Having been raised Protestant and converting to Roman Catholicism some 22 years ago, I am still sometimes confused about certain terms and practices in my Catholic faith community. Take “vocations” for example.
As an Oblate Associate, one of the things I wonder sometimes is why I, a married person (happily to Marie) feel called to the Oblates, a consecrated religious community, as a lay associate. A good number of fellow lay associates are no longer or were never married it seems. Hence, it seems like it’s a non married group that I hang my hat with spiritually now. However, I likely overly generalize as their are indeed many married lay associates with the Oblates.
Roman Catholic monk and author Thomas Merton has something to say about this in his No Man is an Island. He says the “ordinary” way to holiness and the fullness of Christian life is marriage. Only a comparatively few are called to a consecrated life as a “special” way of sanctity. Most men and women he says will become saints through married life. Indeed, we are all called to love by God. Some live this love out through marriage. Some live this love out as religious or, as unmarried.
Many Christians often say “I have no vocation.” What a mistake says Merton! Married people have a wonderful vocation all the more wonderful because of the relative freedom and lack of of formality compared to a monastic or religious community call. Furthermore, navigating the marriage relationship and raising children in difficult circumstances often enables entering more deeply into the mystery of the divine, says Merton.
So I need not lament being married while attracted to the spirituality of a religious community. People who are single by choice or circumstance, can remember that Paul says he does not recommend marriage. Christ is coming back soon so no need. However if you must, get married, but it was not for him.
In the moment, it seems that God has provided us the gifts of a single life, a consecrated life (which may be single or married) and a married life. It is for us to choose as guided by the Holy Spirit how we want to live out God’s love. I am grateful for having had the choice and appreciative that the Holy Spirit has guided me to make what feels like the right “vocation” for me. What about you?