- Here’s an interesting conversation:
“You have a vocation to the single life? You mean the religious life, right?”
“No – I mean the single life.”
How can one understand this? Well actually, it’s fairly easy. We just have to go to the New Testament, and there we will meet many of our brothers and sisters in the Faith who had a vocation to the single life. Men and women, in the prime of youth and in the maturity of life – people who followed Christ in singleness of heart, putting all of their time, availability, material means and talents at the service of spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven. They did so in the midst of their ordinary life – in their work, in their family and through their social relations. Everything that they did had an apostolic or evangelizing flavor to it.
The Letter to Diognetus (written in AD 130) gives another glimpse of how the first Christians lived their faith, blending in completely with their fellow citizens:
“Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life… They live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time they give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth. (…) To put it simply: What the soul is in the body, that Christians are in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world.”
The vocation to follow Christ with singleness of heart somehow seems to have been forgotten for many centuries. One of the innovative things that has evolved from the Second Vatican Council is the re-discovery, as it were, of the call to be holy without leaving our place in the world (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, Chapter 5).
And in the midst of this call to holiness – which is meant for everyone – there is a place for some souls who feel that Christ is calling them to love Him with exclusivity of heart, but without changing anything in their professional, social, and family life. It is one of those manifestations of living the common priesthood of the faithful (CCC, 1546-47).
Allow me to share with you my own story. I was born and raised in a practising Catholic family where prayer and frequenting the sacraments was nurtured in us by our parents. I had inklings that God was calling me to something special from a very early age. These inklings were like little whispers in my soul – nothing strange, but just a certainty that God had a special plan for me. I was familiar with the vocation to the religious life, having been exposed to this reality early in life, but I felt that this was not my vocation. The years passed, and I continued to grow in my spiritual life. When I reached the age of 18, I was actively looking for a husband when suddenly I found my whole life turned upside down by HIM, by Jesus. Deep in my soul, I knew that He was calling me to love him with my whole heart but without changing anything exteriorly in my life. What followed were weeks and months of agony as I tried to “bargain” with Our Lord, because the attraction of marriage and children was very strong. But Love won out, and shortly before my 19th birthday, I decided to embrace my vocation to the single life, following the path of Opus Dei.
Many people seem sceptical that it could even be possible to keep one’s heart entirely for God while living in the midst of the world. My experience is that it certainly is possible. One simply has to use the means which are, in my opinion, the same means that every married person must use to keep their heart entirely for their spouse: namely, cultivating a deep life of prayer, prudence, and frequenting the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance.
What’s the real secret to living the vocation to the single life? Love. Keeping one’s heart entirely for God means opening one’s heart to all those whom God loves. It means being a beacon for souls, having a universal heart, being a bearer of the Redemption to any soul that we come in contact with. In short, striving to be another Christ for all.
For more information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about secular, lay single life visit: http://www.opusdei.ca
The Wise and the Foolish Virgins – Jan Adam Kruseman
Anne Lusignan, faithful of the Opus Dei Prelature