is singleness a vocation…

… I hear this question every now and then. I wonder, but highly doubt it.

I’m not a consecrated single person so being single, in my opinion, is not a vocation. I just sort of ended up in this state through various life circumstances but I never actively sought to be single. I think most singles are like me in this aspect. When I think “vocation” I don’t think of some transitory or temporary state, which I hope and pray my singleness is.

So I ascertain that being an unconsecrated single person is not a vocation though it is not a state without merit. When lived in accordance to our faith, singleness can help one attain holiness. It has certainly forced a greater dependency on God in my own life.

We often hear the old Catholic war cry, offer it up… which even on a good day still sounds like the dismissing retort, suck it up. Similarly, telling a single person to embrace their state of life is just as ineffective, especially since it’s not a state we’ve chosen.

The thought that gets me through most days is thinking of singleness as a sort of earthbound purgatory or limbo… a constant state of waiting. Surely all this waiting about is good for my patience and humility… surely.

Related link: Is the Unconsecrated Single Life a Vocation

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  • Richard

    I spent many years researching this topic.

    • Wayne

      and what are the results?

  • Heather F

    “Similarly, telling a single person to embrace their state of life is just as ineffective, especially since it’s not a state we’ve chosen.”

    I think that perhaps the fact that you haven’t chosen it and hope that it will not remain that state is a strong sign that being single, for you, is indeed a transitory state. But someone who has not chosen and embraced “singlehood” talking about how it sucks is kind of like someone forced into an unhappy arranged marriage talking about how marriage sucks. Just because you haven’t chosen it doesn’t mean that nobody does.

    Believe it or not, there actually are single Catholics out there who DO live fulfilled lives as laypeople in the world, not attached to a particular order or institute’s charism, and not feeling like their state in life is a particular burden or cross to bear. My best friend and roommate has never felt called to marriage and motherhood and after many years of discernment has also come to the conclusion that religious life is also not her calling. Maybe one of these years she will attach herself to some kind of third order or institute, but maybe not, and unlike the unhappy, seeking singles out there, she doesn’t feel like her state in life is any kind of cross or burden.

    Not every “spinster aunt” is to be pitied.

  • I sympathise Kat, although I’ve spent most of the past 18 months perusing a vocation to the Priesthood and/or religious life I’m starting to doubt that I have one, in which case the prospect of involuntary singledom is not appealing (especially since I’m 23 and never had any romantic experience).

    Still the prospect of joining the english equivalent of the IRS (through their graduate program) and becoming an Opus Dei style Uber-Catholic isn’t so bad, just think of all the tax evaders I could catch:)

  • I think single-ness could be my mom’s vocation. She loves being single. She talks every so often about being lonely, but most of the time she talks about how she loves being unattached. She has chosen singledom, and as a young woman, she entertained the idea of being a religious sister (she had 3 aunts who were nuns, an uncle who was a Monsignor, and one who was a brother) but she never felt a true calling.
    Not being single myself, I can’t say that I can relate, but I definitely think there are some lay people out there who truly choose to remain single. Some people are just really independent, or curmudgeonly, or just enjoy a lot of alone time.

  • If you don’t mind a paraphrase: Some are born to celibacy, while others have celibacy thrust upon them. There’s a difference between choosing celibacy as a form of witness and “choosing” celibacy out of despair of ever meeting – or having met and missed – Mr./Ms. Right. Or having met, married and divorced Mr. Oh-God-What-Was-I-Smoking-He-Was-So-Wrong (I’m thinking of my niece’s ex here).

    @ Jack Hughes: You’re only 23. That’s way too young to start despairing. My cousin’s second husband (first marriage was annulled) is over 50, and this is his first marriage. And C. S. Lewis was 58 when he married Joy Gresham, his only wife.

  • Christopher Lake

    I would seriously like to think that my singleness is a transitory state. Then again, I think of Flannery O’Connor, who, from what I recently read in Brad Gooch’s biography of her, longed for marriage but never got to experience it… and I can’t even console myself with the fact that I’m a great writer (which I’m not, but she obviously was). Self-pity, get thee gone…!

  • Seraphic

    What? What? Why you lookin’ at me?

  • “Offer it up” drives my wife absolutely crazy. She genuinely doesn’t understand it, but me saying it in a “suck it up” tone probably doesn’t help. Kinda like at the drugstore, “My daughter’s tummy hurts. Got anything to stop her complaining?” 😀

  • thanks for the encouragement Anthony but I’m worried because for me marriage would entail finding a good Catholic girl who was also willing to put up with a guy with mild asperger syndrome (the reason I’m told that the chances of being accepted into religious life) are practically nil).

  • cculbreth

    Ah, the Picasso.
    Just a short hop to the Degas “Absinthe Drinker.”
    Just thinking about her tears me up.

  • Queencoffeebean

    I emphatically disagree. One of the women in my life who I admire the most is a pious Catholic woman in her 50s who has spent her adult life caring for her widowed mother while she has run a business, honed skills, and trekked Europe. She’s also beautiful and stylish and, should I be called to life-long singleness, would be the person I would like to emulate.

    She’s not consecrated, nor is she opposed to the idea of marriage; however, the right man has yet to come along.

    Just because you are unhappy as a single woman doesn’t mean everyone else will be, even if it’s not something they have actively chosen. The important thing to remember is that for many, the single life is NOT temporary, even for people who would like to someday get married. Vocation is not a destiny, but part of a journey. Your vocation is the state you find yourself in at this moment. The secret to living a fulfilling life is to be happy in that state.

  • The one thing. The. One. And. Only. Thing I appreciate about being single with no children is that I can devote myself to pursuits that require a lot of solitude and quiet. Art. Writing.

  • …but other than that, the thought of spending the second half of my life as alone as I was for the first half fills me with a black despair and horror. Here’s a little secret I’d only share on the net because it is nearly three am and I should have gone to bed hours ago: when I was first diagnosed with cancer, I considered very seriously not getting treatment for it because of the deep terror I have of living for 40 years alone. I chose to try to beat cancer, but it was by no means an automatic, obvious thing. And it took a little convincing.