Editor’s Note: As a part of our mission to help single Catholics deepen their faith and better discern dating and marriage, the CatholicMatch Institute held an essay contest to award scholarships for the National Catholic Singles Conference that will be held in Philadelphia on September 27-29, 2013.
Members had to answer the essay question: Describe how you have discerned that you are called to the vocation of marriage and provide one example of how you joyfully live out your faith until the time when you can fulfill your vocation?
The post below is one of our winning essays. Congratulations to Sarah Baker from Virginia! (Click here to see the rest of the winners.)
When I was 18, I spent a year discerning religious life. For a while I had convinced myself that I was actually called to be a religious sister and serve my brothers and sisters in Christ.
But every time I told myself that I had a religious vocation, I got a small knot in my stomach—the kind of knot you get when you know you’ve made the wrong choice, or said the wrong thing, or done something wrong. I would also feel a small twinge of disappointment. Deep down, I knew I was settling.
Fast-forward to my sophomore year at Franciscan University. I was away on a womanhood retreat, and over the course of those three days, God’s presence was astounding. I came to realize that the whole time, the sinking feeling in my stomach was God’s red flag. It was His way of letting me know that a religious vocation was indeed the wrong choice. In that retreat, I felt His words and His presence so strongly. I came away after only one weekend certain that I was called to marriage. Since then, I have never felt more at peace, and I have never looked back.
Now at that point I was about 20 years old. I’m now 26, and my dating life since then has consisted of a brief relationship, many first dates, and an occasional second or even third date. I will be honest, I have battled with short, intermittent bouts of depression over this, and have at multiple times in my twenties felt that perhaps my love life was doomed (then I snapped out of it and realized it was probably just hormones talking).
At some point about a year or two ago, I had a major catharsis. I realized that whether I like it or not, this is my life. This is the life that I’ve been given, and the only one I’ll ever have. At this point of my life, I have been deemed to be single for a reason. While I don’t know why, God does and that’s all that really matters. What matters for me now is that I make the most of it. I can sit and wallow in my self-pity and bemoan my single state, or I can use this unencumbered period of my life to become the best version of me that I can possibly be, and perhaps in some ways help others toward the same goal.
So now the question is: How do I become the best version of me?
That was the part that I struggled with, and yet once I embraced it, I found the ways to happiness include:
1. Service. I become more involved in my church. No problem! I began to volunteer with LifeTeen, and I joined the choir. I became active in young adult ministry and activities in the area, and I began to volunteer my childcare services once a week during moms’ groups.
2. Building friendships. I cultivated my spirit-filled, uplifting friendships with the people in my life who I knew could be mutually beneficial in the journey to Heaven. I knew I must align myself with other good, solid, Catholic young adults in similar walks of life who could support me, as I would support them.
3. Appreciating family. Cultivate stronger bonds with my family—the number one group of people I know I can count on for anything.
4. Staying active. I blog about my experiences as a successful, faithful Catholic young adult in the 21st century, and in this way try to be the witness God has called me to be to His love and faithfulness. I also decided to develop hobbies that, if nothing else, keep my mind and hands occupied, and therefore assist in distracting me from the loneliness that I occasionally still feel.
5. Aspiring to sainthood. My goal during this period until I stand at the Altar with Mr. Right: To make my life better, and to work to become the person that I, as an onlooker, would admire. In short, to aspire to sainthood. In this way, when I enter into wedded bliss with another person, our solitary paths to sainthood can be merged into a path that will lead both us and the children God bestows upon us to our final destination: Heaven.
I admit that I do at times still feel the sting of loneliness and the occasional bitterness that comes with watching close friends enter into matrimony. I have mostly come to terms with my current state, and I am at peace with the path which God has chosen for me to walk. I would be happy if Mr. Right walked into my life right now, but I also know that I cannot base my happiness on him. To borrow from St. Gianna Berretta Molla: “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment, and thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day.”
God alone knows my life story, and He alone can write my love story. His timing is perfect, not mine. Who better to entrust the fate of my life to than the very Creator of the Universe? He seems to have a plan, and His plan has worked for thousands of years. I think He sounds qualified for the job, don’t you? And in the meantime, I intend to be happy while I’m waiting.