For most Catholics, the single life is a transitional state during young adulthood leading to either marriage, the priesthood, or consecrated life. But for a growing number of young people, these traditional vocations seem out of reach.
As a single Catholic man in my early 30s, I’ve often wrestled with discouragement. I have never felt the call to the priesthood, and for various practical reasons, the consecrated life or marriage are not viable options for me at this time. I’ve often fallen into the trap of comparing myself to married friends and to acquaintances in religious life who seem fulfilled, who appear to have their lives “together.” There have been days when I almost despaired of ever finding my true vocation. I struggled with a crushing sense of failure, inadequacy, and loneliness.
At a crucial moment in this battle, I read Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation to young people “Christus Vivit,” in which the Holy Father confronted the issue of the single life head on: “For those who are not called to marriage or the consecrated life, it must always be remembered that the first and most important vocation is the vocation we have received in baptism. Those who are single, even if not by their own choice, can offer a particular witness to that vocation through their own path of personal growth.”
Although I had indeed given serious thought to this possibility before, I was edified by the Pope’s compassionate reassurance that, while perhaps not a vocation in the conventional sense, the dedicated single life can be a legitimate path to holiness. The Holy Father’s words of encouragement left me with a renewed sense of peace and purpose. God has a specific mission for me to accomplish, and my present single state could be crucial to fulfilling this task, whatever it may be.
What I learned from reading “Christus Vivit” is that discerning and living out God’s will for our lives must be our preeminent concern, otherwise “the maelstrom of this world can drive you to take a route without real meaning, without direction, without clear goals, and thus thwart many of your efforts.” My experiences with loneliness and aimlessness have taught me that there are several general principles that singles can turn to as effective means of walking the path the Lord has mapped out for us.
Firstly, cultivating a relationship with Jesus Christ is essential. We can encounter him through the Sacraments, Scripture, and prayer. I’ve made a practice of rising extra early each morning to devote time to silent prayer and to studying the Bible. In particular, the beauty and power of the Book of Psalms have helped me feel more united to the life of the Church. After all, priests and religious pray the psalms each day in the Divine Office. Remember, too, that the Blessed Mother, your guardian angel, and all the saints are also waiting for you to ask for their prayers and intercession. As a part of Christ’s Mystical Body, I take heart in knowing that I am never alone!
Secondly, although single people like me have more freedom and control over their time, this gift also comes with serious responsibilities. God desires us to use our time and talents for the benefit of others. After all, we are called to imitate Our Lord, who “did not come to be served but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28) If we bury or squander our talents, we spurn God’s generous gifts. As a freelance writer, I have discovered that God can use my words to entertain, edify, and inspire both Christians and nonbelievers alike. In this way, my work can contribute to building up the Church. I have also found great, abiding joy in assisting other up-and-coming writers with practical advice and encouragement.
Finally, it is critical to remember that human beings were made by God for companionship. Over the last couple of years, God, in his goodness, has led me into fellowship with devout Christian writers and creatives. These wonderful men and women have enheartened me when I was forlorn or discouraged. They’ve generously given me their time, their guidance, and their prayers, often providing me the opportunity to pay it forward. A circle of honest and caring friends can do much to alleviate loneliness and depression. After all, “a faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.” (Sirach 6:14)
The challenges of single life can be daunting, but Pope Francis urges us not to be afraid: “Avoid the paralysis of the living dead, who have no life because they are afraid to take risks, to make mistakes or to persevere in their commitments. Even if you make mistakes, you can always get up and start over, for no one has the right to rob you of hope.” By embracing new opportunities that God has opened up for me in freelance writing and other creative ventures, I have been able to resist the temptations to wallow in regret or succumb to fear. Although I remain single, I know that my work is making a difference in the lives of my friends and readers. Thanking God for all his generous blessings, Catholic singles can be confident that the Lord will help us overcome any obstacles along the road he walks with us.