians 7:32, 34).
Throughout history the Church has fostered a celibate life in the lay state. Towering among the means of sanctity available to the laity, declared the Second Vatican Council, "is** that precious gift of divine grace given to some by the Father to devote themselves to God alone more easily with an undivided heart in virginity or celibacy. This perfect continence for love of the kingdom of heaven has always been held in high esteem by the Church as a sign and stimulus of love, and as a singular source of spiritual fertility in the world" (Constitution on the Church, 42**). (My note: Lumen Gentium vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html )


Ecclesiastical celibacy was a logical development of Christ's teaching about continence (Matthew 19:10-12). The first beginnings of religious life were seen in the self-imposed practice of celibacy among men and women who wished to devote themselves to a lifetime following Christ in the practice of the evangelical counsels. Celibacy was one of the features of the earliest hermits and a requirement of the first monastic foundations under St. Pachomius (c. 290-346). Over the centuries religious celibacy has been the subject of the Church's frequent legislation. The Second Vatican Council named chastity first among the evangelical counsels to be practiced by religious and said that "It is a special symbol of heavenly benefits, and for religious it is a most effective means of dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to the divine service and the works of the apostolate' (Decree on the Up-to-date Renewal of Religious Life, 12). (Etym. Latin caelibatus, single life, celibacy.)


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