Is "the single life" a vocation?

I feel uncomfortable saying that it is, and it doesn’t seem to have been considered among the vocations traditionally. But people more intelligent and holy than I talk about it like it is, so I figured I would throw it out there and see what others think.

A similar thread is here. And I think you will find more if you do a search.

I think being single is a state in life, not a vocation. I’m a single person, FWIW.

Being single can be considered a vocation. Not all of us are called to be married, in religious life, or a priest. Right now, I’m single and I’m learning to try and deal with it patiently because at this time I’m still now sure where God will have me in the end. I may remain in this state of life for the remainder of this life. I’m trying to learn to trust him one day at a time.

A vocation in the Church is a way of serving God. If you are being single to serve God, then it is a vocation.


No, a vocation is a calling from God to a certain way of life. Every Christian is made to know, love and serve God in this world. That in itself is not a vocation - it is the universal call to holiness.

No no no. Singleness is not a vocation. There are only 3: married, religious and consecrated. All three involve taking vows to another person, Jesus or the Church. You do none of those things as a single person. Many are single and simply won’t marry due to the lack of faithful Catholics. Emily Stimpson likened this era of singleness to what women faced after major world wars. There simply weren’t enough men to go around. Although singles can do a great deal of good in the church, being single in and of itself is not a vocation.

I’ve always thought being single could be a vocation. If one has truly discerned that God does not want them to marry or to join a religious order or be ordained. I don’t think just because you are single at the moment means that being single is your vocation. I don’t think is a vocation by default, but one that you have fully investigated and discerned and have heard the calling to be single and that is truly God’s will for your life.

There are plenty of articles if one searches for the vocation of being single. Plenty of people on both sides of the argument. Doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer.

In general and to no one in particular at this point : In many threads both here on CA and also on Phatmass, I have quoted Church Documents in relation to the lay celibate single state as a vocation. I just dont have time to go back and research and post again, but here is one of my posts from a previous thread

My above Post is taken from a previous thread where I have put in a few posts and some other good posts from other members:

If anyone states that the lay celibate single vocation is not a potential vocation per se, they are contrary to what The Church is stating and in a few official Documents.

I returned to check my links, which I usually do before posting. Just as well I returned quickly to check the links in my previous post as I seemed to have posted the links incorrectly being in too much of a rush.

The previous thread on the single life can be found here

If you scroll down the above thread, you will see numerous posts by me with quotes and links and some other good posts as well.

The celibate state in life, no matter one’s vocational call, be it priesthood, religious life or some other form of celibate life in The Church, is a singular Grace not given to all to live celibately - this is underscored by Jesus and again by His Church in theological thinking. Can’t quote with links just now, too much in a rush:o

I spent a few minutes reading that thread, and it seems that the Church doesn’t mention singleness per se, but the celibate life, and it’s always in the context of a consecration, vow, promise, etc. Most older single people I know aren’t actively celibate, they just “haven’t found the right person” or just don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. I know there is an Order of Consecrated Virgins, but I hear a lot of women say they aren’t eligible (I don’t ask why), and there is nothing comparable for men. It seems to me that the Church wants every one of us to make a commitment to SOMETHING, and enter a relationship with SOMEONE, whether it’s a spouse, the Church, Our Lord, what have you. So in that sense, it would seem that “called to be single” doesn’t tell the whole truth and is letting a lot of people off the hook from committing themselves.

This is what I’ve read how I’ve heard it discussed.

I think there is something healthy about the *tension" when one is called to marriage but still single, something that doesn’t let me get too lazy or get too settled. That would apply to those called to the priesthood and religious life, too.

*And by tension, I don’t mean nervous or anxious, but ready to jump when God says, “Go!”

It is also a tension in the lay celibate vocation since the state by it’s very nature asks an openness to a further call from God whatever that call might be. One needs to be ‘ready to jump’ if and when God calls and no matter how nor where nor when He may call, nor to what. Once one makes an official perpetual commitment (as in Canon Law) one is committed for life to that way of life. In the lay celibate state as vocation per se, this is not so and some experience it as a certain insecurity. I do not. To me, it is a daily openness to wherever, how, when, where or why, The Lord may call. The single lay celibate as a vocation and call from God is a daily commitment to Jesus and His Gospel in all events of secular life - from the most ordinary to the greatest events and irrespective of how that daily commitment is made - and total commitment it must be.

If one does not understand the lay celibate state as vocation per se, then one does not fully understand their Baptism. Baptism is not only a call to holiness to which all are called, it is a vocation and call to holiness and no matter how one’s life is going to be lived out - priest, religious, married or celibate lay. In most instances, to fully understand our Baptism and certainly to understand the lay celibate vocation, then one needs to read those Papal Documents relating to the laity, primarily and at very least:

Apostolicam Actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of The Laity) HERE
Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on The Church ) HERE
Christifideles Laici (Apostolic Exhortation on Vocation and Mission of The Lay Faithful in The Church and The World) HERE

If one’s opinions are contrary to what The Church is stating, then to my mind, these opinions are questionable and most certainly if they do not quote from Church texts and docusments, with links, to support their opinion. They would merely be a personal opinion contrary to what The Church states.

I would stress again (as in past threads on the ‘single life’ & a cultural term, not a Church term. The Church uses simply “celibate”), that any person considering the lay celibate state as their vocation in life should seek the advice of a priest who knows them well and/or ideally spiritual direction and on an ongoing regular basis.

VITA CONSECRATA (On the Consecrated Life)

Thanksgiving for 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.

(Crossroads Intitiative is a highly recommended sound Catholic resource site in line with Church teaching - see Catholic Culture review HERE )
[FONT=Arial]When I was growing up, we were urged to pray for vocations. That meant to pray for more priests and nuns. After all, they were the ones especially called by God. The rest of us had to figure out for ourselves what to do with our lives, what school to go to, who to marry, what job to get.
[FONT=Arial]This was a misunderstanding that the Second Vatican Council was determined to clear up. It emphasized what this Sunday’s second reading from St. Paul makes clear – that all Christians have a vocation (Lumen Gentium, chapter 5). The very first call we have is not so much to do something, but to ***be ***something. Each one of us is called to be holy. And holiness is not to be identified with any particular state in life. Whether we are students, full-time moms, nurses or bishops, our daily activities furnish us with plenty of opportunities to grow in faith, hope and love. It is the perfection of these three virtues that make for true sanctity. Of course, there are many students, moms, nurses and bishops who fail to become saints. Obviously then, the activities are not enough in themselves to make people holy. People have to make a conscious decision not just once but each and every day to surrender themselves, their wills and their lives to God and allow Him, the potter, to use their everyday activities to shape them as if they were clay in His skilled hands.

Just as an example of a “readiness to jump”, this Lent I have experienced a call to a deeper poverty than that which I have embraced via private vow. It is now up to my director and I to nut out just how I can embrace a deeper poverty than current in my particular secular life and as a response to a felt call from God. We need to discern, is this call a valid call and if so, then how can I implement it in my life.

Very often, those who do question the single celibate state as a vocation (whether by private vow or vows or not) per se will quote experiences of those lay people who are single and not embracing their baptismal vocational call at all. To my way of thinking also, the lay celibate single state as vocation by its very nature is a hidden way of life while ideally it is a real witness to The Gospel in all events without exemption in daily secular life, whatever that lifestyle might be. It is a vocation and call to be a certain sort of person, not to do certain and specified things as the nature of the vocation, other than it is secular celibate lay life.

I think if you read my previous posts, your questions to me will be answered fully. The lay celibate life is simply called “celibate life” and is mentioned in Church documents dealing with lay celibacy in some way. If we understand our Baptism fully, then indeed we are committed to SOMETHING and enter into a relationship with SOMEONE.

I don’t see it as any sort of “letting of the hook” which makes a vocation and call from God and committing to it sound like some sort of a negative sentence. Rather I regard vocation in all its forms including the lay celibate single state vocation as a very great priviledge and complete honor from God of which I personally know beyond doubt I have no worthiness whatsoever. But worthiness for any person in any vocation and call from God whatsoever is never a valid question, simply because none of us are worthy whatsoever of anything from God at all and yet He created each one of us, and as unique creations one and all, and sustains us in being for eternity. Why? Because He Loves every last single one of us to absolute abandon unconditionally and with overwhelming Compassionate, Understanding Mercy. What a God have we!
Having lost our right to Heaven through the sin of Adam and Eve and thus being born and struggling for the rest of our lives with original sin and its effects, what does The Father do? He sends His Beloved Son to be incarnated as human as the rest of us and to live and die terrible, and then to rise again, for our sakes and only our sakes. And Jesus, the Beloved Son, embraces fully with absolute love and desire the life He lived. Why? Because He loves us to absolute abandon with overwhelming Compassionate, Understanding Mercy. Indeed what a God have we!!!

There is a recent thread on the committed lay celibate state as vocation per se on Phatmass Phorum HERE

As with CA, there have been numerous threads on the committed lay celibate state as potential vocation per se over on Phatmass Phorum too - and worth researching, I think, for those interested…

I would argue that living out your Baptism, while it could be considered as the primordial Vocation of all Christians, happens in the context of one of the vocations as they are traditionally understood. Every person not called to marriage is by definition celibate, so “the celibate state” isn’t a vocation in and of itself either - it happens in the context of one of the vocations. You seem to be asserting that a state of perpetual discernment is itself a vocation. That doesn’t seem to square with the documents you quote in support of that assertion.

Thank you for your comment, aemcpa:). In places, I do differ with your comments and your understandings of what I have stated previously. I did write a reply with quotes and links from noted sound and reliable Catholic sources, at times Vatican documents - and then lost it and dont have time just now to reply again - I will at a later point however.

Thanks for that. I in turn will take the time to read the previous thread more carefully. I am open to being corrected on this issue, which is why I asked in the first place.


: Thanks for that. I in turn will take the time to read the previous thread more carefully. I am open to being corrected on this issue, which is why I asked in the first place.
Thank you.:slight_smile: I did have it stuck in mind that you were open minded on the issue due to your opening post.
It may be some time before I can come back to this thread, difficult to know at this point. But I will return and it might give you time to read other threads and posts including quotations from Church Documents and other reliable Catholic sources of Church teaching. Phatmass Phorum in the Vocations Forum has a few good threads on the celibate lay state vocation also and like CA, going back over even a few years.
Meanwhile, whenever I can I will be writing into Word and researching myself. Saving in Word and then cutting and pasting into CA will avoid loosing a potential post…I hope!

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