Dear Edith: Is Being Single a Vocation?

June 26, 2017

Dear Edith,

Is being single an actual "vocation" or not? I've heard conflicting opinions from reputable sources on both sides.

And if it is, then how can it be used as a "gift"?

Even if it isn't meant to be a calling, clearly we must all be single for some time at some point. So, how does one make the best of it, with out obsessing about "finding a man", or getting married?


(Note: I have listened to Bld. Pier Giorgio's biography, so I garnered some hope and insight there. He died at a fairly young age, however, so to argue that "singleness" was his vocation might be faulty?)

Jessica is a single 28 year old Catholic woman who's fed up with the way the world's dating system works. Or doesn't work.

Dear Edith Response #1 - Hannah

Dear Jessica,

This is a fantastic question that I have been thinking about myself! Our culture seems strangely obsessed with marriage, and sometimes this can have the devastating effect of making single people feel that being single is worthless, which could not be further from the truth.

To get the technicalities out of the way first: As far as a permanent calling to the single life, it seems to me that Church teaching suggests that such a calling would take the form of consecrated virginity, but like you I haven’t been able to find anything official either way (you might check out this article as an example of what people say unofficially).

Instead, I have heard trustworthy folk refer to a “temporary vocation to single life,” which is a good way of thinking about the state of being single while waiting for and discerning a permanent vocation to marriage, religious life, or consecrated virginity.

Some people talk about single life as though it is just a time to work on yourself so that you’ll be an awesome wife/nun/consecrated virgin in the future. It’s true that single life does give you this opportunity, but I think there’s more to it than that. Our God is a God of the present. He has a plan for each day of our lives, including each day we spend as a single person.

Our God is a God of the present.

As you probably know, the word vocation literally means “calling,” as in listening to God’s call and submitting ourselves to His will every day of our lives, whether we are single, married, consecrated, or religious. If we are listening, we can experience God calling us every day, regardless of whether we have committed to a permanent vocation yet or not. It’s not as though you’re just waiting around to get married, like that’s when God will “call” you and your life of serving Him will begin. Your life has already begun! It is happening right now!

God has given you this time as a single person (however long it lasts) for a good reason. It is in no way wasted time. It is intended. Today you are single because God has determined that this is the best state for you to be in right now in order to fulfill His will today.

If you do your best to live your life according to God’s will, then everything you do throughout your day as a single person—your prayer, your job, your interactions with others, your service to those around you—is a fulfillment of God’s calling. If you do this, you are already, right now, living out your vocation.

So, with the benefit of hindsight (because I am now a wife and mother and I didn’t know what I had when I had it!), the following are some of the unique ways that the single life allows you to serve God and be “gift” to others:


As a single person, you can…

Make changes.

You have more flexibility, freedom, and control over your life now than you will in married or religious life. If you find that God is calling you to do something else with your life, you are free to make changes—even big ones. You can go on a pilgrimage, participate in a mission trip, take a new job, move to a new place, or join an intentional community. Now is the best and easiest time to get your life in line with God’s will since you don’t have to convince anyone else but yourself!

Intentionally cultivate a deep faith life.

This should be at the top of every Christian’s priority list of course, but as a single person, you can devote more time and attention to cultivating habits that will last your whole life. Schedule regular prayer time throughout your day, attend Mass weekly (or even daily), attend the occasional retreat, and learn about your faith by reading or taking classes at your parish. A deep faith life will help you to discern what God is calling you to do and be, both now and in the future.

Invest in a faith community.

A strong community is crucial to the spiritual life, no matter what your vocation, but it’s especially important when you’re single, and now is the time when you can really invest deeply in such friendships. So whether it’s a young adult group at your parish, the Theology on Tap crew in your diocese, or the old ladies who get coffee after daily Mass on Saturdays, find a group of faithful people to be friends with. You could even invite a couple Catholic (or otherwise Christian) friends over for wine and Bible study once a month and go from there. Don’t forget to ask God to help you find your peeps!

Commit to a parish.

Register and get involved with your local parish, both by participating in opportunities and offering whatever gifts you may have (join the choir, count the collection money, help plan the parish picnic, whatever floats your boat). Families tend to be overrun with their kids’ activities and don’t often have time to support their parish. Single people are a Godsend for parish life! Plus, getting involved with your parish can really help you feel that you belong somewhere.

Serve others.

One of the loveliest things I’ve heard about celibacy (whether permanent or temporary) is that you are free to love everyone around you. Finding that I couldn’t serve others in the same way I used to was a big shock to me upon getting married. I couldn’t just drop what I was doing to help someone anymore. I had to check in and coordinate with my husband, and sometimes that meant that I could not give that person the help they needed (I pray that God sent them someone else—maybe a nice single person!) Now that I have a baby, I am even more limited in the kinds of help I can give people—my baby’s needs always have to come first, plus the fact that she has to come with me means that more often than not I’m the one who needs help! As a single person, you are in a terrific position to really be present to other people and to serve them whole-heartedly.


Some final thoughts: Since you mentioned Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, you may be interested to know that Dorothy Day never married after her conversion to Catholicism, and devoted her life to working for justice and helping the poor through the Catholic Worker movement she co-founded. I have not read her biography, The Long Loneliness, but you may be interested in what she has to say in there. You may also be interested in the writings of Eve Tushnet, who draws attention to the need to reclaim Christian friendship and community in our marriage-obsessed culture (you might start with this article).

God bless you, Jessica!


Hannah blogs about how the Catholic Church is more pro-woman than feminism at Jeanette’s Torch.

Dear Edith Response #2 - Philippa

Dear Jessica,

Yes and no.

'Vocation' comes from the Latin root for 'call'. But being single is a state of life, like marriage. They are both natural states of life, and most people end up getting married, regardless of whether they feel 'called' to it or not.

And yet every person who has become a priest or consecrated person (like monks, nuns and friars) has experienced a very definite 'call' from God to that life. Without exception.Some married people have felt a strong 'call' to marry a particular person, and for them, their marriage to this person has a strongly vocational meaning.

Some single people have experienced that sense of 'call' also, to remain unmarried and pursue a particular career or path, even if it doesn't involve consecration or religious life.Where does this leave singles who don't feel called to singleness? Pretty miserable, in my experience. Especially when well-meaning fellow Catholics tell them that they have a vocation to singleness, when they feel nothing of the sort.

The solution to this mystery is found in Matthew 6:33. Every one of us has been told what to do - to seek the Kingdom of Heaven first, and all other things will come in their right order and due time.

Every one of us has been told what to do - to seek the Kingdom of Heaven first, and all other things will come in their right order and due time.

That's the true vocation of every Christian, married or single. Do this, and the whole spouse 'problem' may turn out not to be a problem after all.

There is no harm in praying for a spouse, and/or actively seeking one, if you find singleness is not for you. It's also good to explore and heal the things that may be holding you back from real happiness, with or without a spouse. And yes, if you want to receive singleness as a gift from God, and think of it as a vocation, go ahead.

Ask God what He wants of you. This is seeking the Kingdom of Heaven in the best and most direct way. And keep asking, and keep listening. If there is any kind of 'call', that way, you will actually hear it!

Philippa Martyr is 47 years old, has never married, and also flunked out of religious life at the age of 38. There is NOTHING she doesn't know about being a single Catholic woman. She is still seeking the Kingdom of Heaven, and can also make fettucine by hand. Her favourite thing is writing.

Dear Edith Response #3 - Pam

Dear Jessica,

All the four specific vocations; single life, married life, consecrated life or the ordained ministry are a call to holiness, our road to a holy God. Irrespective of our vocations we are all “invited” to live holy lives. Each vocation is a call to follow Christ closely.

That should be our end goal. There’s plenty of discussion about whether or not being single is a vocation. The question you have to ask yourself is, “Am I on the road to holiness?” That needs to be your obsession. Mathew 6:33 says “Seek first the kingdom of God and everything shall be added unto you.”

Single Life : A person who has chosen to be single many not make a vow of poverty, chastity or obedience. Yet, she commits to live a life in love and service to her neighbor. She strives to live a holy life through work and prayer. She devotes his freedom and time to Christ.

You’re right in saying, ‘Being single is a common stage of life that everyone goes through.' It doesn’t mean simply waiting.

Have you seen kids or teenagers? They don’t see their childhood or adolescence as a period of wilderness or a desert. Why do single women look at their period of singleness as a wilderness? Why do we fill this beautiful time with empty relationships, physical hangups, and needless pain?

This period of singleness is a time of growth and sowing the seeds of God’s kingdom. It’s a time of sowing for the harvest.

This period of singleness is a time of growth and sowing the seeds of God’s kingdom. It’s a time of sowing for the harvest. It’s a time of preparation for the next phase of our lives. A time to build roots and a strong foundation for our communities into one we will eventually make our own families a part of.

  • If you think you’re alone, think again, God is always at your side.
  • If you think you’re running out of time, don’t, God can make up for lost time.
  • If you’re wavering in your faith, stand firm, for you are fighting principalities of darkness!
  • If someone is asking you to prove your love for them by physically compromising yourself, walk away. You are the temple of the Living God.

Use this time to build the Church, the community and yourself

  • Choose a ministry and be fruitful whether that’s the lecterns, choir, Legion, Charismatic movement,Sunday school, RCIA. The list is extensive.
  • Chose a section of your community to work with by donating your time and talents. This can include the sick, the elderly, the homebound, unemployed, widows, single mothers. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you opportunities where He’s calling you to fellowship with these people.
  • Choose aspects of yourself to build up: Educate yourself about the faith, develop a hobby, sort out your finances, identify your weakness and convert them to strengths.
Single Women are like foot soldiers in the kingdom of God.

Single Women are like foot soldiers in the kingdom of God. They work invisibly, quietly sowing the seeds which the Holy Spirit will then water, nourish and make fruitful. They should know they’re an integral part of the Church and their journey of singleness is as beautiful as their destination, irrespective of their vocation. I know the hardships of single Christian women and so wrote Ten Reminders For The Single Christian Woman where I talk about vocation and remind women that whatever happens in our life, God always wants best for us.

Pamela Q. Fernandes is a doctor, author and medical writer. She’s the author of the Christian nonfiction series, “Ten Reminder,” romance novellas like Seoul-Mates, Cinders of Castlerea and Under a Scottish Sky. She has also written many speculative short stories; Joseon Fringe, Where is Ally and Raven’s Call. Pamela was born and raised in Kuwait. When not writing and seeing patients she loves to bake brownies and unsuccessfully learn the piano. She runs the Christian Circle Podcast twice a month.

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