Whatever your current relationship status, I’m sure most of us can recall a time (or many) when some well-meaning friend or relative asked you, “Why aren’t you married yet?” Kevin & Deann Stuart’s talk at YCP’s last Executive Speaker Series resonated with many of us: single, married, discerning, and everything in between. In the words of Deann, “[Friends and relatives] acted as if marriage was a prize to be won, and I seemed smart, pretty enough to be worthy of that prize.”
While these people in your life and mine may be very well-intentioned in their question, comments like this fail to view the sacrament and vocation of marriage as a response to a particular calling. And being single, now or later, doesn’t mean that one has a fatal flaw.
As Christians, we are all called to holiness, and your vocation is the particular way in which God is calling you on that path. In a culture that encourages the delay of marriage and children – a vocation to which many of us are called – many of us young Catholic (single) professionals feel stuck in a state of limbo wondering, how do we discover our calling? The answer lies through our faith alone: we will more clearly discern our calls the more that we develop our interior life – our personal relationship with Christ, and his holy Mother.
If our vocation is a way to attain holiness, that is something we have to work towards on a daily basis. We can do this by sanctifying our work, sanctifying our relationships, and sanctifying each little and insignificant moment of our day. Our Mother Mary’s “yes” to her vocation was a defining moment in salvation history, and God bestowed many graces on her so that she could persevere and follow his will throughout her life.
In a similar way, God gives each person graces to face the trials that each vocation holds. The “I do’s” a couple vows at the altar are defining moments in the sacrament, but the sacrifice and love in the moments of hardship and pain are ultimately seen through by the graces given to them through their vocation.
However, the “yes’s” that each one of us is called to answer to aren’t just one big dramatic gesture: they are the little moments that make up every day, both today and 20 years from now.
“Happily ever after” is something in the realm of chick flicks. In reality, marriage is hard work. It’s a decision to love the other person every day, no matter how tired you are, how terrible a situation is, how the other person has disappointed you, grown unattractive, or annoyed you. A vocation is saying “yes” over and over again, especially when it’s difficult!
When I think about vocations, I think especially of my mom, who has always been my biggest cheerleader, strongest support, and best role model I could ask for. I was blessed to grow up watching my mom – who is the most selfless person I have ever met – make sacrifices for my family each and every day. I saw her put aside her own preferences, desires, and comfort, all for the sake of our 9-person family – who are too often ungrateful and her hard work for us often goes unnoticed. But her unconditional love for us leads her to do it all, regardless. Someone asked me about discerning my vocation a few years ago, and my response was, “I’ve always wanted to be like my mom.”
To someone that doesn’t understand what a vocation is – a path that will lead us to holiness, and ultimately heaven – what I’ve just described may sound uncomfortable, at best. To me, seeing the joy that self-sacrifice and love brings not only to an individual but to an entire family, that seems like greatest joy in the world.
We’re all imperfect and constantly make mistakes. Even my mom (who I’m certain if far closer on the path to sainthood than any person I know, especially after the trials my siblings and I have put her through) is flawed. But that the beauty of a vocation: God gives us graces to forgive, to get back up when we fall, and keep moving closer to him.
Like both Kevin and Deann shared, our current careers and callings will likely change over the years, but God is calling you to be where you are today so you can touch who you need to touch – or vice versa – before you move on. Whether you are single or married right now, you can use your current moments to pour yourself out into others – in your friendships, career, volunteer work, or other important areas. It’s important that we accept the challenges of the season of life we are in right now and take them as opportunities to grow in our interior lives, while we try to resist the urge to strive for the next rung on the ladder. Let’s instead embrace the joys and struggles as just a chapter of a life well lived.
Drs. Kevin & Deann Stuart of the Austin Institute for the Study of Culture & Family spoke at YCP Austin’s Executive Speaker Series on July 8th. Missed it? Check out our videos on our Facebook page to catch their talk that we recorded live.