Most people see being single as the longest wait, the long prologue before really “starting” your life in marriage or in a religious order. What a lot of people tend to forget, though, is that there are many saints who stayed single and devoted their lives to Christ. We do not need to be in a relationship or be part of a religious order in order to be better Christians. The best thing we can do, if we are single, is to make the most of our lives while we’re waiting to see what vocation God calls us to pursue.
Some saints, such as Gemma Galgani and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, never joined a religious order, but were instead part of what’s called a “lay ministry.” Some religious orders have what is called a “third order,” which invites laypeople to adapt the spirituality of the order into their lifestyles. For example, there are many lay Dominicans and Franciscans. The lay orders have group meetings and provide a sense of community for the everyman. Elizabeth Scalia goes into detail about third orders here. If you feel like you want to be part of a religious community, but may not have the time or the commitment, figure out what kind of spirituality you’re drawn to and look for lay orders in your area.
If you’re someone that God has called for married life, my best advice is to work on the things you want to have if and when you enter into the role of “wife and mother.” Learn how to take care of yourself and maintain a clean house. Teach yourself how to balance a checkbook and how to use spreadsheets. Know how to cook, how to sew, and other life skills. If you want to have kids someday, volunteer to babysit or do some work in child care. There are so many things in life that you can’t just learn from reading a book or taking a class. You have to learn as you go. And if there are any guys out there reading this, this all applies to you, as well.
Entering into the married state won’t automatically transform you into the perfect spouse. And if you want to be a part of a religious order, it’s important that you take care of your spiritual welfare. Being married or being in a religious order won’t fix the problems you have and they won’t completely fulfill your emotional needs. We need to allow God to fill up those empty spaces in our hearts because He is the one who calls us to serve Him.
Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 7:34 “An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.” Saint Paul never married and his writings on staying single most likely came from experience. If you are single, you can follow his example and devote your life to doing God’s will. By staying single, we can work on becoming the best version of ourselves.
If God does eventually call us for the married or religious life, we can be ready for that through the things we learned from being single. If, however, God is asking you to serve Him through staying single, there is a great beauty in that. No matter what vocation God calls you to, what God is asking of us right now is just to serve Him. Make the most of your life by doing so.
Reflect: How do you view being single? What are some ways that you cope with the lonely periods in life? What are some benefits to being single? How do you think you can make the most of being single or help those who lament their single status?
Act: If you’re single and are discerning marriage or religious life, work on one skill today that would apply for both, like doing household chores without anyone asking you. If you are single and feel that God is calling you to stay that way, make a list of reasons why being single is a good thing.