What if you don't feel called to the priesthood or marriage?


@ OP

I think that the word “vocation” is very misunderstood by many people. Married, relgious, or single is just state in life.


Yeah, I agree completely. But there is no point trying to change the Church’s understanding of vocation or present it in a “single sensitive” manner.

That would be a bit of an insult to people’s intelligence and also not really serve any purpose in making single people really feel welcome in the Church.


My ADHD is acting up, but I think this is the John Paul II writing on vocation that I was looking for. He has written a number of documents on this topic of one’s vocation in life.



Another consideration here is that the Church is concerned with promoting marriage as a good in society/the Church and priesthood because it is necessary for the Church to survive in an area.

There is more need than ever to promote these particular ways of life, so in one sense, it is not really in the interest of the Church or the community to extoll the good of single life. There will always be single people in every community. But there will not always be loads of people getting married and even less putting themselves forward as candidates for priesthood or religious life.


i checked the Catechism to see what it said about Vocation. The word “Vocation” is used dozens of times, and many of the discussions of Vocation could apply to any member of the human race, or any member of the laity regardless of marital status. It seems like the Church currently takes a very broad approach to the concept of man’s “vocation”, so the discussion of single people not having a vocation would seem superfluous, as they obviously are called to the “vocations” set forth in the Catechism that apply to all people or all lay people.

Here are some samples (the capitalization is in the original, I’m just cutting and pasting):


1699 Life in the Holy Spirit fulfills the vocation of man (chapter one). This life is made up of divine charity and human solidarity (chapter two). It is graciously offered as salvation (chapter three).

826 Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it "governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification."297

If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn’t lack the noblest of all; it must have a Heart, and a Heart BURNING WITH LOVE.
and I realized that this love alone was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function, the Apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood.


897 "The term ‘laity’ is here understood to mean all the faithful except those in Holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state approved by the Church. That is, the faithful, who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ and integrated into the People of God, are made sharers in their particular way in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ, and have their own part to play in the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the World."430

The vocation of lay people

898 "By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will… It pertains to them in a special way so to illuminate and order all temporal things with which they are closely associated that these may always be effected and grow according to Christ and maybe to the glory of the Creator and Redeemer."431


I appreciate this, but making single people feel discouraged or bad about themselves is not a productive way for the Church to go about this. We need everybody, regardless of whether they later decide to become a priest, religious, or spouse, or not.

After reading the Pope’s letter that JamalChristopher posted, as well as what the Catechism has to say throughout on the subject of vocations, I think the Church does not seem to take such a narrow view of “vocation”. It seems quite clear that single people can have all kinds of vocations useful to the Church, even if the vocation is just faithfully striving to love God and neighbor.


But nobody does this intentionally, as you claim.

It doesn’t place all “vocations” on the same level. And as far as I can see, the Church holds the “vowed” vocations up more than any other.


Back in my youthful high school days, although it was never put quite so bluntly, the impression we were given by the priests and nuns who taught us was this: If you are called to the priesthood or the religious life, you should accept your vocation in service to the Church. But most people are called to the married life, in service to their spouse and family. I got the impression that one’s feelings about the matter were not so important as one’s obligations in life. No one denigrated single people, but it was sort of expected that if not called to a religious vocation, we would be seeking a spouse.

But that was then. This is now. Part of the problem is that their has been a continuing crisis in marriage, and that has led to fewer marriages, distrust of marriage, and more singleness.


This is very true. Mostly because you are surrounded by a lot of lawyers and law students :smile:

I didn’t date at all in law school. No time and even less inclination. (Though to be fair, I haven’t dated much after law school either).


This is also the attitude I grew up with, to some extent. It was just expected that you were going to get married, probably young, and have a houseful of kids. No doubt this came out of the old thinking that staying single put you at more risk of committing various sins including sinful sex outside of wedlock, and I can see some truth to that. I am glad that the mindset seems to have expanded a bit and the Church now seems to have more room to welcome people in all kinds of life statuses as long as they aren’t committing sins.


Why do you think you haven’t dated much after law school


I’ve not been particularly inclined to and not found anyone worth dating. Without trying to sound arrogant, I am a remarkably smart and ambitious young woman, and I find it very difficult who can either keep up with me intellectually or not become intimidated by the fact that I am very smart and driven. The last person that was a potential you could basically watch as his spirit was crushed while I explained how I was going back to school to study international human rights law.

I have also been, on-and-off, considering whether or not my reticence for dating is a call to some type of religious or consecrated life, so I did take breaks to spend time discerning. I still haven’t decided on that yet either.


One of the reasons singleness (outside of consecrated life) is not a vocation is that there is no vow to “lock you in” like marriage, Holy Orders, or religious life that will, under normal circumstances (at least in the Latin Rite) prohibit one from pursuing another state of life simultaneously. For example, a priest may not get married unless he is first laicized, and a married man may not be ordained (at least in the Latin Rite) while still married. However, a single unconsecrated person is free to marry or seek ordination/religious life (assuming no other canonical impediments exist) because he/she does not have a vow “locking” him or her into the single life.

The CCC, when referring to “state of life” vocations, only refers to “marriage” and “virginity for the sake of the kingdom”, which is clarified as priestly ministry (“orders”) and consecrated life (“a vow”).

We have to face the fact that not every state of life is a vocation, and many people may not be able to fulfill their vocation. That is not a reflection on God or the person unable to fulfill the vocation. Mary Beth Bonacci sums it up well in the following article when she stated that many people who are called to marriage may not achieve it due to the poisoned pool:



I agree that, considering how hard it is these days to find a good Catholic spouse, it makes no sense to invent a pseudo-vocation that will only further drain the pool of potential spouses (that are not poisoned, as Mary Beth Bonacci mentioned) and make the job of finding one harder when, in fact, we need to increase the “stock”, so to speak.


Well, if according to Mary Beth Bonacci, the Pope thinks vocations for women are limited to motherhood or religious orders, then those of us women who are married but can’t have children for some reason are stuck with no vocation either. Whatever. :roll_eyes:

I think people should feel free to define their “vocation” as whatever they think God is calling them to do that is a good and holy thing. In this way, the Church will be inclusive and grow.


I actually read somewhere that churches have a vested interest in preventing singles from getting married because unmarried people serve as a pool of slave labor for volunteer causes.


Don’t tell my local CWL. They’ve been trying to marry me off since I walked through the door.


I think you missed the point of what was being said in the article.

Just like people want to be free to identify as a different gender? Truth is not defined by feelings.


I see “Truth” has now entered the room because someone disagreed with my response, so this is where I bid the discussion adieu. Good night!



You say you are a Miss Smartypants. :face_with_monocle:

Well then, I strongly recommend some independent reading. This is one book that I particularly like that ought to be required reading for the topic. I think it’s well thought out and insightful:

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