A few weeks ago, a visiting priest and new vocations director of a local seminary said a few words at the end of Mass introducing himself and speaking about vocations. He closed by acknowledging those who are married and those in religious life. I can’t remember exactly what he said, because I immediately got distracted by my own thoughts: What about me? Where do I fit in?
This friendly priest had unintentionally excluded the awkward stepchild of our big, beautiful Church family: the single laity. As a member of that group, it was the familiar feeling of being overlooked, like being the last one picked for a team in P.E. class.
The Church’s star players are marriage and the priesthood, with consecrated religious brothers and sisters filling out the bench. I understand why these are so crucial to the Church’s mission. We need devoted priests and clergy to shepherd God’s flock and strong marriages to create faithful families.
Yet I am not a religious sister and have never felt called to that vocation. I am not married either. Perhaps that vocation is in my future, but that’s a topic for another day.
As I’ve grown in my spiritual journey, I have come to embrace that being a single lay woman – or a single laity (pun intended) – is a calling in and of itself that is a meaningful path to holiness.
God has a mission for me now, precisely as I am. I grew to realize this over time, through prayer and a whole lot of grace. God has put me in exactly the right place, the right time and the right vocation that I’m meant to be. I find relief in trusting that.
He is using me in ways that my brothers and sisters who are clergy or married might not be able to. I like to think of myself as a stealth weapon or a holy ninja. That makes me sound way cooler.
It comes down to having more freedom and time. Because I’m single, I still have large control over both. That’s a fancy way of saying I can still do whatever I want.
Instead of using these gifts for selfish reasons, I can offer them back to God in service and faithfulness.
This means I spend uninterrupted time in morning prayer. I volunteer my time and participate in my church community and through both have met friends who inspire my faith and make me feel like I belong. Since my financial obligations are few, I freely support church causes, charitable organizations, or a brother or sister in need. I go places and meet people and try to be a light.
Most important to me, since I don’t have a husband or kids, I value and cultivate my friendships. I have a servant’s heart toward my parents. My family and friends know they can count on me for whatever they need, and I can do it at the drop of a hat. I am a good daughter, sister, friend, coworker, cousin, niece because each of those relationships matter to me. My nephew is only 1, but you better believe I will be the best godmother and aunt.
These are the ways I live out my calling. Of course, everyone can do these things to a certain extent, but there is only one of me and only one you. God needs each of us to contribute in our own special way.
How I can best serve the Lord and honor my vocation is by living according to his plan for my life and by offering up the unique gifts and circumstances he has placed in my life to build his kingdom during my time here on earth.
Then I will truly be living my best life as a single laity.