A vocation to the dedicated single life leads to joy and fulfillment

Archbishop Robert J. CarlsonEvery baptized Christian is called to follow Jesus, to live as He lived, and to be wholly dedicated to a life of self-giving and surrender to God’s will. The Christian vocation is a way of life that brings great joy and personal fulfillment in spite of the fact that it sometimes involves hardship and difficulties (the Way of the Cross).

During the past 2,000 years, Christian women and men have discovered that Jesus’ way can take diverse forms. The call to holiness is universal, but as the lives of the saints make abundantly clear, there are many different ways to live the Gospel and to be faithful to Christ in our daily lives. This is the richness of life in Christ who allows us to follow Him by diverse means.

Once we have said yes to the Lord’s invitation to follow Him, there are many paths that we can follow in order to walk with Him on life’s journey. Many of Christ’s disciples are called to be married and to have families. Others are called to the consecrated life as sisters, brothers or priests — or to the ordained ministry as deacons, priests or bishops. Some men and women are called to remain single and to live out their Christian lives with extraordinary generosity and commitment to Christ and to His Body, the Church.

In our secular culture, being single often means being uncommitted — with no obligations or responsibilities to anyone except yourself. This is the way of life pursued by the young man in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. It’s a selfish way of living that always ends badly — with bitter and lonely regret. Why? Because a life lived only for freedom or pleasure or selfish gain is inherently unsatisfying.

Single men and women who have given themselves wholeheartedly to Christ are not like the young man in the parable of the prodigal son. On the contrary, they are fully committed individuals. They bind themselves to the service of others, and they participate directly in the Church’s mission and share themselves intimately with those who walk with them on the journey to Christ’s kingdom. Generous single persons respond to the distinctive vocation that is theirs. They discern God’s will for themselves through prayer, spiritual reading and retreats. They commit to their families — parents, siblings and extended family members. They partner with friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners, neighbors and all whom they encounter in seeking to make our world a better place.

The dedicated single life is a real vocation. It is a calling to be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ in the particular circumstances of daily life. It is a commitment to be open to God’s will, to serve freely and generously even when there is no obligation or requirement to do so. And it is a recognition that the call to holiness that each of us receives at Baptism involves free choice and an open heart.

Contrary to what we hear repeatedly in the news and entertainment media, freedom is not license (doing whatever we want) or the absence of any obligations or responsibilities. Freedom is the gift that God gives us that allows us to choose how we will live, how we will commit ourselves to others and how we will serve the needs of God’s family. To be truly free, we must exercise God’s gift of freedom responsibly, generously and gratefully.
Generous single persons are good stewards of the distinctive calling they have received. Because they care deeply, and respond generously, they lead a blessed life. This doesn’t mean they have no problems or challenges.

Christian life can be difficult no matter what our particular vocation is. As Christian disciples, dedicated single persons encounter their difficulties confident that they are not alone or powerless, but are fully supported by Christ and His Church. Because they experience communion with Christ through the sacraments, in their prayer and in fellowship with parishioners and co-workers in various Church ministries, generous single men and women see themselves as privileged members of the one family of God.

Do you know what your vocation is? Listen deeply to what God is saying to you. He is calling you to be holy and to live fully (and joyfully!) in Christ. The path you are called to take may be unique to you, but if you give yourself wholeheartedly to Him, you will never have to journey alone.