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BY Matthew Warner
Most of my generation grew up not knowing the word "vocation." And I mean vocation in the sense of something in life that you are divinely made for and called to. And specifically, I mean Marriage vs. (what I'll here call) not-Marriage.
And by not-Marriage I don't mean all of the things the world tries to call Marriage but are actually not Marriage. By "not-Marriage" I mean things like religious life, priesthood (the non-married version), consecrated life, the diaconate (the non-married version), the single life, and any other legit form of it I'm missing and whereby I am not sure of a single word that can describe all of it without somebody complaining that I left something out so I'll just use the hyphenated word "not-Marriage" instead. Well, I suppose I could call it the "celibate life," too. Hmmm.
(Also. Please realize that proper not-Marriage is not really a "no" to Marriage, but a "yes" to something, in many ways, much more profound and eternal. Anyway.)
My point is that many young people these days think they only really have one option: Marriage. True, there are some who've in some way experienced a bad marriage, and are therefore extremely interested in not-Marriage. The problem is that they aren't all that aware of the celibate forms of not-Marriage I mentioned above, so they're currently trying to either redefine Marriage or they're trying out the faux-cations of playa, co-habitater, cougar, roomie and partner.
But all such aversions to traditional Marriage aside, if you're a young American, the mindset is generally one of when - not if - you'll get married. It's a kind of assumed default vocation. But there is no such thing as a default vocation.
This limited and backwards thinking can have a teensy weensy, but significantly detrimental, effect on a person: An unhappy, unfulfilling life.
There are two key causes of this unhappy, unfulfilling life.
The first is a missed not-Marriage (i.e. religious, priestly, celibate life, etc.) vocation. Something we could use a few more of here in the West. If a person has been made and called by God to not-Marriage, answering the not-Marriage call is what will ultimately bring them the most joy and fulfillment in life (just as any thing is happiest when being used for the purpose it was made for). So if such a person never even considers the fact that they are called to celibacy, they are missing out on what God intended for them - and are therefore missing out on maximum joy and fulfullment in life.
The second is bad marriages. If somebody is made for not-Marriage, then they won't be as fulfilled and happy being Married. So if they end up getting married by default, they are cheating themselves - and others.
I think an even deeper and more common problem is that even if a person is called to Marriage (as most people surely are), the vocation still requires discernment. They must still discern who they should marry. And when you grow up not knowing you should be discerning a vocation in general - Marriage vs not-Marriage - then you are more likely to lack a disposition to discernment for the rest of the process (picking the right one).
So we end up with lots of people caught up in the destructive cycle of marrying the wrong person, having children and then getting divorced because they are unhappy and unfulfilled.
So if you want your kids to grow up and be happy and fulfilled in life, teach them a disposition of discernment. Teach them there are no default vocations. Teach them that they, personally, have been made and called by God to something very specific that will bring them joy, peace and fulfillment in this life beyond any dream they could dream. That's kind of an exciting thing. And it's a great - and rewarding - adventure to figure out what that thing is...whether it includes Marriage or not.