So this is the post I mentioned in my intro post that I wrote for my best friend’s blog. She wrote a beautiful post about how God writes different love stories for each person (which you can read here: God Writes Our Love Story). This sparked a fun discussion where I shared all my ponderings about what she said, and she suggested I write them up as a guest blog post. While she still hasn’t posted it on her site, I want to share what I wrote here because it ties in to what I was saying in the previous post about how there are many different kinds of love and how they all have true love at the base. I believe when love is true, every type of love is equally valuable and meaningful and fulfilling. So here are my ponderings (a little more formal than normal since I wanted to match her blog’s more serious tone and what’s below is verbatim to what I sent to her) about how all the vocations have love in them:
As far back as elementary school I remember being told by numerous sources—including my religion textbooks—that marriage is the best and highest vocation, followed closely by the religious life, and that the single vocation isn’t a “real” vocation, but rather a third category for those who don’t fit into the other two boxes. The single life was painted as being doomed, lonely, and like you somehow failed to live up to whatever God’s real vocation for you was. Seeing how much joy marriage brought my parents, who were best friends before they started dating and have been happily married for 36 years, I agreed with everything I heard. Aside from a few brief moments when I considered religious life and decided “nope, not for me” I grew up believing strongly that I was called for marriage. It was my greatest dream to get married and have kids.
But as I got older I started to question that. It didn’t feel like that was what God was calling me to do, despite most of my friends and family members insisting that it was my destiny to get married and have kids and to even think otherwise was crazy talk. This wasn’t a matter of despair from failed relationships or being career-driven and not wanting to be “tied down.” It was just an inkling of a calling.
Senior year of college during a chat with my favorite professor and dear friend, who is a Jesuit priest, he told me that one of the reasons he loves being a priest is that his time isn’t divided between service and all the aspects married life has, such as spending time with his wife and kids and providing for them. He can fully devote himself to serving others, whether it’s his students or the homeless and other vulnerable population communities he ministers too. And he definitely does this—he’s always there when anyone needs spiritual direction, has more office hours than any of my other professors, and is one of the few people I know who does multiple hours of direct service every single week.
That really resonated with me—I felt like that was what God is calling me to do too, minus the religious life aspect. The idea of having all that time to spend devoted to my work (which is for a Catholic organization), to my service activities (both ministry at Church and to the poor), and to my friends and family felt right.
Now it’s true some people are superheroes and can devote tons of time and energy to their spouse, kids, other family members, friends, service of all kinds, and their jobs. I’m in awe of people like that and applaud them for being that amazing and fully using every aspect of the talents God gave them. But even in those cases, there are only so many hours in a day and every hour spent for one thing is one hour less on something else. We all can’t do everything and each of us is called to a different vocation because of that. It’s the notion of the many stones building up the Church and the many parts making one body. Each person has a unique stone and that variation is what allows all of us together to build up a magnificent Church. Each person is a different part of the body and in order to optimally function, we need the all of the parts and in the right amounts. We can’t all be hearts or brains or lungs, just as we can’t all be spouses or priests or singles. And just as hearts, brains, and lungs are all equally valuable and essential to sustain life, all three vocations are equally valuable and necessary for a healthy society.
Just like marriage or religious life, the single life is a vocation. It’s not a state of waiting as you discern religious life or wait for your future spouse to come into your life. It’s not a state of despair thinking that no one will ever love you or that all the good guys are taken or gay or priests. It’s a calling and active choice just like the other vocations. God calls us to the vocation that best fits His plan for us and the talents/gifts He’s given us, which vary for each person. For instance, the talents/gifts God gave me seem best fitting for the single vocation, while those he gave my best friend seem best fitting for marriage. It’s true that sometimes God calls us to multiple vocations, like He did with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton who was called to married life and religious life. And I am keeping my heart open to God’s will for me vocation-wise so that if He wants me to change vocations at some point in my life, I will. But right now I feel He’s calling me to the single vocation and I choose to accept this as my permanent vocation and will live it out to the best of my abilities.
This doesn’t mean I’m going to live out the rest of my life alone. Just because single people don’t live with someone 24/7 like married people or people in a religious community do, that doesn’t mean they have no friends or family or connections with people. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I think the single vocation is poorly name and would be better called the community vocation or something similar because those of us in that vocation are called to use our extra time to be with others and to engage in our communities in the way that best makes sense with our talents. We are able to be there for friends in need, for family members, for co-workers, for the poor and vulnerable in our community, and/or for our parish’s outreach and ministry. While we may not be pouring out love to our spouse and kids, we do pour out love to others in our community, whether this community is large or small.
One of the priests at the parish I go to in the summer told us this past Mother’s Day that all women are called to motherhood, even those who never marry or have kids, because we are all called to spiritual motherhood. Usually this spiritual motherhood is lived out through caring for our actual children, but he told us that when it’s not it can be lived out through caring for all of the people in our lives by showing them that same selfless and self-sacrificial love that mothers do for their children. That really resonated with me too as the kind of motherhood God is calling me to do. And while that priest was talking about girls, I think the same thing applies to guys too because it seems logical that there’s a spiritual fatherhood as well, where guys act out the love that God has for us towards the people in their lives in the same way that fathers do for their children.
The single vocation is not lonely or full of gloom and doom. It is full of connections and joy as you go forth into your community to love and serve the Lord and one another. There are many love stories that God writes for us, and not all of them are romantic. There is love in family, love in friendship, love of neighbor, and of course love of God. As Christians, we believe the only way to truly be fulfilled and complete is by being with God. The best way to do that is by embracing the vocation God calls you to—whichever one that may be—and living out what they all have in common: staying connected to God and using all of the talents He gave you in service of God and others by exemplifying the love He showed us.