by Angela Batie
We’ve been observing “vocation week” on our campus with special intentions in our residence hall Masses and a dinner for students who are considering a vocation to vowed religious life. Purely by coincidence but very appropriately, we began a new workshop for graduate students and young professionals about discernment for the single person. A woman involved in marriage preparation in our archdiocese designed the curriculum after she discovered people coming to see her, date set and ring bought, who had never actually discerned if they were even called to the vocation of marriage, much less with this particular person. They just fell in love and figured this was the next step. Despite Church affirmation of the single life as a vocation, social pressures seem to press people toward marriage, and many of us find ourselves slipping into our late 20’s and for the first time really wondering what our calling is.
So, 15 of us gathered, each hauling a few decades worth of heartbreak, searching, successes, failures, passions and hopes with the intent of actually exploring who are we, what are the longings of our heart, and how is God truly calling us to live. We’ve begun talking honestly and candidly about what it means to be called to be single in a world where the first question that elderly aunts pose at Thanksgiving is “so are you seeing anyone?” – not “are you fulfilled in your life’s work?” Or, conversely, the heartache of feeling called to the married life but still searching for a partner with no prospects in sight, as if an admission of that longing is a confession of not being satisfied with oneself. And this doesn’t even touch on the complexities of feeling called to a same-sex romantic partnership.
It seems that 30th birthdays are becoming the new wedding reception; unmarried people are organizing lavish catered bashes with embossed invitations, or honeymoon-like trips to sunny beaches. And why not? Ordination is marked by years of formation and an ontological change, while marriage is heralded by grand ceremonies and opulent receptions. So why, then, does the call to the single life slide by unnoticed until people finally just stop asking if you’re ever going to settle down and start a family?
And we speak of “vocation crisis” as though the only vocation in crisis is ordained ministry.
Angela Batie is a campus minister in St. Louis where she lives with 900 freshmen and loves every minute of it.