Is there such a thing as a “single vocation” for women, not marriage or sisterhood?
There is consecrated virginity.
Thanks, but maybe you could elaborate…what is it?
There are three vocations in the Church. Marriage, Religious Life (Priests, Nuns, Monks, Brothers and the like), and Single life. To be single one should discern through prayer and contemplation that God is not calling you to one of the other two vocations. You would then have to conform your life the the Christian virtues. God speed in your discernment.
There is also the plain old single life, where you have the time and energy to devote yourself to prayer and any of a number of good works, Church-based or community based. You also have the opportunity to invest yourself in your career, further your education, travel, even do lay missionary work, and all sorts of things that are denied to family men and women because of the expense and time involved.
This is not to say that the single life is an excuse for self-indulgence. It is rather an invitation from the Lord to belong to Him exclusively, in the everyday world, and come into a closer relationship with Him that way, while doing our jobs, involving ourselves with other people in service, and bearing witness to our faith.
I was single into my early forties, and successfully pursued a career in classical ballet with a world-class company. I became active in my parish and did all sorts of things such as adult ministry, working the thrift shop, teaching CCD, and outreach to new families in the parish. I was also blessed that a coworker of mine wanted to convert to Catholicism. I was her Confirmation sponsor, and we pretty much studied RCIA together. I got to travel, both with the ballet company and on my own during the off season. Since my occupation didn’t put me in much contact with suitable men, I dated rarely, but could usually find a male colleague to attend events with when the occasion seemed to require it. I met my husband during a college alumni association sponsored campout in the Appalachians, and tentatively courted for about six months before I began to discern a vocation in the direction of marriage. I may have been mistaken: Several years into our marriage my husband developed alcoholism and definite signs of mental illness. I am trying to discern whether God really wants me here, and am prepared to accept His will either way.
The biggest pitfall in our society is the notion that unless one is matched with a person of the opposite sex, there is something wrong with oneself. That is no more true than any one of a number of outmoded ideas.
If you aren’t seriously considering marriage as a vocation, I’m not sure that dating is that good of an idea. It opens you to what are termed “occasions of sin” (pressure into sexual intimacy,) and may give the person you are dating the idea that you are considering marriage. That just isn’t fair to them if you have already pretty much ruled out marriage as a vocation.
The Catholic Church is the only religious body that I know of that has legitimized the single life, and did so eons ago, long before people in general thought that singleness was anything but a temporary way station before marriage or the religious life. Praise God for Holy Church’s foresight and visionary stance!
There are also “secular institutes.” These involve living a secular life but as a woman consecrated officially in the Church. See for instance, www.ccinfo.org. (Caritas Christi secular institute for women.) There is an explanation on that website about “What is a secular institute?” God bless you!
Wow. I had no idea that this type of life was possible for a devout Catholic. Travel is my ultimate passion. To think I can serve the Lord, travel His earth, and not have to be a wife or nun is amazing! I’m seriously going to consider this.
Well Leticia somewhat beat me to it:
However, if you want a brief summary, you maintain a single life of perpetual virginity, and you are consecrated by a bishop. You do not live in a religious order of some sort. Rather, you live in the world, which is what you seem to be interested in.
I think it would be better to divide those ways of life by:** marriage**, consecrated life/or priesthood & single (lay) life … or another set of categories:** clergy**, consecrated life and the laity (which includes marriage and single life) because consecrated virgins are not lay women and their vocation is not to the single life. They are in the consecrated state and again are not single.
also a great article on the vocation to single life … archstl.org/archstl/post/vocation-dedicated-single-life-lead
The Catholic organization Opus Dei is an organization that supports the laity in spiritual growth and gives them opportunities for service in the real everyday world. They have chapters in many cities, and no, they aren’t the bizarre organization that was talked about in the Dan Brown novel.
Many dioceses have travel arrangements with tour companies to Rome, the Holy Land, and other places of spiritual interests. If your diocese has a newsletter or a website, these may be posted there. There are usually business and professional organizations of Catholics involved in whatever business or profession (I had belonged to the Catholic Actors’ Guild, we helped support struggling performing artists with our contributions, as well as got together for liturgy and discussion of the unique issues that face Catholics in the performing arts.)
Opportunities for church and community service are available no further away than your parish’s Sunday bulletin. Many of the services that Catholic Charities provides can use volunteers, as well as Catholic hospitals.
Don’t be surprised if, when you start getting involved in some of these groups, your life suddenly becomes very busy! Being single doesn’t mean being a lonely hermit in the nonreligious sense, sitting in front of the TV and watching junk. Look for opportunities for service, and wholesome recreational opportunities.
Of course, there are tertiary orders attached to some of the larger religious orders. These may be open to laymen and women.
And of course there are all sorts of community organizations that are looking for energetic people to contribute their time and talents.
When I was single I had an unbelievably rich and full life, between the demands of my career and my volunteer work with my parish. A married person would not have been able to keep the kind of schedule I did because of the demands of married life. I made many friends from all walks of life, and far from being lonely, found myself surrounded by a loving community in my parish, with my professional colleagues, and with the community at large.
Since the single life itself is a vocation, it seems to me that what you are looking for is opportunities to express your Christian witness in the context of being single. Believe me, they’re out there! All you have to do is get informed, and get involved!