Tuesday, 11 January 2011

What's Your Mission?

Just a thought today for the Serious Singles and for the very long-term Searching Singles: What's your mission?

When you are Single, you are freed up for mission, whatever it might be. And as society places so much meaning on the pair-bond and parenthood, it can be very helpful to pause and reflect on what gives meaning to your Singleness.

Quite obviously, being Single frees priests, male religious and nuns for prayer and badly paid but absolutely necessary work, either in their own communities or in the world. But being Single also frees schoolteachers, for example, to concentrate fully on their students. Being Single frees scholars to devote themselves to their research. Being Single frees doctors and nurses to volunteer their services to the Third World.

When I was 36, Single, and thought I might be called to remain Single for a very long time, I made writing about Single life my mission!

So to the Serious Singles and super long-term Searching Singles out there, what's your mission? For what good works does celibacy free you?


Windy :) said...


While I like what you've said here, I must admit that the title turned me off at first glance. It took me back to a talk that a I heard a speaker give on Theology of the Body some years ago now, in which she concluded by saying something to the effect of this: "We should not spend so much time worrying about our 'vocation' so much as finding and fulfilling our God-given 'mission.'" And I didn't like that at all. No matter what pains are involved in the search, I felt like she was rejecting the concept of vocation, and I just couldn't get on board. Besides, this woman was the mother of a now-grown son and she was single because of a divorce and annulment. I felt that perhaps she was just buying into this whole mission-over-vocation business as some sort of self-consolation in her difficult situation.

However, now I sit here as a single woman, also divorced and annulled, with two young children. So I can understand a little more of where she might have been coming from now than I could at that time.

Certainly, God does not leave us orphans -- neither those of us who are parents, but made single either by divorce or death of a spouse, or the children themselves. He will provide for us, and equip us for the tasks with which he has entrusted us. And I do believe that I still have both a mission and a vocation as a mother. Still, this kind of single-ness is not anything like the pre-mother singleness I had once experienced, the kind you speak of where "being Single ... frees schoolteachers, for example, to concentrate fully on their students, ... scholars to devote themselves to their research, ... [and] doctors and nurses to volunteer their services to the Third World." No, this kind of singleness requires intense sacrifice, a poverty of time and personal desire, and I guess that perhaps that is part of our mission. I am not suggesting that the life of a single parent is devoid of any joy or fulfillment -- far from it -- but just wish to bring to light a complex and difficult situation in which to find and fulfill our 'mission.'

Julie said...

I think it's important that kids see young, positive, faithful role models, so I have an advantage in having the time and freedom to volunteer with youth events. Since I'm not responsible for others I can even chaperone big trips which would be more difficult for parents (and possibly more of a hassle too, since parents have to deal with kids all the time and are more sensitive I think to the pressures of lots of kids together). I'm also fairly unapologetic about working hard to further my academic career. I think of it as time in the bank -- if I work hard and put myself forward now, then I will be grateful if God blesses me with a family in the future. I have particular ideas about how my work is in service to Christ and his Church despite being not at all religious, and that helps motivate me too. Being single lets me travel to more conferences and work whatever hours I want.

Seraphic said...

Windy, I probably should have said Single-without-little-children frees you up for mission. The primary vocation of any women with children is, of course, mothering those children, to whom she is the most important human being in the world.

My sister is a Single mother herself, however, and she has discovered that she is free to travel the world with her son, teaching English. So I guess it all depends on the person and the circumstances, as usual!

Julie, I bet a lot of parents are very happy that you step in!

Marie Catherine said...

Mission....that's a good question for me to ponder, but so hard for me to decide! Right now I'm entering into a cusp period of my life....I'm graduating school soon and will hopefully be entering into the professional world in the summer. So I guess right now my mission is to find a job where I can use my talents best for the glory of God.

However, my field isn't within the Church, so it's hard for me to see how I can serve God in the best possible way. I suppose that I can just concentrate on finding a job first, through hard work and prayer, and then once I get a job and get settled, find a church that is as traditional as possible and throw myself into activities there.

What advice do you have for us 20-somethings who are struggling between wanting to be in the world yet also wanting to serve God as best as we can?

Seraphic said...

Hmm. A few thoughts. The first thought is that the laity getting so many (badly paid) church jobs is really a new thing, and that the traditional--and probably proper--place of the laity is in the world, dragging it kicking and screaming back to the truth by our example and influence as career people, e.g. doctors, lawyers, writers, film directors, bus drivers, soldiers--you name it.

The second thought is that Opus Dei has a lot to say about serving God through your ordinary job, so even if you are not drawn to Opus Dei as a group, you might profit from reading St. Jose Marie Escriva on the topic. I never have, but I am pretty sure he's the go-to guy on holiness in the work world.

The third thought is that I read a book on the laity by Yves Congar.http://www.amazon.co.uk/People-Church-Study-Theology-Laity/dp/B0028OOQS8

Now that I am more traditional and a little more critical of Nouvelle Theologie, I realize that traditionalists do not include Congar on their lists of the super-solid. However, I read his work on the laity in 2004 or so, found it very interesting, and didn't come across anything that screamed dodgy. (Theologians are often like that. On one thing they are totally orthodox, and then on another they go a bit bonkers.)

The laity have more power in the world than they know, and can do a lot more than priests or religious on a political level. Priests and religious cannot run for any kind of public office: only the laity can. Priests and religious think twice about getting involved in rancorous public disputations; the laity can do this just fine.

Think of Chesterton, Belloc and other public figures of the 19th-20th century who were Catholics. Chesterton and Belloc were not just writing for Catholic magazines or working in Catholic circles. Au contraire. And Belloc was a Member of Parliament.

Some people advocate a general Catholic retreat from the world. I am not so sure that it is wise or necessary to do this--at least not quite yet. Sure, we want to juice up our batteries with Catholic devotions and our Catholic friends, but I do think the place of the laity is out there, being Christians in the world (but not, of course, of the world).

I hope to get a column in a secular magazine as well as my Catholic two (one of the two being extremely Spirit-of-Vatican-II-ish; it is a miracle the editor took me on). And I have my fingers crossed on a mainstream publisher. The Catholic ghetto is cozy, but I don't think we're supposed to be in it 24/7.

Amy said...

Marie Catherine, you may also want to take a look at Christifideles laici for JPII's thoughts on your question.

Anonymous said...

Oh Auntie Seraphic, I have been trying to figure this out for ages. I am a serious single. I have a job and to that extent am in the world. But I want to do MORE for the kingdom... I just cannot figure out WHAT.
Any pointers on how to figure out your mission?


Seraphic said...

Rose, there is always the "sell all that you have and give the money to the poor" option!

Meanwhile, your mission may very well turn out to be something that you are doing already, even if it doesn't seem that glamorous. I thought my mission was to be a theology professor, and instead it turns out that my mission may very well be to write to Singles every day.

Your mission might not be something that starts outside of you, but from some interior conviction. For example, you might get so sick of seeing some form of everyday suffering or injustice, that in a fit of zeal you do something about it. Who knows what this could be? I can imagine a lover of the English-language seeing misspelled graffiti and being so outraged that she stomps into a public library and volunteers to teach literacy, perhaps even beginning their first literacy class.

Those things that move you are very likely where you will find your mission.

Seraphic said...

By the way, discuss your thought on what your mission might be with a good priest or spiritual director. Many kinds of mission need training, and people who decide in their zeal to work with very troubled, damaged people can get very badly hurt without understanding the boundaries and rules of such work. Young Christians often have a problem with romanticizing the very poor, for example.

Maria said...

Thanks for this post, Seraphic! I really appreciate how you are always encouraging singles to look outside of ourselves and how we can use this time to be a blessing to others. Figuring out how God is calling me to serve others as a single person is definitely on the forefront of my mind right now.

As an academic librarian, I able able to serve others by helping students in their search for information and ultimately, Truth. This is the mission that God has called me to from 9-5, M-F, but I am also looking for the ways that He is calling me to help others through volunteer work, for instance on weekends.

As a single sometimes the big challenge is having a lot of different possibilities and time for volunteer ministry, and it's hard to narrow down what to get involved with. I think that starting by examining the things you are most passionate about is great advice!