In most situations, talking about a call to a celibate life can draw some very puzzled looks. Even now, some people believe that if you are not a priest or a religious then you should be married.
In many cultures the single state is seen as a sort of holding pattern until something better comes along: the priesthood, the religious life, marriage or heaven. But that’s not the way St. Paul describes it. He tells us that neither marriage nor virginity is necessarily the better way. The best way is to seek to please God with single minded service, whatever state we’re in.
Many single adults are not waiting for their vocation, because they’ve found it. Choosing neither religious vows nor marriage, they give the world a distinctive countercultural witness. They show by their lives that the kingdom of God is real, that this world really is passing away, and that there is something greater than what this world has to offer. As wonderful as all that sounds, we may be tempted to ask whether dedicated single people can be truly happy.
If we consider the benefits of this unique calling, then the answer is surely ‘yes’. Dedicated single people don’t have the concerns of those who are married. The single person can devote his or her undivided attention to God in a way a married person cannot (1 Cor. 7:32-34). They have more time for prayer, more resources available to give to God’s work, and more freedom to be involved in ministry. The dedicated single person can impact people and places that the priest or religious can never reach.
The Church is blessed by men and women living a single vocation. Their dedication to God and their selfless love for him inspires others to live more fully for him. We should know too that the witness of our lives inspires and encourages those who are single. Together, as many members of one body, we can be a powerful witness to the kingdom of heaven.