Every Catholic Has a Vocation
Today is the solemnity of the Holy Family. I thought it might be interesting to look at the vocation of family and the other three vocations we have in the Catholic Church. One of the reasons why this is important is there is a movement in our country to make it illegal to call any form of sexual activity outside of marriage a sin. Whether it'll be successful or not is a different story but it might be good for us to understand what the church actually teaches in light of some of the political issues behind the scenes.
First of all, we are looking at the Holy Family and so, of course, we have Mary as mother Joseph as father and Jesus as child. This reflects what we as Catholics consider a family but we want to look at it more closely.
Remember there are four vocations in the Catholic Church married life, ordained, religious and the single life. Those living the married life have a vocation to the married life, those who are living the single life have a vocation to the single life etc. etc. So those who are called to the married life within the Catholic Church are called to live as husband and wife with the purpose of bringing forth children and building within their family the domestic church. Catholic teaching is that the family is called to be rooted in Christ to be rooted in prayer to be rooted in a personal intimate relationship with Christ in the family to build a stronger Christ centered family. That is the vocation to marriage right there. The religious and priestly life we can talk at another time so that leaves the single life.
Some people will say if someone is not married then they are called to celibacy. That's actually incorrect. Everyone in the Catholic Church is called to chastity. How chastity is lived depends on whether one is married or not. Celibacy is the vow not to get married, it is not the vow to be chaste. The vowed to be chaste actually comes from your baptismal vows. So, everyone in the Catholic Church has a call to chastity. The Catholic Church teaches that chastity can only be lived with a Christ centered prayerful life that is also strengthened by friendships and obviously friendships of people who are Christ centered as well.
So those who have been called to the single life have been called to a vocation to live as people of faith living a strong relationship of Christ centered and prayerful friendships. Those called to the married life are called similarly prayerful strong Christ centered relationship and strong friendship with each other and the whole family.
That is Catholic teaching.
So single people are not called to be alone they’re called to develop strong friendship relationships as prayerful people in the church. Church history is filled with people who lived that kind of a vocation. Our problems with the cultural understanding of how we're called to live in the church is caused by defining friendships.
There are many stories of good unmarried Catholics who lived intense friendships with other unmarried Catholics one example is Saint John Henry Newman and Ambrose Saint John they were intense friends they lived together, they were buried together and when Ambrose Saint John died John Henry Newman grieved so painfully he actually believed that only spouses had the kind of grief that he suffered when this close friend died. This was an intense relationship of friends experiencing the single vocation.
We have a clash culturally because in the cultural society people have described that relationship as a gay relationship. That includes people in the church have called it a gay relationship. It was not it's important to understand this because if you call it a gay relationship then that becomes the exception to the rule. It was an intense platonic friendship that is part of the rule perfectly acceptable in the Catholic Church. There's a whole history of these kind of relationships in the Catholic Church going all the way back to David and Jonathan in the Old Testament.
If we misunderstand that point then we make a big mistake and even cause grave evil. Case in point
There is a case of two guys who were great friends now they were not Catholic and it is assumed that they did not live a platonic relationship however that is only an assumption and may be true . However as in the case of Saint John Henry Newman Ambrose Saint John they had a tremendous affection for each other. One of them died by accident the other was devastated. The Christian, not Catholic but Christian family of the one who died hated the relationship and in doing so they hated the survivor. The survivor was forbidden from going to the funeral, he was threatened that if he showed up he would be beaten up, he had no contact with the family outside of the deceased’s mother coming to get his friend’s stuff. The survivor’s grief was so intense it was hard for him to live with it.
Eventually he expressed his extreme sorrow and pain on YouTube. That video sparked a whole movement of people who went through something virtually identical who came out of the woodwork and said yes this happens. People were not allowed to grieve properly and were treated in this way because of the family's disagreement of their lifestyle which we will assume was not in accords with Catholic teaching. However, that action of denying someone the right to grieve properly is also against Catholic teaching therefore is a sin. It's right in the catechism in the section on chastity. His story became so powerful that they made a movie out of it. That movie became part of the evidence that was used in the Oberfeld case and is one of the reasons why same sex marriage is legal in the United States. However, at the base of that movie is disagreement we have with our understanding of the call to live that form of chastity proper to those not in a Sacramental marriage however also the sin in the Catholic Church of not treating all people with dignity which is Catholic teaching.
The point is that all of us have as our vocation married, single, religious or ordained to live Christ centered lives to foster strong friendships and to treat all others with dignity. When we don't do that the result is exactly what happened and is one of the reasons why there is a movement to make it illegal to call any sex out of a Sacramental marriage a sin.
So when we look at the Holy Family we missed the point if we do not understand that it is a prayerful family seeking to do the will of God which is the mission of every Catholic family. That every person does not have the vocation to marriage that there is the vocation to single life an religious and ordained life. Every baptized Catholic has a call to a prayerful Christ centered life with prayerful Christ centered friendships and living chastity based on their state of life and to treat all with dignity