Is the single life a legitimate vocation?


#1

I have heard it from Catholics whom I would consider to be reliable sources that the single life or consecrated life is a legit vocation to have and helps to build up the Church. But at the same time, I have heard others say that it is not a vocation at all. These people say that someone who has consecrated themselves can break the vows in order to get married. To me that doesnt make any sense. Can someone please shed some light on this issue for me??


#2

I used to hear more that it was a vocation, now sometimes I've heard that other argument. Whichever, it was rare to hear much about it, for example in the intercessory prayers at Mass. When I did, I would be like "Yesss! :yyeess: Someone remembered we exist!" :rolleyes:

I don't know which if either viewpoint is "official" Church teaching, or even if there is an official position. It doesn't get talked about that frequently. Guess I should look it up.

As a middle-aged lifelong single lady, I used to resent the "marginalized" sense I got; now, I'm kind of like, oh well. I know God loves me, and has a plan for me, so I try to keep focused on that and not worry about what others say - or fail to say.

CAF has been one place to connect with some other single Catholic people and swap war stories, too. I suspect many with whom I communicate are young enough to be my children, whether they suspect it or not, but that's OK. :o


#3

On the USCCB page for the past Jubilee Day for Single Persons (April 27, 2000), it includes the following definition of a "single", with bold emphasis mine:

Defining "single person" is not as easy as it may sound. Often an attempt is made to understand a single person as one who is not married, a vowed religious, or a priest. However, defining single persons by what they are not does not always speak to the diversity of the single population. Some are single by circumstance and some are single by choice. There are those who are single yet open to the prospect of marriage, priesthood, or religious life, **and there are those who feel called to live the vocation of the single life**. Some find themselves single again after separation, divorce, or death of a spouse.

Here is a prayer from that source for singles:

Prayer of a Single Person

Eternal God,
from my mother's womb
you have known and loved me
more than I can ever know.

I ask for the courage to live a holy life,
that your hand guide my decisions
and that your mercy be extended
when I seek my own glory instead of yours.

I ask for the wisdom to know your will for me,
and like our Blessed Mother,
I ask for the strength to say yes.

May I find you in every person I meet,and may my life so shine forth
your goodness and love
that each person may be led to you
through Jesus, your Son,
who is Lord, forever and ever. Amen.

You can this and other useful information here


#4

The Church does not refer to the "single life" insofar as I know, but She does refer to the "celibate life", which of course is the same thing. It is not a consecrated life, but a dedicated life.

HIS HOLINESS
JOHN PAUL II
ON THE VOCATION AND THE MISSION
OF THE LAY FAITHFUL
IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD
vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_30121988_christifideles-laici_en.html

The term secular *must be understood in light of the act of God the creator and redeemer, who has handed over the world to women and men, so that they may participate in the work of creation, free creation from the influence of sin and sanctify themselves in marriage or the celibate life*, in a family, in a profession and in the various activities of society"(39).

(formatting is mine)


#5

There is no official vocation in the Church of the single life. By that, in this thread, I think we are referring to people who intend to remain single, and for us Catholics, that means the celibate life. That's my position anyway. I believe that God has given me a clear message that He wants me to lead the single, celibate life, so that's what I decided to do. I'm too old to become a religious or priest, so the dedicated single life is my own personal vocation.

The single/celibate life has positive endorsements in the New Testament, for example, St Paul gives us an inspiring list of our advantages in serving the Lord in 1 Corinthians 7:25-35.

There should be something along the lines of a third order for the likes of us, although there are many third orders which welcome 'confirmed' singles, such as the Secular Franciscan Order.


#6

In a word, to respond to the OP's question, I say NO, the single life is not 'a vocation'. The only way it would be considered 'a vocation' is (IMHO) is if one took vows as a consecrated virgin or a hermit.

I'm single by both choice AND circumstance. I never wanted to marry at all--not interested in sex, and not interested in having children *. At 56 years of age, I'm considered 'TOO OLD' for the religious life.

I've 'been there, done that' with two Third Orders in succession-in the end neither worked out for me. Not that I was a malcontent; I walked out of the first (Franciscan) due to the direction that the group was taking, and was unable to convince them otherwise. I was asked [charitably] to leave the second (Carmelites) because I was unable to answer satisfactorily the grueling written and verbal questions that were put to me before I could make final profession. So I'm rather 'gun-shy' when it comes to groups.

That doesn't leave much left for me life-wise. I live by myself, and am involved only in Perpetual Adoration and the Latin Mass.

Sometimes I get frustrated because there is so little said in the Church about 'ordinary every day' single Catholics. They only pay attention to the 'leaders' and the 'initiators' of projects and apostolates (I refuse to call them 'ministries') who get their names in the media. Those of us singles who 'stay under the radar' and live a quiet, humble and hidden life are 'benignly ignored and benevolently neglected'....in other words, 'out of sight, out of mind'

Luckily I go to the TLM exclusively, so I don't have to endure the 'fawning over' of the married folks on World Marriage Day; I've sat through more than my share of Masses on that day, sitting in a pew alone and listening to the priest praising marriage to the skies. One time I was tempted to stand up during a sermon done by the then-pastor of the parish I was in at the time to say, 'Padre-what do YOU know about married life? You're celibate!' But of course, I didn't--yet I really wanted to!

Sorry for the rant...I'm tired at this stage of life. I really wish, when I think like this, that God would take me out of this miserable and sad earth. It gets harder and harder the older I become... Feel like '***' today...


#7

I've come to the point where I can "offer it up" and forgive the failure of mention. Not recognition or acclaim - just simple recognition of existence - that we "generic," non-consecrated singles get most of the time in parish life. If nothing else, offering it up might get us out of a bit of purgatory! :yup:

Thoughtlessness is all around us in society in many forms. It doesn't even mean rude thoughtlessness necessarily. Simply failure to think of someone or something.

Thanks to Musicadmirer and TiggerS for finding the sources of information that were tugging at the edge of my mind and sharing them.

I've thought about consecrations and Third Orders and in some ways they sound appealing but I have some complicating factors that may make me unable to fulfill the obligations. So I'd probably just study a spirituality that draws me on my own or with an informal group of friends also interested.

And I think God needs some of us plain-Jane singles around anyway - we can be versatile; He puts opportunities in my path to help others, and He sends me wonderful people who've helped me a lot. Times aren't easy, but I think it's going to be OK.


#8

There does seem to be from the different Vatican documents to be a single vocation - there is not a Vocational Sacrament. This comes back to another thread that was done on the Evangelization section as to how many really read documents past the Bible and CCC. It is very low. But that is my 2 cents.

For exact numbers you can check here


#9

There is a book written by Fr. Dominic J. Unger, O.F.M. called "The Mystery of Love for the Single - A Guide for Those Who Follow The Single Vocation in the World".
It is put out by TAN publications.

It includes public and personal / private vows which can be made, and how to go about making those vows. (These vows would require permission from a priest or bishop in the unlikely event the single person should decide to marry later on).
The book is a wealth of information for singles who, for some reasons, can't be a priest or religious or cannot marry or who simply choose to be a chaste single:thumbsup:.


#10

Thanks everyone for enlightening me. The problem i still have with someone being “called” to the single life is that after making vows to remain single, you can still break them without any sort of repercussions. It just doesn’t seem to be as “real” of a vocation as, say, the priesthood or marriage where vows are for truly meant to be forever no matter what. Am i just seeing it the wrong way?


#11

[quote="JediHockey, post:10, topic:225622"]
Thanks everyone for enlightening me. The problem i still have with someone being "called" to the single life is that after making vows to remain single, you can still break them without any sort of repercussions. It just doesn't seem to be as "real" of a vocation as, say, the priesthood or marriage where vows are for truly meant to be forever no matter what. Am i just seeing it the wrong way?

[/quote]

A vow to God is a very serious matter indeed, and not to be undertaken lightly. To break a private vow or vows to God does have repercussions, since it was indeed a vow to God (serious!) covered by Canon Law - and with initial careful reflection and spiritual advice one would hope.
Probably private vows can seem to me somewhat "unreal" due to the fact that the single life or the celibate state in secular life seems to be relatively 'new' in The Church. Perhaps one day The Church will recognize this vocation more formally. As things stand at this point, undoubtedly there are people in the single celibate state in lay life either with private vow or vows or not who do feel that God has called them very clearly to this way of life and most often with some sort of mission for the sake of The Kingdom in their secular life. But whether one is single celibate in secular life with some sort of particular mission or not, our Baptism is a vocation and call to live The Gospel.
Very often the call and vocation to live in the single celibate state as one's call and vocation from God, either with or without private vows, does have the unique mark of the life to a large degree of Mary and Joseph and the first thirty years of the life of Jesus - it is very often a "hidden life" in God.

CANON LAW

intratext.com/IXT/ENG0017/_P4C.HTM
[LIST]
]BOOK IV : THE SANCTIFYING OFFICE OF THE CHURCH (Cann. 834 – 848)
[LIST]
*]PART II : THE OTHER ACTS OF DIVINE WORSHIP
[LIST]
*]
[LIST]
*]TITLE V: VOWS AND OATHS (Cann. 1191 - 1204)
[LIST]
*]
CHAPTER I : VOWS*
[/LIST]
[/LIST]
[/LIST]
[/LIST]
[/LIST]TITLE V: VOWS AND OATHS (Cann. 1191 - 1204)


#12

[quote="JediHockey, post:10, topic:225622"]
Thanks everyone for enlightening me. The problem i still have with someone being "called" to the single life is that after making vows to remain single, you can still break them without any sort of repercussions. It just doesn't seem to be as "real" of a vocation as, say, the priesthood or marriage where vows are for truly meant to be forever no matter what. Am i just seeing it the wrong way?

[/quote]

Priests leave the priesthood sometimes to marry and married people sometimes divorce. A single person may make their public or personal/private vows intending for them to be forever, also.
I think the difference is, as someone mentioned, it isn't a sacrament like holy orders or marriage.

Also there's usually no community life like priests and religious have. There's no helpmate, like marrieds have. Perhaps we need more guidance and acknowledgement from the Church; or perhaps we're meant to be exactly as we are.:shrug:


#13

[quote="RosalieM, post:12, topic:225622"]
Priests leave the priesthood sometimes to marry and married people sometimes divorce. A single person may make their public or personal/private vows intending for them to be forever, also.
I think the difference is, as someone mentioned, it isn't a sacrament like holy orders or marriage.

Also there's usually no community life like priests and religious have. There's no helpmate, like marrieds have. Perhaps we need more guidance and acknowledgement from the Church; or perhaps we're meant to be exactly as we are.:shrug:

[/quote]

But that priest could not do so and remain in the Catholic Church and the divorced couple are still viewed as married in the eyes of the Church without an annulment. I think a little bit of reform is needed on this issue. The Church just needs to come out with some sort of process by which people who vow to remain single are bound to do so and would not be able to get married within the Catholic Church unless the vows were deemed invalid. For them to be able to get special treatment is in reality an insult to the vocation to the single life. But whatever...there are far more pressing issues the Church has to deal with


#14

or perhaps we’re meant to be exactly as we are

An important point, I think. Obviously, as long as those in private vows are not acknowledged more by The Church in some sort formal sort of manner and by this I mean clearly mentioned in documents coming out of The Church and with the single celibate secular life as a vocation and call, we are meant to be exactly as we are i.e. not acknowledged. Although JPII in the “Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful” (previously quoted) vatican.va/holy_father/jo…-laici_en.html does clearly state the celibate secular single life as a vocation - but such mentions formally are very hard come by to my research anyway.

Holy Orders and Marriage are Sacraments, religious life is not a Sacrament but is a consecrated life by The Church.

The link I gave to Canon Law on Vows does stipulate that one can make a vow for a stipulated period, including for life. It is important, I think also, that before making a private vow one either has a spiritual director, or seeks sound spiritual advice as a vow to God is a very serious matter, though it be a private vow. It is not to be regarded lightly for sure! It also needs to be stated that one can make vows during Mass and that this is NOT formal recognition by The Church nor does it make the vows public vows, they remain private vows. This is not well publicized either for the sake of those who might feel called to such a step and many priests even are unaware of this.

Re breaking private vows:

Canon Law: intratext.com/IXT/ENG0017/_P4C.HTM
Can. 1197 What has been promised by private vow can be commuted into something better or equally good by the person who made the vow. It can be commuted into something less good by one who has authority to dispense in accordance with Can. 1196.

TS


#15

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