(not his real name---Introibo) and said, "You need to calm down good buddy. This is what modern society has produced." Breathing less intensely, he said, "Yeah, well maybe modern society needs a good beating--starting with those two!" (All dialogue as accurate as I can remember---Introibo).
Let me back up. Rob and I were the unlikeliest of friends. We met in law school. Neither of us were 22 years old like most of our classmates who came in right out of college. I had been a NYC science teacher for five years prior to attending, and Rob took six years to complete his Bachelor's degree. He was the only child of two legal immigrants seeking refuge from an oppressive military regime in Central America. Arriving at age ten, he knew little English. With the help of his mother and aunt homeschooling him, he spoke perfect English by age 18, and had no hint of a Spanish accent, except when he purposely spoke Spanish. He scored very high on his SAT exam, but his family had no money for college. Over the next two years he worked transporting cargo at JKF airport, laboring overtime six days a week.
Rob reapplied to college, and was accepted to his first choice. The money he saved would go a long way to keeping down loan debt. He also decided to go part-time at night so he could still work some days. He graduated six years later with less than 5k in student loans. He decided that he liked to argue and his mother said he could help many people as a lawyer. He did well on his LSAT, was accepted to the same law school as me, and we met first year in Torts class. Affable, intelligent, and possessing a zany sense of humor, we became friends and study partners. I soon discovered Rob was another Victim of Vatican II.
There was a time when Central America was devoutly Catholic. After the Great Apostasy, the twin evils of ecumenism and religious liberty had many joining false sects. Rob's parents departed from Catholicism after Vatican II for a very liberal Protestantism. Rob went to services on Sunday, and was a convinced Socialist. He saw nothing wrong with abortion, and as long as you believe in something greater than yourself, we all go to be happy in Heaven with a "hippy version" of Jesus who "loves us as we are." No topic of conversation was off the table with us, and we disagreed about much. When it came to religion, Rob was really perplexed as to my beliefs. "I really don't understand how an intelligent guy like you goes to services in a dead language, and thinks bread and wine become God." I saw my opening. "Rob, you're not really understanding what I mean. Would you like to read some material that explains it well, so you can be informed"?
I always admired him for his intellectual tenacity and his willingness to hear out every point of view. "Ok. Sure. Bring me what you have and I'll read it." The next day, I gave him some pre-Vatican II books on the basics of the Faith, and some polemical literature from Fr DePauw. A week later he said, "I'd like to talk with you about what I read. I found it fascinating." He really understood the literature I gave him and had many questions. We continued to talk about religion and everything else as good friends for the rest of our time in law school. When we graduated, he received an offer for a great job from a firm on the West Coast of the United States. Soon after, Rob called me one day and asked if I could mail him some more books on the faith and a Missal. As he drove to work each day, he passed a Traditionalist Chapel run by an independent priest from pre-Vatican II. He remembered our conversations and decided to see what Mass was like. "It was beautiful beyond words," he said.
I sent him a large package with material from my library, including one of my best Missals. Six months later he called to tell me that he attended the Chapel regularly, and was convinced of the truth of the One True Church! He was taking instructions from the priest and would be baptized on the Feast of Our Lady's Assumption, an event I didn't want to miss! The former pro-abortion Protestant socialist was now a Traditionalist who was fiercely pro-life, and condemned socialism/Communism. As we settled in our careers, we were now in our 30s and single. We both loved cross-country skiing, and decided to spend one week of our vacation time each year in upstate New York, enjoying the great outdoors.
We went to the same lodge every February, since we liked the accommodations and quality of the trails. We saw a lot of the same faces. The overwhelming majority of men were in their 30s-50s, and spent most of their time drinking at the bar and trying to pick up women. Rob and I didn't drink, weren't womanizers, and would pray the Rosary together after breakfast before spending the whole day on the snowy trails. This particular trip, as we were walking back to the lodge, Rob didn't see a small patch of ice. His legs shot straight out in front of him, and I made a diving leap--catching him mere inches before his head would have smashed onto the pavement. After dinner, we were picking up some ski equipment for the next morning before going to our rooms. Rob said, "If it hadn't been for those fast reflexes of yours, today might not have concluded with a good night for me." Putting his arm around me and pulling me tight, he said, "Love ya, man!"
That's when we heard the voices behind us. "You guys come here together every February. Why do you stay in separate rooms?" The other skier chimed in, "You shouldn't be ashamed of your love. You can come out of the closet." That's when the events recounted in the opening paragraph of this post took place. Just because we were single, in our late 30s, and not picking up women, we must be sodomites. So goes the "conventional wisdom" of our society, the Vatican II sect, and sadly, among some Traditionalists.
The single vocation is the least understood and appreciated of the four vocations God gives to humanity. Having been a single man by choice until my 40s, I am more than familiar with the stereotypes and discrimination against the calling of the single life. If you are not married (or a nun, priest, brother, monk) by your late 20s or early 30s, there "must be something wrong with you." This post will look into the vocation of the single life by examining three aspects:
- Church teaching that the single life is a true vocation that comes from God
- The benefits and trials of the single vocation
- The single person's place in the Church and the World
Called By God To Be Single
It has always been taught that there are four vocations given to humanity by God. The word "vocation" comes from the Latin "vocare" meaning "to call or summon." Each of us is summoned by God to sanctify both ourselves and the world in one of four callings: the priesthood (for men only); the religious life (nuns, brothers, monks);the married life; and the single life. Some theologians place the priesthood under the same heading as "the religious life," while others list it separately. In my opinion, I agree with the separate designation for the priesthood.
The single vocation is truly "the forgotten vocation." Rather than seeing singleness as a gift and calling from God, erroneous opinions abound. Many look upon the single person as somehow "deficient" or "wanting." They were "unmarriageable" or "rejects who couldn't get in a seminary/convent." The secular world sees unmarried women as "closet lesbians" or "old maids" who "couldn't get a husband." Single men are "closet homosexuals" or "have problems." Only men who sleep around like heathens can wear "proudly" the badge of "swinging single." All of these ideas are deficient, inaccurate, and disparaging. They show a crass ignorance.
To remain single in the world and live a life of perfect chastity is to act as an "ambassador of Christ" representing Him and doing all for His greater glory. This is both lawful and meritorious; it is a life most pleasing to God. The single life of necessity entails perfect chastity because the use of sex is exclusively for the married. However, unlike the other vocations, the single life is the only one that does not entail taking a solemn promise or vow. Priests and religious must take binding vows to remain celibate, and married people take marriage vows (the married have rights over each other's bodies for life, but they are also chaste according to their state in life. Sex must be open to procreation and they must remain faithful to each other, together raising all children in the True Church). In this sense, the single person has a better chance to save his/her soul, not having formally committed themselves to special duties and responsibilities. ... And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more. (St. Luke 12:48; Emphasis mine).
St. Paul, under Divine Inspiration, writes in the seventh chapter of First Corinthians telling us marriage is not to be preferred over remaining single:
For I would that all men were even as myself: but every one hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that. But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: It is good for them if they so continue, even as I...But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your profit: not to cast a snare upon you; but for that which is decent, and which may give you power to attend upon the Lord, without impediment...But more blessed shall she be, if she so remain, according to my counsel; and I think that I also have the spirit of God.
(1 Corinthians 7:7-8; 32-35; 40; Emphasis mine).
The Council of Trent infallibly declared the life of perfect chastity, when chosen for God, to be superior to the married life. The 10th Canon on the Sacrament of Marriage declares:
CANON X.-If any one saith, that the marriage 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 united in matrimony; let him be anathema.
The Council was directing this Canon to those in consecrated religious life, but the principle remains clear: those who choose to remain in virginity or celibacy for the sake of God have a higher calling than the married. This is made clear by the teaching of St. Paul in First Corinthians. Hence, those who disparage the single because they aren't married get it backwards; the single state is the more perfect and better life than the married.
In his most erudite and beautiful encyclical Sacra Virginitas promulgated on March 25, 1954, Pope Pius XII had this to teach about single life consecrated to God:
And while this perfect chastity is the subject of one of the three vows which constitute the religious state, and is also required by the Latin Church of clerics in major orders and demanded from members of Secular Institutes, it also flourishes among many who are lay people in the full sense: men and women who are not constituted in a public state of perfection and yet by private promise or vow completely abstain from marriage and sexual pleasures, in order to serve their neighbor more freely and to be united with God more easily and more closely. (para. #6; Emphasis mine).
Single people may take a private promise to abstain from marriage without binding themselves under the pain of sin. The promise can be conditional so if the person changed his mind to marry, there would be no sin. Furthermore, if such a single person sinned against chastity after making such a promise, there would be no concomitant sin against religion. I would strongly recommend not to make a private vow of perpetual and perfect chastity, because to be released from such an unconditional vow made by someone over the age of 18 requires a dispensation from the Holy See according to Canon 1309 of the 1917 Code. In a state of sedevacante, what does one do? I will not venture an answer, only advise against it and urge using the simple promise not binding under sin.
Joys and Sorrows of the Single
The Holy Father sums up in Sacra Virginitas the true purpose of living in perfect chastity:
This then is the primary purpose, this the central idea of Christian virginity: to aim only at the divine, to turn thereto the whole mind and soul; to want to please God in everything, to think of Him continually, to consecrate body and soul completely to Him. (para. #15).
The single person:
- Can spend more time in prayer and meditation of the things of God
- Can place himself/herself at the service of others and bring them to Christ
- Is an amazing witness to the beauty of Christian ideals by putting the Kingdom of God before all else, having no earthly duties to family
- Has less pressure to work overtime and earn more
- Can develop more interests/talents and deep friendships that are like family
- Can be more health conscious and take better care of their bodily condition
- Becomes highly self-sufficient
- Can change careers/jobs with much greater ease and retire earlier
- The older the person gets, more of their friends will be married, and they will have less time to enjoy their company. Going out with their family often makes the single person feel like a "third wheel"--but they can become everyone's favorite "aunt" or "uncle"
- People will constantly try to set them up on dates or ask them why they don't get married. Do not expect a non-Traditionalist to understand the single vocation
- They will many times be calumniated as being a sodomite or having "something wrong" with them
- They come home to an empty house/apartment and can feel lonely at times
- They need people to check on them if living alone in case of an accident or emergency
- They will not beget physical children, but will have "spiritual children" from conversions and/or spiritual good works performed to the benefit and salvation of others
- They do not have a partner with whom to do things many times