Not having a vocation?


what happens if you don’t have a vocation?

for example, the uncommitted single state (though there is debate on that)

most people think it’s a state of life instead of a vocation, a transitory one. but what you never find someone to marry? or never get accepted to religious life? what if that transitory state becomes permanent? unfortunately, there seems to be quite a lack of charity with some catholics on the issue, priests included, some say it’s unacceptable to just be single, that it’s selfish

also, what are different forms of consecration besides religious life?


I don’t know the answer to your main question, but regarding the last one, Forms of Consecrated Life.


I think we all have a vocation, angel.

But I know exactly how you feel.



makes me almost feel like it’s a sin to be single


Cheer up…

Dorothy Day was single and not a religious.

St. Catherine of Siena was single and a 3rd order Dominican. (Meaning she was not officially a sister or a nun.)

Flannery O’ Connor, one of the most celebrated Catholic Authors of the 20th century was also a single lay woman.

Our vocation is first and foremost to know God, then to Love Him, and finally to find some way to serve him in this life.

Patience, young grasshopper. :slight_smile:


ah, patience, the prized virtue, well, the lord sure kmnows that I need more of that


It is not a sin to be single! I would much rather be single than have a superficial relationship just because that is what others expect of me, or to enter a religious life and not be content.

Being single is about embracing certain experiences to broaden your horizon and help you discern what God has planned for you. If anyone makes you feel that you’re doing something wrong (maybe a nice little old ladies who says “Oh, why aren’t you married yet?”) just smile and know that they just want what’s best for you, but they may not KNOW what’s best for you. Only God knows that.


St. Catherine of Siena wasn’t single. She made a vow of virginity for the sake of loving Christ totally and completely, which later took the form of the mystical marriage.



I do not understand Catholic teaching on vocations well at all. However, I do understand confusion about one’s own vocation. I understand what it is to ask yourself “What is my purpose?”, and have no answer.

What have you done to discern your vocation? Have you or do you talk with a spiritual and/or vocations director?

Not that I should be giving any advice, but sometimes I think all we can do is simply try to be a good Christian moment to moment. Pray when you wake up; throughout the day; before meals; and before you go to bed. Try to be attentive to others’ needs and help in the ways God allows you. Make use of the sacraments; daily mass is good. Attend to your temporal needs: education; employment; bills; physical health; residence maintenance/cleaning; etc. Begin again the next day.

I will say a prayer for you. :slight_smile:


Well, that’s true, too. She was indeed mystically married to Our Lord.


This is an interesting thread. This thought always pops into my mind when reading threads about single life as a vocation or not. What if somebody is not mentally or physically ill or anything like that, but is so just plain weird that that no one would marry them with a ten foot pole, and religious communities reject them for the same reason. There are more people like that than people care to admit. There is nothing wrong with them, but people don’t like them. Even social ineptitude could lead to a situation like this. what about those people? it always seems like people talking about this issue think that everyone can just go out and choose one or the other and do it with no further complications. Makes me wonder how many people who are very holy have been rejected and pushed to the sidelines and not taken seriously just because they are naturally odd. there have been too many great saints to count who are seen by many as incredibly strange and were in their own time as well. This whole thing makes me think of St. Benedict Joseph Labre (although I think he joined a third order maybe) he was rejected over and over by religious communities and ended up finding his calling in wandering and pilgrimage and prayer etc.


But, Angell, you do have a vocation; everybody does. But all too often we mix that idea up with how we are going to spend the rest of our lives. So if we see a door closed or closing, we often get into the mindset that you describe above.

There’s a lot more to it, though. Think just about what is before you right now. What now might you do and how might you do it in order best to give glory to God? Every moment we exist and every problem we face is like a providential invitation from God, and thus a vocation of sorts.

So how in all things before you is divine grace inviting you to participation in the glorification of God? When you have answered that, then you will know your vocation, at least for now.


Hi angell1! :slight_smile:
First, it is wrong to state that there is any such thing as “uncommitted” in the single state or what The Church most often calls lay celibacy. In the laity, there are two vocational states of life: the celibate and the married. Some are in the lay celibate state as a transitional state as they discern, or hope to discern, a potential call to some other state in life.
The moment we are baptised, we have a distinct quite personal vocation and call to commit ourselves to Jesus and His Church, His Gospel - refer to Decree on the Apostolate of The Laity
…scroll down to:



  1. The Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God the Father, to enable all men to share in His saving redemption,(1) and that through them the whole world might enter into a relationship with Christ. All activity of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of this goal is called the apostolate, which the Church carries on in various ways through all her members. For the Christian vocation by its very nature is also a vocation to the apostolate. No part of the structure of a living body is merely passive but has a share in the functions as well as life of the body: so, too, in the body of Christ, which is the Church, “the whole body . . . in keeping with the proper activity of each part, derives its increase from its own internal development” (Eph. 4:16).

If one should be in the lay celibate state (single life) and feels that they have no vocation or are unhappy and unfulfilled, then the best course of action is to seek spiritual direction on an ongoing basis. The truth of the matter is that they do have a distinct and quite personal vocation and call, but they have a personal probably spiritual or psychological problem somewhere.

Those that dispute that there is no call and vocation to lay celibacy as an anticipated lifelong vocation - single state - are not in line with what The Church teaches quite clearly. It is even to deny that our baptism is a distinct call and vocation from God as The Church proclaims and explains.

Other forms of consecrated life are:
religious life
consecrated virginity
eremitical life (hermit)
secular institutes

For many years in our history, religious life had to struggle and even suffer persecuiton to be allowed to embrace particular apostolates in the community. At first in The Church, those in religious life had to be enclosed. And so a form of living one’s vocation can have an evolutionary history in The Church - and very sadly today and rather regularly, those in the single lay celibate state by choice and decision embracing a quite personal call and vocation from God can undergo various forms of persecution of which misunderstanding is a form. “They have persecuted Me and they will persecute you” It is just very sad and also can be particularly difficult when a form of persecution is inflicted by one’s fellow Catholics - but not at all unusual in the life of the saints. Persecution in some form could be said to be a mark of discipleship.



I believe that celibacy and marriage are both callings.

I believe that a Calling is not the same as one’s Status.

In my opinion most people have a calling to be married and end up with the status of married. Next, there are the people called to be married but their status is still single. Next, there are the people called to be single but are forced to be married (far fewer of these in modern times than there once were, thanks in part to bringing human rights to more women). Finally, the smallest group would be those whose calling is celibate and whose status is single. I believe that much unhappiness is caused by the calling and status not being the same.

I also believe that the attitudes of others can influence your own attitudes. It’s absolutely true that marriage, and later parenthood, will rock your world in ways you cannot believe existed. Very much a case of “whoa, I had no idea it was this intense.” That’s fine as long as it doesn’t drift into snobbery, which alas is not unknown.

The single person may – forget “may,” DOES – hear condescending remarks about how they never will be truly grown up until they have a family. I’m not talking about cruelty, which is a separate topic: as in, remarks to a single whose fiancé/e has just died, or a couple whose child was stillborn. No, just daily pat-on-the-head chatter, which is about one-upsmanship.

They also face economic snobbery. Try being a single woman visiting a car dealership, or a bank while holding a mortgage application. We have money too, but the sales department stalls until the “real” breadwinner arrives.

We don’t support celibacy enough, in my opinion. Those with the uniform fare a little better, but that’s not guaranteed. So it makes sense that the plainclothes believer will wonder if they have permission to be celibate.

Because of this perceived difference in status, I sometimes hear single people lament, “I guess I must be called to celibacy,” in much the same mournful tone as “I must be called to dentures,” which, first of all, thanks for the good wishes :stuck_out_tongue: ; and secondly, they don’t even have them yet!

Not that confirmed celibates are incapable of walking around with their noses in the air. There is a certain attitude in being “married to God” because none of your friends can top it. He’s the greatest, the beloved, is crazy about you, loved you enough to die for you, lives in your heart, is faithful and true, and on top of that He’s home every night. As if mortal suitors aren’t nervous enough already without being held up to that standard. On the other hand, He is perfect, which means that if there’s an argument, you are the one in the wrong. Try being “married” to someone that perfect. But there can be pride right there as well, in pity-party martyr points mostly.

I think James Martin’s Jesuit’s guide to (almost) everything put it more graciously. The confirmed celibate isn’t immune to love, either given or received. But the call is stronger. And it takes a certain type of person to follow that call. The celibate may leave many beloved relatives and friends at a gravesite, but it never will be the same as for the family man or woman. Being celibate, says Martin, includes being at peace with the realization that you will never be the most important person in anybody’s life.

If that sounds horrific to you, my guess is that celibacy isn’t your calling. It might be your status until your love comes along, but that doesn’t make the either the calling or the status bad. Celibacy and marriage are both holy and beautiful callings. My thinking is, do you feel called to be married? Then you are called to be married. The majority of humans are. They are just confusing their calling with their status. That’s why they get scared.

It is a good thing in life when a person’s status matches their calling. But people whose calling and status aren’t the same have to deal with attitudes from others as well as fears from inside themselves. Those attitudes make people feel badly about themselves, and that confuses their perceptions. It’s true that celibate people can be lonely, but I see that as a condition native to oneself rather than to a lack of mate. Some of the loneliest people I’ve ever met were married.

My humongous [technical term] study of What’s behind “Left Behind” and random reviews of other stuff. If that’s too long, I have 3 PDF docs total 20 pages I can e-mail.

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this is just a thought, but is it like this everywhere? it seems in the earlier church that marriage was seen as a less perfect path and it has done a complete 180 degree turn. You see those old letters of jerome and old ascetic writings and saints lives with lines about the glory of Virgins shining forth one hundredfold in heaven, those who achieve and maintain celibacy fiftyfold and the married coming in at only thirty. I wonder if this centrality of married life as the ultimate good isn’t something to do with protestantization of culture in america and britain. before anyone gets upset I do not state that the married are less good, I was just paraphrasing an old book. It just seems that over time marriage has gone from “I guess do so if you absolutely feel you have to” to “you had better do so or else” and it is a change I cannot account for. how did this shift happen?


I don’t believe the Church per se has ever changed her tune on the issue. The unmarried state is still, I think, considered the more perfect state, all else being equal. Someone please correct me if I’m mistaken. Yet, God call us, each one, to a particular state in life, I believe. Not all are called to marriage; fewer are called to the unmarried state.

But as St John of the Cross points out, “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”


My tuppence worth: There is a difference between a theological determination and a personal one. Speaking theologically and objectively, celibacy is the superior state as The Church teaches on an objective theological level; however, on the personal level, nothing can be higher than God’s Will or Invitation to a person. And if one reflects theologically and objectively, which is superior, celibacy or God’s Will and Invitation? It is a great mystery why one is called here and someone to somewhere else but every single baptised Catholic has an important place in the Mystical Body and in that important place, one can aspire and attain great holiness.

But as St John of the Cross points out, “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”

Spot on of course!
One can attain great sanctity and holiness in any vocation whatsoever and sanctity is all about Love.


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