Vocation to Single Life


Whether the single state can be a call and vocation from God remains something theologians seem to like to muse over and over- and then over again - some for, some against. In the earlier years of The Church, all women religious had to be enclosed. No option. It was quite a struggle before they were able to move out of the cloister. Secular Institutes were the most recent inclusion in Canonical Consecrated Life… The single state of life is still struggling to be recognised as a vocation at all - in some quarters anyway.

Fr John Hardon was a Jesuit Priest and theologian. Fr John was of great renown asa theologian and a holy priest - he is one of the authors (if not the author, unsure on that point) of The Catholic Catechism as we now know it. I quote Fr JOhn in the last quotation box below.
Fr John’s cause for canonization is now before the Vatican and he is a declared Servant of God.

In the other quotation boxes are what I regard as SOME ONLY important quotations re the single state of life as a potential vocation.

**Pre Vatican II/**COLOR]
Sacra Virginitas"Sacred Virginity" vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_25031954_sacra-virginitas_en.html


"6. And while this perfect chastity is the subject of one of the three vows which constitute the religious state,[9] and is also required by the Latin Church of clerics in major orders[10] and demanded from members of Secular Institutes**,[11] it also flourishes among many who are lay people in the full sense: men and women who are not constituted in a public state of perfection and yet by private promise or vow completely abstain from marriage and sexual pleasures, in order to serve their neighbor more freely and to be united with God more easily and more closely.** "

[quote]Post Vatican II


VITA CONSECRATA [The Consecrated Life]

Thanksgiving for the consecrated life

  1. Because the role of consecrated life in the Church is so important, I decided to convene a Synod in order to examine in depth its significance and its future prospects, especially in view of the approaching new millennium. It was my wish that the Synodal Assembly should include, together with the Bishops, a considerable number of consecrated men and women, in order that they too might contribute to the common reflection.

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.

The Apostolate in Every Vocation to Follow Christ
(Fr. John Hardon SJ author)

…"The development of this vocation to Christian perfection was already seen before the deliverance of the Church from the early years of persecution and, until the fourth century, was mainly heremetical. They became hermits; that’s about all they could do. They could hardly get any kind of civil status in the Roman Empire! The problem was, at the time, to even survive as an individual Christian.

But as the Church developed, there appeared three types of Christian perfection which have not only survived to the present day but will continue until the end of time. In general, they are, first, the strictly monastic. It may be heremetical, but that is rare; there are very few hermits in the Roman Catholic Church. The monastic form has many variants. The cloistered communities would qualify under that general rubric. Second, apostolic communities, where they engage in some kind of apostolic work which carries their efforts, even if not the persons, outside of their own community life. And third, secular institutes.

There is a fourth category contemplated by the Holy See in anticipation of the new Code of Canon Law, so that something may be done for the thousands of women who seem not to want religious life yet seem to want to live especially dedicated lives in the Church. The secular institutes are a recent development of the Catholic Church. If there would be a fourth category, it would be some form of what we now call “secular institutes,” but the implications still have to be worked out.

Our current Code of Canon Law is dated 1983, while the article above is copyrighted 1999but anyway over and above that, it does serve to indicate that The Church as hierarchy is aware of a quite considerable number of women living “especially dedicated lives in The Church” outside of the Canonical Consecrated Life as it now exits - and being aware of “the thousands of women” - then at least, at very least, it is still on an agenda somewhere I would tend to think.


The first quote is describing Consecrated Virginity, which is one of the oldest forms of vocation. As to the others, there is always an openness to new forms of life that God calls us to - there was a time when there were no Religious, as you may know; but these forms all involve a commitment in some way which is more involved than simply intending to remain as one is until death. Now I’m not saying that your idea of a “single state of life” vocation is, but one being honest would have to admit that there are those who would take it as such.


Men can’t be consecrated virgins, but it specifically says “men and women” so it could not be about Consecrated Virgins.


Thank you, Lamentation.

The first quote is describing

"it also flourishes among many who are** lay people in the full sense:** men and women who are not constituted in a public state of perfection and yet by private promise or vow completely abstain from marriage and sexual pleasures, in order to serve their neighbor more freely and to be united with God more easily and more closely. "

Consecrated Virginity is a Consecrated state of life in Canon Law and therefore consecrated virgins are in consecrated life, not the laity. Yes, I know that they are one of the oldest, if not the oldest, forms of vocation. I think that probably they existed as in formal consecrated life in Canon Law at the time of Pope Pius XII - but I really know not much about the vocation. As long as consecrated virginity is affirmed by The Church in Canon Law, then they are in consecrated life, not the laity.

The single state of life as a vocation and call from God is not my idea at all. If you read my second quote from Pope John Paul II in his apostolic exhortation on the consecrated life (Vita Consecrata) and under the heading “Thanksgiving for the Consecrated Life” these words: "** it also flourishes among many who are lay people in the full sense: men and women who are not constituted in a public state of perfection and yet by private promise or vow completely abstain from marriage and sexual pleasures, in order to serve their neighbor more freely and to be united with God more easily and more closely. " **

And yes, in the CCC we read about new forms of vocation :

919 Bishops will always strive to discern new gifts of consecrated life granted to the Church by the Holy Spirit; the approval of new forms of consecrated life is reserved to the Apostolic See.

I agree with you that a vocation and call needs to be experienced as a vocation and call and many do experience this and make private vows some for life…thousands in fact, if you read my third quotation from Father John Hardon, SJ Servant of God.

Personally, I have never spoken about making private vows to the evangelical counsels without also advising strongly that one seek spiritual direction prior - and on an ongoing basis for the life of the vows, if one does make private vows to the evangelical counsels. It is not an easy road as some seem to think…although some might have ‘an easier ride’ than another - and this applies in all the vocations.

Private vows are covered in Canon Law.


I think most theologians agree that the single life is a very high vocation, one more highly placed than a vocation to the married life, and I’m not denigrating married life. I don’t know of any theologians who dispute the fact that a vocation to the single life does exist.

I use Father Hardon’s textbook “History and Theology of Grace” in one of my classes. It’s a very difficult book for some students to follow, however.




Hi Lilly - The Church has stated most emphatically for more years than I can count that celibacy is a superior state of life…that is on an objective theological scale. The subjective is about a person and God’s Will for their life and nothing is more superior than God’s Will for that person. They are two different perspectives entirely.

I would tend to think that you are probably correct and that most theologians do agree on the single state of life for the sake of The Kingdom can indeed be a vocation and call from God. Now and then, however, I read something or other where it is contested. Personally, I don’t take much notice of such articles since The Church has spoken on the matter.

The moment we are baptised, we have call and vocation to holiness. A further call unfolds as to the road we are to take to holiness, or the personal vocation and call. As long as a person is in the laity (married or celibate), The Church lays out for us our mission and apostolate in life. See Christifideles Laici Vocation and Mission of the Laity…and * Apostolicam Actuositatem* Decree on the Apostolate of The Laity.

I don’t think I have ever read a book by Fr. Hardon. But at any time I can find works by theologians not the easiest read at all. “History and Theology of Grace” does sound very interesting - whether I would grasp it, understand it, is another matter entirely.:slight_smile:


Both men and women can be consecrated virgins.


Insofar as I am aware, only women can enter the Order of Virgins in Canon Law and are formally known and consecrated as “consecrated virgins”, while anyone, male or female can make private vow or vows to God including a private vow of virginity. However if one makes any private vow or vows whatsoever, in Canon Law today they remain fully in every way in the lay state and do not have any official title whatsoever in The Church.

If you refer to the quotation from Pope Pius XII in Sacra Virginitas in my Opening Post and the quotation under discussion as follows

11] it also flourishes among many who are lay people in the full sense: men and women who are not constituted in a public state of perfection and yet by private promise or vow completely abstain from marriage and sexual pleasures, in order to serve their neighbor more freely and to be united with God more easily and more closely. "

…it is clear that the quotation refers to those in the lay state, while a consecrated virgin is in the “consecrated state” as defined in Canon Law.


You might have a valid point, I think Nita. However, it seems for a man to be consecrated a virgin in Canon Law, his bishop would need to petition the Holy See. The Holy See would have the final say. It is very interesting to read this as it is completely new to me. Not that I have every tried to fully research consecrated virginity…a quick Google revealed what appears below:

consecrated virgins ewtn.com/v/experts/showresult.asp?RecNum=329186&Forums=0&Experts=0&Days=1&Author=&record_bookmark=1&Keyword=&pgnu=1&groupnum=0&ORDER_BY_TXT=ORDER+BY+ID+DESC&start_at=

Why can’t men be consecrated virgins? Is there an equivalent? The other question I had is about reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in one’s home. One needs permission from the Bishop and a suitable place. Does Mass need to be said there? Do Bishop’s say yes to this on a rare basis or can this be done?

**Answer by Saint Joseph Foundation on 03-07-2002: **
“Canon 604 - §1. Similar to these forms of consecrated life is the order of virgins who, expressing the holy resolution of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are mystically betrothed to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.” (Note: The referenced forms of consecrated life pertain to the eremetical life).
(From the accompanying commentary; New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, Paulist Press, 2000; p. 768) Both men and women lived consecrated virginity in the early Church. The practice led to the formulation of a solemn rite in the Roman Pontifical which constituted the candidate a sacred person, a sign of the Church as Bride of Christ, and an eschatological witness of the world to come. Gradually, however, only certain orders of contemplative nuns used the ancient solemn rite within the context of their profession ceremonies. The Constitution on the Liturgy ordered the revision of the rite which was published on May 31, 1970. The diocesan bishop may consecrate nuns and women living in the world under certain conditions.

The present discipline and ritual provides for the consecration of women. However, there are is nothing in the code of canon law which would prohibit a diocesan bishop from petitioning the Holy See for a dispensation from the current ritual in order to admit a man to this form of consecrated life.


In my reply to Post #3, (where I said men could also be consecrated virgins) I didn’t realize the discussion about consecrated virginity was restricted to the situation of those covered in Canon 604 about the “order of vrgins”. I was thinking in terms of it including also those who belong to institutes of consecrated life and take vows of chastity/celibacy (Canons 597- 602 vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P1Y.HTM ).


The subject of the thread of course is the single or lay celibate state as vocation. Consecrated Virgins is a different subject introduced by Lamentation - and insofar as I am concerned, it is ok if other related subjects are introduced into a thread “The Spirit blows where He Will”

Institutes of Consecrated Life are those in religious life and make Canonical public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience (evangelical counsels) and are covered by those Canons to which you refer (Canons 597 - 602). Canon 604 (see below) covers Consecrated Virgins.


Can. 597 §1. Any Catholic endowed with a right intention who has the qualities required by universal and proper law and who is not prevented by any impediment can be admitted into an institute of consecrated life.

§2. No one can be admitted without suitable preparation.

Can. 598 §1. Each institute, attentive to its own character and purposes, is to define in its constitutions the manner in which the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience must be observed for its way of living.

§2. Moreover, all members must not only observe the evangelical counsels faithfully and fully but also arrange their life according to the proper law of the institute and thereby strive for the perfection of their state.

Can. 599 The evangelical counsel of chastity assumed for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, which is a sign of the world to come and a source of more abundant fruitfulness in an undivided heart, entails the obligation of perfect continence in celibacy.

Can. 600 The evangelical counsel of poverty in imitation of Christ who, although he was rich, was made poor for us, entails, besides a life which is poor in fact and in spirit and is to be led productively in moderation and foreign to earthly riches, a dependence and limitation in the use and disposition of goods according to the norm of the proper law of each institute.

Can. 601 The evangelical counsel of obedience, undertaken in a spirit of faith and love in the following of Christ obedient unto death, requires the submission of the will to legitimate superiors, who stand in the place of God, when they command according to the proper constitutions.

Canon 604 includes Consecrated Virgins and is included in Consecrated Life, while they do not make vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, but do vow lifelong virginity…insofar as I am aware:

Canon 604 §1 The order of virgins is also to be added to these forms of consecrated life. Through their pledge to follow Christ more closely, virgins are consecrated to God, mystically espoused to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church, when the diocesan Bishop consecrates them according to the approved liturgical rite.
§2 Virgins can be associated together to fulfil their pledge more faithfully, and to assist each other to serve the Church in a way that befits their state.



The single lay vocation is far more open than that! It is open to people who don’t make vows or promises (except baptismal ones).

What a horror! :rolleyes:


Spot on, Vic! Our baptismal vows are a consecration into the Lay state of life (or single celibate chastity) and it is a call to holiness. Any further call and vocations is that road we are to take to holiness but not all receive such a further call and vocation.

Even if one is in the single celibate chaste life in the laity in a transitional manner (discerning some other state in life as their potential call and vocation), they are still called to holiness in the laity and the two most recent Documents we have on life in the laity are : Decree on The Apostolate of The Laity: vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19651118_apostolicam-actuositatem_en.html
The other Document is The Vocation and Mission of the Laity in The Church and The World: w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_30121988_christifideles-laici.html

The above two Documents explain our vocation and mission, our apostolate, as long as we are in the laity.

Some in the laity feel a call to make a private vow or vows which does not change their state in life. They remain in the laity. Others do not make any sort of vow or vows at all and remain, of course, also in the laity.

One can simply remain in the laity without any sort of vow or vows and live out their normal every day life striving for holiness. This is also what the Little Way of St Therese is all about - an ordinary life lived in an extraordinary manner. St Francis de Sales has written about this largely in his work “Introduction to The Devout Life” and Jean Pierre du Caussade’s work is more complex than the previous, but is about living a holy life, a very holy life, in whatever circumstances one exists “Abandonment to Divine Providence”, while du Caussade is addressing nuns - but his work can apply to any person in any way of life or state in life since it is all about following God’s Will to which we are all called no matter our particular vocation including a vocation in the laity through our baptismal consecration and vows.

You make a very good point, Vic. Our baptism is a consecration by The Church and clear call and vocation from God to holiness…no further call and vocation is absolutely necessary nor does The Church state that it is necessary. It does need to be stated, however, that theologians still contest and argue over the subject. But then it seems to me that theologians (but not only professional theologians) just love to contest and argue in most all fields of theology. It also needs to be stated that theologians and their input are important to decisions being made or to be made by Rome and Rome values this. However, our hierarchy and finally The Holy Father have the last say where all decision are finally made. And once Rome has spoken, then Rome has spoken FULL STOP. :slight_smile:


Here is an **excellent article **on The Little Way of St Therese : carmelnet.org/larkin/larkin042.pdf

I don’t have time just now, but also online are
*]***Autobiography of St Therese: Story of A Soul *** along with
*]Introduction to The Devout Life and
*]Abandonment to Divine Providence.

When I have some time, I will return and post the links.


*]Autobiography of St Therese of Lisieux “Story of A Soul” online ccel.org/ccel/therese/autobio.html

*]St Francis de Sales “Introduction to The Devout Life” online ccel.org/d/desales/devout_life.toc.html

*]Jean Paul du Caussade “Abandonment to Divine Providence” online


Answering a vocation does indeed require an assent of commitment to that call, as it is a life-long commitment; otherwise, it would degenerate into something temporary.


Every Easter at least, we renew our baptismal vows formally and publicly, vowing as individuals in community and in union with The Universal Church. Our baptism and the baptismal vows are for life. Baptism is a Sacrament leaving an “indelible mark on the soul”. It is a vocation and call to holiness as a Catholic Christian. I have previously quoted two Papal Documents on the apostolate, mission and vocation of the laity.


The universal call to holiness is rooted in our baptism. It is a call to know, love and serve the Lord. It is a movement that draws us toward a deeper union with God. We feel a growing desire to love God and to love our neighbour. We come to understand that there is a reason for our existence and there is meaning in our lives.

The universal call to holiness is an ongoing conversion experience. It keeps opening our eyes to new awareness of God’s loving presence. It keeps inviting us to turn toward God by aligning our will with God’s will.

A willingness to do God’s will is built on two convictions. We have to believe that God loves us more than we love ourselves and that God wants our happiness more than we want it. In other words, we have to believe that God knows more than we do about what will make us truly happy. If God had given us everything we ever asked for we would be seriously unhappy. The basis of our desire to find and to do the will of God should be the belief that God’s will for us is our only chance to be truly and lastingly happy.

The Catholic Catechism on The Sacrament of Baptism ( Catholic Culture site) catholicculture.org/culture/library/catechism/index.cfm?recnum=4119


Certainly, our primary vocation is to that of holiness in virtue of Baptism, where we participate in the common priesthood of Jesus Christ, the High Priest. We also have a secondary vocation, which is the means to accomplish our primary vocation. This is the vocation I speak of.

In regards to those, the Church recognizes four main categories:
*]Consecrated Virginity
*]Holy Matrimony
*]Religious Life
These are not necessarily mutually exclusive; for example, one can be a Religious Priest. Similarly, there are many Nuns who are both Religious and Consecrated Virgins; as well as the less obvious Permanent Diaconate (who participates in one of the levels of Ministerial Priesthood, but also could be married or in Religious Life).

Is there a so-called “Single Life” vocation? There has been no definitive answer to that question one way or another, but history does provide us with evidence that if there is, it would surely involve some sort of commitment; to say otherwise would imply that one could simply answer a vocation by doing nothing, which is not an act of answer. :compcoff:


Hi again Lamentations,
It would be helpful if you could give links to your concepts above i.e. the source of your concepts.
With absolutely every respect, I think we are just going round in circles and nothing really achieved. My concepts are supported by Papal Documents and nothing possibly more Catholic and reliable than Papal Documents. I am yet to read one of your posts supported by source links.
Have you read all the Papal Documents that relate to the laity? My personal problem is that I am spending much time on this thread - while I think you are probably quite fixed in your thoughts despite my previous posts and quoting Papal Documents to support what I have stated.
I am very much aware too that it is completely my prayerful decision whether to continue in this thread or not.

Where has The Church stated that one MUST RECEIVE a secondary vocation over and above baptismal consecration into the lay state in life? And please do give a link. I have already quoted Papal Documents to support that Rome affirms the celibate state in the laity as a potential vocation and call from God.

The fours states of life in The Church are Holy Orders, Matrimony, Consecrated Life and Laity.
ONE ONLY problem which glares out from your concept in your post of the four vocational states is, what about those who have not the health (or some other impediment) to enter into religious life, priesthood or consecrated virginity, nor have they ever found a potential partner in life in order to marry. Are they then without a vocation? The Church states that they are not. I am quoting Papal Documents to support my concepts. As yet, I don’t think you have quoted any sources whatsoever - only your own personal concepts and thus they can only be your personal ideas and concepts and as such can have some validity, but not over and above Papal Documents.

Christifideles Laici (Vocation and Mission
of The Lay Faithful in The Church and The World)w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_30121988_christifideles-laici.html

]"The lay faithful, in fact, “are called by God so that they, led by the spirit of the Gospel, might contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially in this way of life, resplendent in faith, hope and charity they manifest Christ to others”(37).Thus for the lay faithful, to be present and active in the world is not only an anthropological and sociological reality, but in a specific way, a theological and ecclesiological reality as well.

In fact, in their situation in the world God manifests his plan and communicates to them their particular vocation of “seeking the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God”(38).
Precisely with this in mind the Synod Fathers said: “The secular character of the lay faithful is not therefore to be defined only in a sociological sense, but most especially in a theological sense. 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)."

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