Michael Voris interviewed, speaks of the role of singles

Here is something you don’t see everyday.

A frequent commentatrix here, Supertradmum, has interviewed Michael Voris.  HERE

Of interest are the questions on the vocation and role of single people in the Church.

A sample:

Question One: I want to concentrate on a subject perhaps not discussed too much and that is the role of single people in the Church. I hope you do not mind sharing a few aspects of this tonight. 

I guess two things pop to my mind. Look at this as a positive and a negative, at the sacraments which are the traditional vocations of the Church, which include graces needed to sustain those roles. (These are marriage and the priesthood.) The single life poses its own unique challenges, but is sustainable by a different application of graces of by Our Lord. Many of us are single, some of us forever.
Nuns and sisters live underneath a sacrament. However, I do believe there is an opportunity to grow in grace in a non-sacramental grace. There is a type of intimacy which can develop between a soul and our Lord, not in the traditional vocations, a non-distracted companionship. You can grow very deeply.  You cannot talk about a single vocation. I do not think it is proper to talk about a vocation to the single life. A single person may be living a consecrated life, but that is not the same.

A person may not be the marrying kind. There are probably some people, lide those with same-sex attraction who would have to come to this place–how to incorporate living according to the Church’s teaching in their daily spiritual lives.

Most people do not stay there (single)

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. A very important topic that isn’t often addressed. Agree wholeheartedly. Not everyone is called to marriage and/or the priesthood and, sadly, that’s found out all too late.

    However, given Vorris’ normally first-rate work, what’s this “Nuns live underneath a sacrament?” Is that one located underneath the priesthood, marriage, baptism, penance, confirmation, holy communion, or the sacrament of the sick, sort of like a chapter sub-s corporation, part of but separate in operations from? I can dream up all sorts of possible explanations!

    I wonder what the LCWR’s would have to say about living underneath a sacrament!

    Kidding aside, the perception is that there is some sacrament of the nunhood.

  2. SimonDodd says:

    Like the recent video of Steven Colbert giving personal advice, I like Voris a lot better in this off-the-cuff setting than in his “real” work.

  3. Ed the Roman says:

    Vow, perhaps.

  4. Defender of Truth says:

    “Nuns and sisters live underneath a sacrament. However, I do believe there is an opportunity to grow in grace in a non-sacramental grace. There is a type of intimacy which can develop between a soul and our Lord, not in the traditional vocations, a non-distracted companionship. You can grow very deeply. You cannot talk about a single vocation. I do not think it is proper to talk about a vocation to the single life. A single person may be living a consecrated life, but that is not the same.”

    I am 84 years old and perhaps my grey cells are atrophied a bit, but I have no idea what this means, if anything.

  5. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I call it silly. If you don’t have a vocation to be married, and you don’t have a vocation to be religious, consecrated virgin, or priest; then obviously you must have a vocation to be a layperson with no extra frills on it. And if people want to call that a vocation to the single life, it’s exactly as inaccurate as you’d expect from a plain old layman or laywoman.

    And no, it’s nothing new. Just like The Catholic Book for Girls talks about being a single factoryworker or store clerk all your life, there used to be lots of talk in vocation guides about people who were going to be single servants or plowmen or helpful maiden aunts all their lives. There isn’t anything modern about it. There is no way, in any possible society, that you could fit every single person into a marriage or a monastery.

    And there are a fair number of countries that were evangelized by single laypeople, living in the world.

  6. gracie says:

    “I do not think it is proper to talk about a vocation to the single life.”

    I don’t see why not. The priests and nuns used to teach that there were 3 vocations in life: to the religious life, married life, or single life. Makes sense to me. It made sense to them. How can Mr. Voris know that God isn’t calling someone to the single life? Why does it have to be consecrated in some special way for it to be valid? It never was before. Isn’t it enough that it’s the path we’re meant to walk if we’re called to it? Single people get their graces from Baptism/Penance/Holy Eucharist/Confirmation/Extreme Unction. I really think they’re covered.

  7. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Clearly there is a “do… not” missing here.

  8. APX says:

    “Nuns and sisters live underneath a sacrament”


  9. tcreek says:

    If you believe the polls, around 50% of Catholics are divorced. Are they not henceforth called (by Christ) to the single life?

  10. Cathy says:

    I’ve always understood that the sacramental vow made by Nuns would be Matrimony with Jesus Christ as their Spouse. I am single, just about every Catholic that I know has been single for some part of their lives, others for all of their lives. I would not describe “single” as a vocation, but as a state of life. It is possible for a single person to be single for the entirety of their lives, but most definitely to be married or religious is to be summoned or called out of the “single” life to a life in community. I can’t be called out to be what I already am, that is just silly. I can, however, recognize that even in a single state of life within the Catholic Church I have a great blessing and responsibility in the Church, even today.

  11. WGS says:

    I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, and I recall the arrangement of the Sears catalog with “good”, “better” and “best” quality indicated for many items. In Sunday school or somewhere along the way, it was pointed out that one’s vocation is not like that. It would not be appropriate to think of single life as “good”, married life as “better” and consecrated religious life as “best”. Whatever God calls you to is truly “best” for you. Hear His word!

  12. frjim4321 says:

    This reminds me of a convention this past summer at which I met a “consecrated virgin.”

    I’m am bit skeptical of the c/v thing itself, but the topic of a “single vocation” would seem somewhat related.

    This person seemed to not be able to make a simple decision for herself without consulting her spiritual director, so I was a little bit incredulous.

    [I am sure that you are also skeptical permanent diaconate, which was another thing revived by Vatican II.]

  13. Supertradmum says:

    Thanks Fr. Z. I wanted Michael’s input on these topics as he is “single for the Lord”.

    frjim4321, I have many posts on the consecrated life of the virgin, a state which St. John Paul II re-introduced. You can use the search bar on my blog. Also, I have many posts on being single.

    Most of my Catholic education, and very good it was indeed, was pre-Vat II. We were never taught that the single life was a “vocation”. We were instructed that one may sacrifice one’s life for ill parents, or another necessary cause and that is worthy. But, just being single is not a calling, unless one dedicates one’s self to a particular life for God, such as Mr. Voris has done. Here is my controversial view from a few years back, which sparked many other posts.


    tcreek, an annulled marriage frees a person to become a nun or even a religious man, like a monk. One who is truly divorced and annulled can re-marry. No, divorce does not mean that someone has to be “single”. Circumstances may create that situation, not a “call” from God.

  14. JesusFreak84 says:

    The idea behind, “no vocation to the single life,” may be in the sense that, whereas marriage, the priesthood, and the religious life all have specific duties and etc., single life doesn’t. Marriage has pre-Cana, religious life has the postulancy, {sp?} novitiate, etc., and priests have seminary, but the single life doesn’t have a set “training” and then boom, you’re living your vocation. It’s also a state that can change to another state at anytime, whereas priests, brothers, sisters, nuns, etc., are all so for life and married couples are married so long as both still breathe (regardless of what pieces of paper are issued on the matter by Caesar.)

  15. Supertradmum says:

    As to the use of the word sacrament, no only the priesthood is technically a sacrament. Vows were created by men, not Christ, Who created the sacrament. But, there are graces connected to the taking of vows, and in that sense the call is “holy”. I am sure any real nun or monk or consecrated virgin would speak of receiving a particular grace for their call and the answering of that call.

  16. Supertradmum says:

    WGS, there is a good, better, best, but it is not what people think. The life of the religious is a shortcut to perfection and therefore is the best state in life for the growth of holiness. But, this does not mean that a monk or nun is automatically holier than a pious, devote, orthodox lay person. We are ALL called to sainthood, to perfection, but the life in a monastery makes it a lot easier.

    That is what is meant by that life being a “higher call”. It allows for holiness more directly and should be desired to be followed as such. But, there are married saints, and those who are lay cannot get away from being less perfect than the nun or monk. There is the one and the same call for all to holiness. How we do this is the “vocation” from God.

  17. Priam1184 says:

    I think it is the use of the term ‘single’ that is confusing regarding the vocational aspect of this state in life. Most people think of a ‘single’ man as someone who sleeps late, lives off of microwave burritos, goes to bars, and still gets his mom to do his laundry for him. Hardly a noble vocation in life.

    I prefer the term unmarried, and as the Apostle says: an unmarried man is free to devote himself to the things of the Lord; if he is willing to take up that challenge. Whether this is to be a long term vocation in life I do not know, but with the marriage situation in our culture becoming more dicey by the day this is something the Church needs to consider what to do with people in this state. I would suspect that a lot of people who lived at the various turns of the ages of history of the Church have found themselves in this spot and have gone on to help the Church move in a new direction as Mr. Voris himself is doing. Some may be called to live in this state for the rest of their days, some may end up marrying, and maybe one of these will follow the still small voice of the Lord and wander away from the city to find Subiaco.

  18. APX says:

    Fr. Jim,

    What is it about consecrated virgins that you’re skeptical of? The consecration of a virgin is one of the Church’s oldest and most elaborate sacramental.

  19. Ben Kenobi says:

    Here’s the problem. When people raise this issue, what they really mean is,
    “Why doesn’t the church heap praise on me?”
    They see it that the church has explicit sacraments associated with ordination and marriage, and they feel left out, and want recognition from the church. This is no different than what motivates the proponents of gay marriage, fwiw.

    I am single. Am I called to be single? No. This is a reason for me to strive towards change and improve and work on my life, not simply find excuses to be content within my life at present. Does it involve suffering, loneliness, etc? Yes. But – since when is the Church about serving our desires?

    If there is indeed a vocation for single people, then where’s the sacrament? Where’s the commitment? Where’s the promises between the single people? In short – they do not exist. If you really and sincerely believe you are called to be single, then you need to make the commitment towards becoming a priest, or a deacon or a nun. If you are bound by impediments, then you simply have to accept, that this is the lot that God has assigned you.

    People simply don’t want to make this commitment because ‘it’s hard’, ‘it’s sooo final”, etc. That to me demonstrates that they are not really called to the single life, and that instead they need more discernment.

    I have sympathy for those who are called to be married who are not at present married. This is a difficult state of being, – but, let’s be honest about it – everyone who is married endures this state. Marriage is a blessing. We need to make the effort to work towards our calling.

  20. APX says:


    The Rite of Consecration of a Virgin was revived along with the permanent diaconate during Vatican II and was officially revised in 1970 while Paul VI was still pope.

  21. Fr_Sotelo says:

    There is an issue where people feel “neglected” by the Church. Married couples notice that their sacrament never receives the pomp, attention, and communal outpouring of support that a priestly ordination gets. It’s not even close. Sisters notice that no matter how long they have served the Church, most people want to hear what “Father has to say on the matter.” Single people are fed up, they say, with homilies that dwell on spousal relationships and the duties of Christian parenthood. The brothers say no one knows they exist. Those with same sex attraction say they have a vocation in the Church–to be quiet and not act so gay.

    So, in the midst of disgruntled feelings, I like it when someone points out that we all have the universal call of holiness, no matter in which state of life or calling we find ourselves to be. Opus Dei was the first group in the Church, even before Vatican II, to get that right. I’m not Opus Dei, so I’m not trying to give them a plug. Just saying, that before Vatican II made it popular, they were telling everyone to just “bloom where you are planted.”

  22. Supertradmum says:

    APX my slip and mistake indeed, and I did know that but forgot. I was thinking of St. John Paul II’s wonderful work Vita Consecrata for all religious, a lovely work. Thanks for the correction. The rules on consecrated virgins are on the net and I have several posts from the past on this subject.

  23. daveams says:

    The encyclical Sacra Virginitas by Ven. Pius XII can be very helpful reading on the topic. Highly recommend it to anyone discerning. It can help with a deeper appreciation of this vocation.


    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.

    7. To all of these beloved sons and daughters who in any way have consecrated their bodies and souls to God, We address Ourselves, and exhort them earnestly to strengthen their holy resolution and be faithful to it.

  24. Priam1184 says:

    @Fr_Sotelo Absolutely 100% correct and thank you! The Church couldn’t function if everyone was married, everyone was a priest, everyone was unmarried, or everyone was a vowed religious. We all need to do what we are doing where we are doing it and if God wants any of that to change then He will let us know.

  25. Mike says:

    Fr. Sotelo,
    Thanks for your comment. Opus Dei does teach this, as does Vatican II re “universal call to holiness”. I would say, and I may be wrong, but this sounds like an authentic “development of doctrine”, rather than, say, clown Masses.

  26. Mike says:

    Here’s the passage from Lumen Gentium:

    39. The Church, whose mystery is being set forth by this Sacred Synod, is believed to be indefectibly holy. Indeed Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is praised as “uniquely holy,” (1*) loved the Church as His bride, delivering Himself up for her. He did this that He might sanctify her.(214) He united her to Himself as His own body and brought it to perfection by the gift of the Holy Spirit for God’s glory. Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification”.

  27. gracie says:

    It’s very interesting to view the results of a google search regarding Catholic vocations. Most sites talk about vocations to the priesthood, followed by the religious life and then married life. Very little on the single state. However, I ran across the website of the ‘Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church ‘ in Robinson Township, Pa. They have a page on vocations where they state: “The Catholic Church recognizes four (yes, 4!) main vocations: Priesthood, Religious Life, Marriage and Single Life.” They then give a brief description of the four vocations.

    For the Single Life Vocation they say the following:

    “A person called to single life comes to believe that remaining single is the true and right way to faithfully live his or her baptismal call. Single men and women embrace the call to celibacy while living alone, with a family, or with others who are single. They are able to devote time and energy in service of others, and may serve in their parish community or in the Church in a number of different ways.”


  28. Seems to me there are multiple questions here:
    – whether God calls a soul to dedicate him/herself to His service as an unmarried layperson who is not a religious or otherwise consecrated/committed in a manner formalized by the Church? And what do you call that, if anything?
    – whether the apostolate of such a single person should receive the prayers of the faithful during Mass or otherwise and, if not, why not?
    – whether there are impactful roles for singles in the life of the Church and, if not, why not?
    – whether the feelings of marginalization from Church life among some singles are due to Church teaching, poor socialization of the faithful, both, neither, and/or should the Church do anything about it?

    As an unmarried, productive working-age professional who prays in Latin, wants to grow in holiness, approaches life as service and thinks Cassocks are a good thing, I look around my parish and orders or institutes I have explored, and I don’t see a lot of women or men like me effectively engaged with our priestly, religious, consecrated or married comrades on the front lines for the Kingdom.

    St. Josemaria preached the universal call to holiness as vocation before it became vogue to do so. He preached that we all have God-given apostolate wherever we are. Given that, then we’re all children of God with more particular callings to do certain things. And we need each other. You want to live in a monastery, you may need my practical help. I want to be Christ to someone at work, I need your prayers. The rest of the “do you have a vocation” arguments are just… well, arguments.

  29. Supertradmum says:

    As one who has been single most of my life, I can say several things about the state.

    First of all, I am convinced it is not a vocation, but a state perhaps fallen into because of circumstances, which in times past did not exist. A call from God is not merely praying and fasting, which I do, or doing ministries in the Church as these may come up. A call from God is “who you are”, a question of “being” not “doing”. The mystery of the way of holiness demands that we work out our salvation within a context and God knows we need community. Over and over again on my blog, I get notes from people who are single and know that they are missing out on the growth and support which comes from a community.

    We are all called to live with others. Being a hermit is a higher calling, and a vocation within a vocation of the monastic life. However, being a hermit in the world not only causes a tremendous amount of existential pain for most singles, but limits one’s ability to be strong in the world, because one lacks support.

    Being single can also cause a deceitfulness, especially if one cannot find a good or any spiritual director. The early Church lived in community. I find few singles who are interested in praying together, eating together, going to Mass and having coffee, for example. I tried to get a lay group of single women together for Adoration, and could not find enough interested.

    It is fine to say “bloom where you are planted” but one has to be planted somewhere.

    Being rather than doing it the focus of vocation. Mr. Voris told me that he has a little community with whom he works. Some have been with him since the beginning of his ministry, some come for awhile and leave. But, there is Mass, prayer, schedule, working together for a common good.

    That is what “singles” need to be effective. Perhaps Opus Dei provides community. I do not know. Having lived in areas where there has not been Opus Dei it is hard for me to know. Also, out of the several Opus Dei priests I have met in my travels, but not in places where I have lived, only one has been a TLM priest. The others were not.

    I highly suggest that the lack of marriages and the lack of vocations to the priesthood and religious life are owing to some singles just not wanting to make any commitment of any kind. That is not being “single for the Lord.”

  30. Reliquary says:

    I am single, and it is not my choice. I don’t think it is a choice for most single people. I have put myself in all kinds of situations through my life to try to meet the right Catholic man. I have visited several religious congregations. I believe that the number of single people — and I think that the statement that “most don’t stay there” may be outdated — is indicative of the culture we live in. We Catholics are part of the culture and suffer the consequences. The single life is not a vocation, but singles are called to something in particular, I believe — a particular suffering in reparation for the sins of this age that are causing so many people not to be in sacramental marriages or in religious life, and to be isolated, which is not what we were meant to be. We have to pray more and come closer to Our Lord all the time, and He leads singles just as He does every other faithful person in his own unique vocation. In this there may be much suffering, but there is even more joy.
    I would like single people to be part of the discussion on the family, because I think it is a responsibility of the married, who, during the wedding ceremony, are commanded to reach out to the less fortunate. It would be great if they would once again start introducing singles to one another, to have dinners and other social events where singles are included and feel part of a family, a community, a parish.

  31. Joseph-Mary says:

    Perhaps Mr. Voris meant under a vow or considered a religious profession as a sacramental?

    We have consecrated virgins in our archdiocese. And I understand there are also consecrated widows as well.

  32. lmo1968 says:

    I am a single in my mid-40s. I didn’t marry in part because there were impediments. I guess you could say it is God’s will for me. I am in a community but I am the only single person in the community. I thank God for this community. It has given me everything. I can’t recommend enough that singles get a community. Start one in your parish. Join an ecclesial movement as I did. Join a ministry in your parish. Start a ministry in your parish. A book club. Anything. Every Christian needs a community — none of us can survive on our own in the desert. The world is a desert.

  33. I’m glad someone pointed out the mistake about female consecrated life being a Sacrament (which leaves the religious brothers high and dry, too! Sorry guys, no Sacrament for you …)

    Fr Thomas Dubay is good on this topic – he says religious consecration is not a Sacrament, because it doesn’t need to be one. It’s eschatological; it is anticipating the Kingdom, where there will be no marriage, and no Sacraments.

    Anyway …

    I am single. I spent years trying to get married – but in retrospect, I was not actually trying all that hard, or making poor choices that made marriage almost impossible. I eventually realised that I was chasing my own tail, and that I was looking for solutions to problems that I actually needed to solve myself with God’s help.

    I don’t believe single life is a vocation. I am with the argument that says that the idea of ‘vocation’ should be limited to a specific call to the consecrated life, either as a priest or as a religious. For this, you need a special call from God; you can’t do it otherwise.

    Marriage is a Sacrament. It is also a choice. Anyone can get married (even me, if I really wanted to); not everyone can get married and stay married, and not everyone can get married and make it happy and working and functional. Anyone can choose to be single, as well. It’s the motives that count.

    But not just anyone can choose to be a priest or religious – for that, you need a special invitation.

  34. Supertradmum says:

    Joseph-Mary I did not know the Church had approved a Rite for Widows. I am interested in this, as I did some research on it years ago. Of course, a widow has to be a real widow and not divorced and annulled.

    If you have a link, I would appreciate it.

  35. Ben Kenobi nailed it, by the way – too much ‘What about me?’

    Discerning God’s will for your life is a much more lively, fascinating and complicated process than sitting around complaining. And it’s not the same as ‘discerning a vocation’. I think this is where people get muddled.

    Plus, God’s will for your life changes such a lot over time – much more interesting …

  36. Chon says:

    Once again, I come away from exposure to Mr. Voris thinking about how he tends to be divisive. The only clear example he can think of for people who are “not the marrying type” is that they have same sex attraction? Oh, please!
    Perhaps Mr. Voris was trying to give us other examples, but his comments are exceedingly unclear. A bad day for communication.

  37. Ave Crux says:

    Excuse me….I am really stunned and stupefied to hear so many — obviously not single — people proclaiming how there is no vocation to the single life. How in the world would you know….not having been called to it yourselves?

    A vocation is a calling from God to a path in life that is most conducive to one’s salvation, and to the life’s work that He has in mind for you. God’s Will constitutes a vocation for each and every one of us — and for some, it is clearly to the single life.

    There are 4 children in my family. Only the oldest had a vocation to marriage. The other three of us are living in the world with lives totally dedicated to doing God’s will in the pursuit of holiness of life.

    At 22 I had a spiritual awakening, and — without a moment’s doubt — I *knew* I was called to be single the rest of my life. Why? It is the life in which I realized I could give myself most entirely to God, while I also knew I did not have the health or the calling to enter religious life.

    **** In fact, Saint Paul himself said — long before there were Catholic religious orders — that a virgin is free to think of the things of God, and that those who are not married would do better to remain so for the sake of the Kingdom of God. ****

    In fact, I don’t even know why this is a question or not obvious. For most of us who have chosen to remain celibate for God’s sake, while not yet feeling called to religious life, the “vocation” could not be more clear. God has very clear ways of making that “vocation” known to souls, and His grace seconds the vocation once you set out on that path.

  38. Ave Crux says:

    P.S. And I should add that there are many holy Venerables, Blesseds and Saints who had to remain in the world in the single vocation.

    Even if some of these individuals took private vows — they were not “consecrated” in any way formally by the Church — and as such, their vocation was simply to the single life, their private vows not being recognized by the Church.

    Saint Gemma Galgani, Venerable Matt Talbot, Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot, the two seers of LaSalette, are only a few which come to mind, and there are many more.

    And yet, again, the real authority on this is Saint Paul, who counseled those who were not married to remain so if they wished to reap a greater spiritual harvest; and even Our Lord said that there would be eunuchs who chose to remain so for the Kingdom of God. He did not mean that all these would be called to the Priesthood, and at the time there was no question of religious orders.

    I am completely puzzled as to why anyone would insist that every single human being either has a formal religious vocation, or must get married. That really is opposed to reason.

    Why can’t single people do exactly what Christ and Saint Paul indicated: remain so in order to be more available for the interior life and the Will of God in their lives with Him…?

  39. St. Rafael says:

    A consecrated lay virgin falls under the religious vocation. Consecrated virginity is part of the religious life. I would also say that there is no such thing as a vocation to the single life. There is only marriage or the religious life. That people remain single without these two other vocations is unfortunate and ultimately a mystery. Something went wrong. For whatever reason, for whatever circumstances in life, a person remained single.

  40. JonPatrick says:

    I find this topic of interest because I have two unmarried sons in their late twenties who are discerning their vocations. They both are afflicted with some degree of a disability (in the Autistic spectrum) which has made discernment difficult, particularly marriage given that it is harder to form relationships in a society that bases so much on superficiality and first impressions rather than getting to know what lies under the surface. They have both been active in the local parish and have started to form relationships which gives them a sense of community and helps dispel the sense of isolation that can come about in their situation.

  41. New Sister says:

    @ WGS – the Baltimore Catechism frequently indicates marriage “good” but religious life “better”. Great diagrams, http://publishing.capuchin.org/Page%20Content%20Images/Sal_Cordaro_Vocations/catechism%202.jpg

  42. APX says:

    St Rafael,

    Canonically speaking, a consecrated lay virgin does NOT fall under the category of religious life and is NOT part of the the religious life, NOR is it a form of quasi-religious life. Consecrated lay virginity falls under the category of consecrated life. This is a very important distinction that needs to be made and accepted, especially by consecrated virgins who want to make the vocation into something it isn’t.

    A consecrated lay virgin living in the world is a secular vocation, similar to that of a secular priest rather than a religious priest.

  43. Elizabeth D says:

    In my local area there is nothing to support people with a call to celibate chastity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven but not to canonical consecrated life (I’ve tried… I am told over a period of many years I am not suitable, which has been psychologically difficult). To my consternation, because I see such a call as a good (“it is better to remain unmarried”) I am sometimes told it is something they “do not want to encourage.” I both understand what they mean, and think this is very misguided. The REFUSAL even today in the midst of all manner of immoral lifestyles to affirm that being chastely unmarried (even with the specific purpose of singleheartedness for Jesus) is GOOD as well as chaste marriage and religious life is madness. Every practicing Catholic falls into one of these states of life and these are all part of the picture of holiness in the Church. If lived in a holy and self sacrificial way, the Gospel truth is that celibate chastity is preferable to marriage regardless of whether or not there is a possibility of canonical consecrated life. I am privately vowed, for life. Often by our leaders there is a refusal to respect or support this. Maybe in some way it is all the better because it is almost never acknowledged and gains you no respect in other people’s eyes. There is only the relationship with Jesus that is at the heart of it and unseen by others, private rather than public.

  44. slainewe says:

    Total consecration to the Lord is such a blessing that any serious single Catholic who delays it must feel that they may be called to marriage. Why else would they not reap the graces of total consecration for the greater glory of God and conversion of sinners?

    I think the term “single life” is best left to the world. It puts Catholics living undeclared consecrated lives and those still open to marriage in the same class as those who remain single for selfish reasons.

    I would also like to see those living undeclared consecrated lives encouraged to make vows for the reasons stated above. Why stay “engaged” to the Lord when “marriage” brings with it such greater benefits for oneself and mankind?

  45. Supertradmum says:

    Chon, Michael is divisive only insofar as we all must be “signs of contradiction in the world”. He is one of the few lay voices speaking the truth. And, there are many people who are “not the marrying type” and should not for various reasons get married. But, that is another question, as these people most likely should not join religious orders, either.

    However, I do believe in some people being “natural celibates”, that is, perfectly content to live a life of chastity. Natural celibates would be good in religious orders or as priests, but obviously, not in a marriage, where one owes the other the marriage duty of intimacy.

  46. I think you have the right outlook, Elizabeth D. There are many who are called to celibacy but perhaps aren’t called to the priesthood or religious life (impediments, physical or mental handicaps, etc.)

    I, too, have taken private vows, but consider myself as consecrated to God. It’s the same situation as vowed celibates in a society of apostolic life – they might renew their vows annually, but the intention is a lifelong consecration to God. I think it’s key that Pius XII in Sacra Virginatis mentioned those privately vowed to celibacy, and then immediately after wrote, “To all of these beloved sons and daughters who in any way have consecrated their bodies and
    souls to God….”

  47. Ave Crux says:

    Elizabeth D and Coast Caritas:

    This is interesting….I too was led by God is the clearest and most compelling manner possible — beyond any possibility of moral doubt — to live in the world as a single person, BUT also to take private vows. Fortunately I had the guidance of wonderful priests in these matters. I wanted a religious vocation so badly, but health and other impediments stood in the way.

    But the single vocation was clear from the first moment of my conversion to a serious spiritual life at 22. My two brothers are also called to the single life — although I do not know if they have taken vows. I never told anyone for years — not even my brothers. It seems like such a personal thing. But now a good number of people know.

    It is true that we receive no “recognition” in the single vocation, and that our private vows are not formally recognized by the Church. But it is God Whom those are intended to honor…and it was to His Love alone they were pledged….not to the world for their admiration or affirmation.

    God clearly wants these hidden souls to offer their hidden oblation to Him — much like those hidden in monasteries offer their hidden lives to Him.

    Once when I lamented I did not have a formal religious vocation, my wonderful spiritual director told me I am no less consecrated to God than those who have been able to do so formally in Religious Life. Saint Gemma Galgani — that incomparable mystic, so beloved of God — was not even able to enter religious life and had to be contented with private vows.

    For all eternity, God will reward the intention of the Will, the desires of the heart, as though they had been realized for love of Him.

    Those who do not experience the single vocation personally should not be passing judgment on the secret designs of God for many single celibates. I personally know not a few who are living that single life for the “sake of the kingdom of God.”

  48. kittenchan says:

    It all has to do with vows and consecration. Our state in life – married or unmarried – is secondary. All the vocations most familiar to us – married life, priesthood, religious life – involve consecration and vows, binding us to our spouse – another person, the Church, Christ Himself. They entail a public declaration of lifelong fidelity and proclamation of the promises we intend to keep.

    The thing with this idea of there being no such thing as a vocation to the single life as popularly understood is that we are made to be in committed relationships, complete with explicit fidelity and promises. Priests, nuns, sisters, monks, friars, etc are also “single” in that they are not bound to another earthly person in marriage. Instead of the divide being “married, religious, single”, perhaps the distinction ought to be “married, religious single, secular single” rather like the distinction between religious and secular priests. This would promote a better understanding of the situation because the Church actually DOES recognize several vocations for people who are not married and not called to the religious life. One, the vocation of consecrated virgin (CCC §§922-4), has already been brought up in this combox. Others are described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: the eremitic life (§§920-1), secular institutes (§§928-9), and societies of apostolic life (§§930).

    It is telling that in the entire section on the roles of Christ’s faithful (part one, section two, chapter three, article nine, paragraph four, §§871-933, found here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P2A.HTM), there is NO mention of some kind of unconsecrated, unvowed, “singles” vocation. In fact, in every article I have read on the subject, there is never a supporting citation from an authoritative text. It seems to be based purely on “me-too” feel-good conjecture based in ignorance of the importance of formally dedicating one’s life to God and the many avenues which the Church recognizes for pursuing such vocations.

    The problem with the popular notion of a “singles” vocation is that there is no finality. Catholics understand that priesthood lasts forever, even into eternity, and marriage and religious vows (are supposed to) last until death. When you’re still married, you can’t become a priest. When you’re a nun, you can’t get married. You have made a commitment and must (should) see it through. But when you’re just single, you haven’t dedicated yourself to any particular vocation – that is, state in life. You may have dedicated yourself to a great many other things – a job or career, schooling, caring for inform family, a political movement, charity work, etc – but those are not one’s state in life. Those are the things with which one occupies one’s life – occupations. Laudable, yes. Vocations, no. When you’re single and have made no official, lifelong, binding commitment to God either directly, or through serving another person in marriage or serving God’s people in one of the aforementioned secular single vocations, then you are still able to choose between any of them.

    Sometimes people cannot enter the vocation God has called them to because of some impediment. God may call a young man to the priesthood, but he doesn’t know it or ignores it and gets married instead. God may call a young woman to the married life, but she never finds a man she wants to marry (and who in turn wants to marry her) and becomes a consecrated virgin instead. So there are lots of reasons people may not be married or may not be priests, nuns, etc. But that does not mean they get some kind of commitment-less consolation prize of a “singles vocation”. People are called to dedicate themselves. They are not called NOT to dedicate themselves.

  49. Ave Crux says:

    For kittenchan:

    Unfortunately, you are sadly mistaken. I refer you again to Saint Paul who said it is better to remain unmarried so that one may be free for the things of God. He didn’t add: “as long as you also take a vow in doing so….” This is not necessary.

    And I refer you again to Christ, Who said that there are those who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. He also did not add: “in vowed celibacy or a religious order, or the priesthood.”

    Every person on earth is called to be mindful of the things of God — being single makes one more available to do so, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the person is either spiritually, emotionally or psychologically prepared or fit to do so with binding vows. The WILL and the heart are what are judged by God.

    I know many single celibates who were never called to marriage, and who have not taken vows. They lead good and productive lives, and are the source of many blessings to those around them.

    You are foolhardy to make sweeping judgments about a vocation from God — that is: His expressly manifest Will for some individuals — to remain single — with or without private vows.

    You speak rashly in making such judgments, which are best judged in the internal forum of the conscience of between the soul and God, and — very often — their spiritual directors, as well.

    Why don’t you simply leave what you cannot know to those who can know, because they are so called?

  50. “Observe chastity according to your state in life”. One could say that should be the first tenet of the single life, although chastity applies to absolutely everyone. The single person doesn’t have the support of a formal association of a religious community or a spouse. Life in the world is more challenging than ever.

    Having been a loose canon as a single person, I can relate to the desire of any single person to meet the daily battles with some sort of armor, whether it be a vow, a group of prayerful friends, supportive family – whatever it takes. Single life is hard. Very hard.

    You do trade for another set of problems when getting married or joining a community – but there’s no denying that single life is difficult.

  51. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Kittenchan, Ave Crux —

    Actually, every lay vocation does involve vows.

    Baptismal vows.

    So Ave Crux is right, and Kitten-chan is right. But the details do differ.

  52. otter says:

    Strange article, as many have pointed out.

    As a single person, I am in ongoing discernment regarding my vocation. Thus far, I have not felt called to religious life or ordination because I am turned off by the institutional muck of the Church and religious communities that can interfere with the mission of those serving and living as sister, brother, nun, monk, or priest. I have not felt called to marriage because I have not met a person who shares my faith and values and wishes to build a life with me, for others–and I have not spent a lot of time or energy seeking such a person. I am single–for better or worse. And I’ve sensed God’s stamp of approval on that! Very consciously, I have chosen to utilize the freedom and independence that comes with being single to serve God: I have served the Catholic Church as a lay ecclesial minister, I have lived in a Catholic Worker community with other faithful Catholic single people, I am active in peace and justice efforts locally and globally, I have a rich prayer life, I have a deep and wide network of family and friends, I have embraced hospitality as a model for ministry, I can change course in a heartbeat to follow God’s plan for my life, I feel strongly committed to a life of Christian service–even when it requires simple living–and I am at peace serving God as a single person. I think the world is a little better place because of my intentional choices as a single, faith-filled person.

    I know married, religious, and ordained people whose lives don’t give much of an impression of “vocation” as much as lifestyle. I know others who seem to be living very faithfully in their call.

    Is being single a vocation? To some single Catholics–yes! And we don’t need the Church to validate this, actually.

  53. robtbrown says:

    A few comments:

    1. Neither Vat II nor Opus Dei was the first to speak about a universal call to holiness. In fact, Fr Garrigou LaGrange was writing about it years before the Council. And before G-L another Dominican, Fr Juan Gonzalez Arintero, who died in 1928, promoted it.

    2. It needs to be remembered that there were Lay Branches attached to the mendicant orders founded in the Middle Ages, e.g., Carmelite, Dominican, and Franciscan. These were the Tertiaries–the Third Orders (the Priests and Contemplative Nuns being the First and Second orders). Widows often became Tertiaries, and some later lived in Community–these were the beginnings of the Sisters who taught or worked in hospitals. St Catherine of Siena was a Tertiary–she wore the habit and did not live in a convent.

    3. It needs to be noted that the religious orders founded after the Council (e.g., Jesuits) generally did not have Lay Branches. So in a certain sense we are seeing a return to the Medieval attention to the laity.

    4. The Opus Dei innovation is that it is not a branch of an order of Priests and Nuns–it is an independent lay institute whose members, incl numeraries, usually have secular professions.

    5. St Thomas says that Final Vows are like a second Baptism. Vows, BTW, specifically bind someone to follow the words of Christ: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. And so whoever makes vows is said to be in the State of Perfection. That does not mean they are perfect, but rather they have bound themselves to a life whose obligations and resources are ordered to perfection.

  54. I still don’t believe it’s a ‘vocation’ per se.

    I do believe some single people experience great clarity in their discernment of the Will of God for their lives – stay single, be helpful, live chastely, make vows if you can – but I don’t think that makes it a ‘vocation’.

    We live in very strange times, there’s no doubt. Our society is breaking apart in many ways; it’s reminiscent of the early Church, especially described in Peter Brown’s The Body and Society. A lot of new and crazy things erupted out of the early Church as people experimented with different ways of living out God’s will. Right now may be the same.

  55. slainewe says:

    Dear otter,

    But is not the “institutional muck of the Church [and the Domestic Church]” what produces most saints?

    We do not become holy by doing what we THINK is God’s will (which is often, in fact, OUR will), but by doing what we KNOW is God’s will because it comes from those in lawful authority over us. We become saints, not by doing what we WANT to do, but what we DO NOT WANT to do. Vows (hopefully) lead us right into the “Agony in the Garden” where we (for love of God in obedience to His representative) resign ourselves to do the last thing we want to do saying, “Father, not my will, but Thine be done.” It is this plunge into the crucible that produces the saints we need for the Holy Ghost to restore the reign of Christ on the face of the earth.

    This is why I can see the reluctance in the Church to encourage “singles” to do the work of discernment and make real vows by the age of 30 as a ploy of the evil one to prevent us from reaching the higher realms of sanctity.

  56. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Every baptized Catholic has made “real vows.”

    And yes, the more I think about it, the more this seems to be the crux of the matter: single Catholics are bound by their Baptismal vows, and not by others. So their task is simpler in some ways, although they have less help in other ways.

  57. Chon says:

    Slainewe: loved your typo. Yes, the “institutional muck” of the Church makes saints :-)…as we learn patience and forgiveness for the sinful humans running the institution.

    Supertrad…many lay voices speak the truth, and in a more balanced and informed manner than Voris.

  58. Chon says:

    Ave Crux, you are absolutely correct.

    And have people here considered the current state of society? It has become much harder to find suitable spouses or convents, etc.–ones not sold out to the world. It’s better to remain single in many cases, as St. Paul teaches.

  59. Imrahil says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    the Jesuits do have lay branches, which in fact especially in the past were known to almost collect all fervent Catholic males of a given area: the Marian Men Congregations. (Marian Women Congregations also exist but less often.)

  60. Ave Crux says:

    for Philippa Martyr:

    It’s amusing that one can find additional clarity in Wikipedia. I simply looked up the definition of “vocation” online, and this is what Wikipedia provides:

    Use of the word “vocation” before the sixteenth century referred firstly to the “call” by God to an individual, or calling of all humankind to salvation, particularly in the Vulgate, and more specifically to the “vocation to the priesthood”, which is still the usual sense in Roman Catholicism.[2] Roman Catholicism recognizes marriage, single life, religious and ordained life as the four vocations.[3]

    “Vocation” means simply speaking a call by God to a specific walk in life, be it marriage, single life, religious life or ordained life.

    Why would 3 of those modes of life be called vocations, and then for no concrete reason, single life is excluded on a whim?

    A vocation requires specific graces and lights from God on how it is to be lived, and how it is to be a means of that particular person’s sanctification. “Vocare” means to call — God’s Holy Spirit calls souls to fulfill His Will in specific modes of life, providing the ways and the means, and supporting that person’s sanctification in that mode of life to the extent they correspond with it.

    If being “called” by God to the single life is NOT a vocation from Him, then what is it? It’s simply not logical or reasonable to say that this is not a vocation ordained by God — that is, His specific calling for individuals so called, and His collaboration within the context of that concrete vocation for the fulfillment of His Holy Will.

  61. otter says:

    The institutional Church and the institutions of religious orders can help create saints. And, it’s not the only path to sainthood. Just because I don’t choose to have a bishop or order superior calling the shots doesn’t mean I am not hearing God’s call in my life. I don’t just do what I WANT because I’m a free agent. I am vowed by my Baptism and my Confirmation to serve God with all my heart and soul. And the path is very, very difficult at times–because of the choices I make while genuinely trying to follow God’s call. Sometimes those higher authorities know what is best, and sometimes not. Religious life, ordained life, married life, single life–all are capable of producing saints. And sinners. Mostly–people muddling along doing the best they can. (Personally, I think God delights in those the most.)

  62. lmo1968 says:

    The single vocation, and through this discussion I am starting to see how it can be a vocation; how my walk has been a vocation, is so misunderstood by most of us, that I don’t see how it ever will be considered a vocation by the Church. But I think this is part of God’s plan. God gives us the graces to carry our Cross and I think the Cross and vocation are synonymous. If we are obedient to our vows then God will help us in our single vocation to be fruitful and to do His will.

  63. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    I was 10 years a nun (yes, in a monastery), 21 years single, and now 17 years married. I have considered each state a vocation because God constantly calls us to His love and perfection according to our state. In each state I have struggled to discern and follow God’s will for me and that is the path to holiness, the same for everyone. I still have my own ideas and preferences and slip up many times each day. For example, I spend way too much time on Fr. Z’s blog to the neglect of cleaning the house and going to the gym, among other things I don’t like to do. So that’s all I can say for now!

  64. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Oh, and St. Francis de Sales was counseling lay people, married and single, to the perfection of holiness way back in the early 17th century. Read his letters and Introduction to the Devout Life.

  65. Ave Crux says:

    What’s interesting about this discussion is that a very important point is being missed.

    Not only is the single life a vocation from God as the means by which God wishes to make that person a saint — the single life is also a GIFT from God!

    In the same way that a call to religious life allows one to give absolute priority to spiritual matters, to one’s deep and exclusive relationship with God and preparation for Heaven, to one’s devoted immolation for the good of souls and Holy Mother Church in a way that’s not otherwise possible, the single life is a call to live this same exclusive and intense spiritual life with God.

    If one is not living their single life in this manner, then they are not corresponding with grace.

    It is not without this purpose as a specific end that God calls certain souls to remain celibate while still living in the world. In such cases, the single life is the means by which they will most easily attain sanctity and save their souls, and contribute to the good of the Mystical Body.

    We are all called to pursue a life that is as dedicated to God’s glory and to Holy Mother Church’s interests as we possibly can achieve by cooperating with grace — by virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation.

    The single life is just one step removed from religious life. It is a GIFT! I cannot tell you how often I reflect with joy that although it is not God’s will that I enter religious life, He has so arranged my life that my entire heart, mind, soul and strength can nonetheless be directed toward Him with a spousal love, with the same ideals to pursue as those in religious life. It is simply that my “cloister”, my “community” is of a different genre. But the single life makes it possible to live those ideals of exclusive love for God.

    Can’t it be readily seen what incalculably wonderful consequences this will make possible in one’s relationship with God for all eternity….?

    The single life, after religious life, is a GIFT! A beautiful, fulfilling vocation if one lives it as one ought.

    If single persons are not living this, they are missing both the opportunity and the purpose of this vocation if this is where they find themselves as a directly ordained by the Will of God, and not by a neglect to pursue another mode of life — vocation — to which God may have called them by preference.

  66. Imrahil says:

    Dear Ave Crux,

    I do not think the single life is meant to be “all the efforts and none of the benefits of religious life”, as would appear from your comment.

    The contrary is true: Religious life (for practical matters, this may perhaps in limited sense also be said for diocesan priests) is about “leaving the world” (as it has always been called) to serve God alone, in a way voluntary (and I mean morally voluntary), not obligatory; in a way that not every Christian must, but a spiritual elite of them does. And singles have precisely not taken this step.

    The vocation of the single man is to endure his singleness, wait for a spouse (if that be his aim), do his duties to God and live in the world while (in the words of St. James) keeping himself undefiled by it. In other words, it is the vocation shared by married men, excepting the parts pertaining to the married state; in other words, it is the vocation of the layman.

    Whether it is fittingly called a vocation is an academic question.

    Only because I love academic questions, let me add that in a sense there may be such thing as a vocation to be a layman (though this itself, excepting full Opus Dei members and perhaps Third Order members, is not what we usually mean when we say “vocation”), and the “vocation to be a single” is merely this without the addition of the vocation to be a married man; but married and single men form not two estates, but one, which is called “the laity”.

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