A lot of the time, we tend to think of the single life as a cross, as a temporary state until we find our perfect life-mate and everything is fairy-tale perfect.
And especially as Catholics where we find ourselves surrounded by an emphasis on the good of family life and marriage, in combat against a culture that wants to destroy them, it’s hard to know what to think about being single.
The world might tell us that there’s no need to hurry toward marriage, that being single is the time to have fun and indulge yourself and let loose and be hedonistic… none of which sounds very much like faithful Catholicism.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or bad to feel content where you’re at as a single Catholic. Even though vocations to marriage and to the religious life or priesthood are great goods, that doesn’t mean that God can’t make something lovely and good out of your current singleness.
Is Singleness a True Vocation?
I’ve never heard a definitive answer to this question, and maybe that’s because it’s hard to say for sure what God is up to in some people’s lives.
We know about the vocation of marriage, which the majority of people are called to. And we know that some people are called by God to be His special servants and in the religious life or the priesthood. But does God actually call people to be single their whole lives?
Though it’s probably most often discovered by default, it does seem that God sometimes calls people to singleness as a life-long vocation.
Sometimes, while never feeling an inclination toward the priesthood or religious life, people just never find someone they’d like to marry. And sometimes, a person might never actually feel very inclined toward marriage at all.
Mother Angelica, the holy founder of EWTN, reportedly never felt the inclination toward marriage that most people experience. And while she obviously found her religious vocation, I have to think that there are others with the same feelings who remain single and in the world their whole lives.
Making the Most of Present Circumstances
We’ve probably all heard suggestions of how being single can be very useful and allow us to do things we could never do in other vocations. If nothing else, we’ve surely heard the world’s suggestions to use our single years for things like seeing the world, advancing our career, and having fun.
There’s nothing wrong with pursuing any of these things during our single years, as long as it’s in moderation. But I would hold that there are even more important pursuits and uses of our time as singles.
If you don’t feel a tug in your heart to move on to the next phase in your life, there might be a reason. God might be setting aside this time in your life for building deeper, holy friendships, the kind that you’ll need to rely on during the ups and downs of a future romantic relationship. And He also might be creating the opportunity for you to develop a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with Him.
The comparatively unstructured day to day life of a single person is very unique in that you do have the opportunity more often to heed inspiration in the present moment, to listen to what the Holy Spirit might be saying to you, and to be spontaneous in both everyday matters and in prayer.
I have often heard testimony from other Catholics about how their time of singleness was their point of deepest growth in holiness, and that once they fell more deeply in love with Christ and developed a deeper relationship with Him, they were able to see their path in life more clearly.
The Beauty of Contentment
There’s nothing wrong with being single. Does it have its crosses? Absolutely. But it certainly does have its benefits as well, even though the vocations of marriage and religious life or priesthood are what we most often think of as our holy end goals in life.
Being content to dwell in what most people think of as a transitionary state doesn’t always come naturally. But when it does, be thankful and embrace that.
Embracing singleness and being thankful for its benefits does not mean you’ll be in this state your whole life. It’s possible, of course, but it’s not necessarily the case. I actually have a relative who just got married last summer for the first time — in his fifties!
Sometime soon, you may find your life upheaved with a deeper desire to be proactive in pursuing a romantic relationship, or with a sense of calling to a religious vocation. If you don’t feel those things so pressingly right now, embrace your current state, thank God if the crosses of singleness aren’t so heavy right now, and ask Him to prepare you for whatever the future might hold.