The Vocation of being a Single Catholic

Here’s the article: Prolonged Singleness Is Not a Vocation BY JULIEANNE BARTLETT.

First, I object strongly to individual Catholics or small media outlets acting like they are the Magisterium, issuing decisions that the Church has not issued. Bartlett does not have the role or right to decide for every single Catholic in the world that this state of life is not a vocation, or more specifically, part of a vocation from God. Many of the Francis critics, after attacking the Magisterium in many varied ways, go on to act as if they are a replacement for the Magisterium. LifeSiteNews does this; so does Crisis Magazine, and others.

What is a vocation? It is your calling from God. And while some vocations involve particular roles in the Church, roles that are very well defined, such as clergy or religious, other roles are particular to ones circumstances.

Consider Simone Weil. She found her calling in the will of God to remain unbaptized, and yet to call those who also were unbaptized to Christ. A person’s calling is whatever the will of God is for them.

Some persons are called to be single, without being part of a religious group. And no one has the right to say to them that they are not called to that state by God. It is for each individual to discern the calling of God for them.

Singleness by itself is not a vocation in its entirety. But it is what many persons are called to be. Sometimes the person is a widow or widower. Often, they are simply a person not called to marriage or the religious life. This singleness frees the person to serve God, as they are not limited by the constraints that religious life can sometimes impose, and are not divided in their attention between their family and serving God more directly.

If you are called by God to be single, then that is part of your vocation. I will say also that, if you are called by God to be a priest, that is only part of your vocation. What will you do as priest? Will you write or teach? Will you be a missionary? The same is true for the married life, or the religious life. These are not vocations, in their entirety. You still need to figure out what specifically God wants you to do, within a state of life.

Bartlett’s article is a series of baseless unproven claims. She goes so far as to claim that people are called to be married, unless they are single for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, i.e. to enter the clergy or religious life. But we know that there is no marriage in the resurrection or in heaven. Marriage ends at death. Certainly, many persons are called to marriage. But to claim that all are called to marriage, unless they enter a formal celibate role in the Church, is false. The Church has long honored virgins as persons whom the faithful can imitate and as a higher calling, not only the celibate who take a vow not to marry, but also virgins, persons who live a single life and devote their time to doing the will of God.

I have to add that this view of marriage versus “the single life” (i.e. virgins) taken by Bartlett is heretical. She claims that everyone is called to marriage by their very nature as human persons, and she portrays celibacy as an exception, and virginity as not a vocation at all. But the Church, instead, at the Council of Trent, infallibly proclaimed that celibacy and virginity are better than marriage; these are higher callings. Bartlett calls this higher state “prolonged singleness” and she disdains it. No. It is called virginity by the Church. It is a state which is a sign of the future state of all the Just, those in Heaven, and those just persons in the Resurrection from the dead. We are all called to this unmarried state as our final vocation. So it is false to portray virginity as “prolonged singleness” and as something to be overcome. That is contrary to the perennial teaching of the Church that virginity and celibacy are each better than marriage, and that virginity is a calling from God.

The opposite of what Bartlett claims is true: we are all called to that final state in the resurrection where we are like the angels, neither marrying nor being given in marriage. There is no marriage in heaven. It is a temporary state for many persons, prior to death and the afterlife. Virginity and celibacy look forward to the eternal state of the resurrected just. Marriage is a lower calling, though holy and noble; and it is a temporary calling.

Bartlett: “An error regarding vocations has become common among Catholics. Specifically, people have begun claiming there exists a call to the single life apart from a religious vocation.”

Wrong. Virginity is a calling in the Church that began in the earliest days of the Christian community. And this virginity as a state of life was often not associated with a religious group. Then there is no teaching of the Church saying that if you do not marry, you must join a religious group or be ordained. There seems to be no calling to “prolonged singleness” because that term is a misnomer. The calling is called virginity.

“The value of virginity lies in its symbolizing a love that has no need to possess the other; in this way it reflects the freedom of the Kingdom of Heaven.” Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 161.

Trent, CANON X — “If anyone says that the marital state is to be placed above the state of virginity or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity or in celibacy, than to be joined in matrimony: let him be anathema.”

Bartlett sins against this dogma in that she rejects the portion of the text proclaiming that virginity is better than marriage. She calls virginity “prolonged singleness” and claims it is “not a vocation”. She puts the marital state above virginity, by claiming that it is the inherent calling of human persons and by speaking as if even celibacy were an exception to a near-universal call to marriage. The true calling in every human person is the calling to God, which vocation lasts forever. Marriage is a temporary vocation; virginity is the eternal vocation.

In rejoicing in the great blessings of marriage, we must not turn marriage into an idol to be worshiped. We are called by God, to God. We are not called by marriage, to marriage, except in and for God.

When Trent speaks of virginity and then also celibacy, the difference is that celibacy is of the clergy or religious life, and virginity is exactly what Bartlett denies as a higher calling than marriage, denies as a calling at all.

Bartlett: “Jesus advised His disciples that singleness is only for those who are called to it.”

Right. Marriage is also only for those who are called to it. Your vocation is what you are called to do. That’s what vocation means.

It is not true that marriage is the primordial vocation written into human nature, while celibacy is an exception. Yes, in some sense marriage is written into humanity, as we are divided into male and female. But it is not written into humanity in the sense that Bartlett describes. She takes that teaching in the CCC and distorts it, so as to pit marriage against virginity, to the detriment of the latter. Nor is it true that virginity, disparagingly called “prolonged singleness”, is not a vocation at all.

{19:12} For there are chaste persons who were born so from their mother’s womb, and there are chaste persons who have been made so by men, and there are chaste persons who have made themselves chaste for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever is able to grasp this, let him grasp it.”

Bartlett errs in interpreting the above passage such that those who are chaste for the sake of God’s kingdom are only the celibate, only those in the clergy or religious life. She denies the calling described by Trent as virginity, rather than celibacy.

Bartlett “men and women are born with the vocation to marriage inscribed in their hearts from God.” She quotes the Catechism to support this claim. But she distorts what the CCC says, entirely ignoring the next teaching in the text:

Virginity for the sake of the Kingdom

1618 Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social. From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming. Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model:

“For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”

1619 Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away.

1620 Both the sacrament of Matrimony and virginity for the Kingdom of God come from the Lord himself. It is he who gives them meaning and grants them the grace which is indispensable for living them out in conformity with his will. Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other….

But Bartlett denies the above teaching. She makes marriage out to be the main vocation written into humanity, while celibacy is presented like an exception to that calling in one’s nature, and virginity as a vocation is rejected by her. The CCC says that both marriage and virginity come from the Lord, that is, they are both vocations. Trent says virginity is the higher calling. Marriage passes away, while virginity and celibacy point toward our eternal life and our eternal unmarried state.

{20:34} And so, Jesus said to them: “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage.
{20:35} Yet truly, those who shall be held worthy of that age, and of the resurrection from the dead, will neither be married, nor take wives.
{20:36} For they can no longer die. For they are equal to the Angels, and they are children of God, since they are children of the resurrection.

These media outlets which fight against Pope Francis and undermine the Magisterium have next committed the error of acting like a replacement for the Magisterium, making up new doctrines and denying ancient ones.


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8 Responses to The Vocation of being a Single Catholic

  1. Thomas Mazanec says:

    The comment I made on the article site:

    I am single because of mental health reasons. I am incapable of raising or supporting a family, or even living on my own without a guardian’s help (I am 63). It may not be a “vocation” in the Medieval meaning of the word, but it is a decision I had to make given the reality of my situation, and I try my best to live as a Catholic in it.

  2. Sunimal Fernando says:

    Ron, you blame others, but you also say your own decisions. Eg: end times has 3 parts. Gap between 1st and last is 400 years. Calculate end date according to Daniel in the bible, 70 weeks from 1948 to 2437.Pope or Bishops accepted and declared this? Did Jesus told to calculate the end date according to Daniel? Or he has given the signs and understand. I think, We all are sinners. We aren’t doing repentance and judging others. Shall we repent for our sins. Shall we ask, and pray for his second coming to occur soon. Shall we pray mother Mary. Why pope Francis, all Bishops all priests, we, all get together and pray for this to shortened the suffering time period.
    Jesus said, time will be shortened by God. Is it a sin to pray for this. I will pray for you. Pray for me please.

  3. Robert Fastiggi says:

    Dear Ron,

    Thank you for your thoughtful essay. This article by Dr. Patricia Sullivan argues that the non-vowed single life is a vocation: I would also add that some vocations take time to discern. I am thinking especially about late-vocations to the priesthood as well as widowers who feel called to the priesthood after their wives pass away. God, in his mysterious Providence, calls people to different vocations in ways that are only appreciated when looking back after the call has been received.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Thanks. Some quotes from that article:

      “TWENTIETH-CENTURYCATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS Hans Urs von Balthasar, Karl Rahner, and Bernard Häring demonstrated a keen sensitivity to the important role that the laity would play in the Catholic Church as it headed toward and into the third millennium of Christianity.”

      “the single lay state is arguably the first vocation for which an explicit theology was clearly and enthusiastically articulated when Paul advised the Corinthians: “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do”(1 Cor 7:8).”

      “many Catholics do not seem to recognize the non-vowed lay life as a form of Christian vocation, even though Vatican II validated it, the 1983 Code of Canon Law codified it, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledged it.”

    • “I would also add that some vocations take time to discern. I am thinking especially about late-vocations to the priesthood as well as widowers who feel called to the priesthood after their wives pass away. God, in his mysterious Providence, calls people to different vocations in ways that are only appreciated when looking back after the call has been received.”

      That’s right. According to Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich’s private revelations, St. Joseph was 45 years old around the time he married our Blessed Mother and he was not previously married.

      Some persons may receive a different type of vocation, some younger, others older. God who is our Creator knows. Abraham received a type vocation late in his life, Samuel had it very young.

      Is someone out there is getting old and would like to marry (or any other vocation his/her heart wants) I would suggest to ask the Lord. Pray. Pray the Rosary. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet especially at 3:00pm.

  4. Ron Conte says:

    Sunimal, please don’t post quotes from claimed private revelations that are unapproved. thx

  5. Alex says:

    With all my respect to the married couples and their role for the procreation according to God’s plan (if they of course follow that plan not just by the number of kids but also by the education they give them), frankly I cannot understand why some of them dare to impose that on everyone else. It is obvious in the Church there are many people who for various reasons are single, and not everyone of them have chosen the single state in life. The widowers are one such example, there are many others. How about those people who God called for the priesthood but whom the Church’s bureaucracy (to put it mildly) rejected over and over again? Can they atomatically be married when the matrimony has never been the vocation God wanted from them?

    Thanks for putting the quote from Trent council. Indeed, to idolise the state of married couples versus the state of unmarried/virgins, calls for anathema! Because it goes against what God provides for every single individual, it judges innocent persons who did not do anything morally wrong often their entire lives. It plays “god” or should I say, it plays in the spirit of the “false prophet” who most likely will pretend for righteousness and even sanctity.

    The married couples who feel they fulfill their own calling from God, sin with a number of grave sins when they judge those less fortunate than them for simply being single. Let remember that God took all from Job including his wife and children, and not because Job did something wrong. Maybe those blessed with a family do not want to see themselves in the position of Job. As the things are going (with the incoming chastisement as I comment in other posts) it is very likely the ultra conservatives to find themselves as much desolate very soon thanks to their own choice and making, and not because God wanted that for them.

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