Callings and Crosses

Holiness is the Lord’s exhortation to all the faithful, no matter your state in life — single, religious, ordained, married.

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There are the normative ways to draw close to God. Then there are as many other ways as there are people.

God created man and woman to get each other to heaven through relationship; for most people, that means marriage. He specifically gave man and woman to each other and charged them to "be fruitful and multiply." This was all good, and it followed on God’s earlier declaration: "It is not good for man to be alone." Consequently, marriage and holy orders or religious vows are the normative ways to draw close to God.

But sometimes we do end up alone. Various conditions and circumstances can lead to this, but sometimes men neither marry nor get ordained nor enter into religious vows. It doesn’t mean they were not called to either marriage or the service of the Church. It’s just more evidence that life in this fallen world frequently falls short of the perfect plan.

Importantly, while it is "not good" for man to be alone, that does not mean that it is a damnable offense.

The call to holiness is a separate call from the vocation to religious life, priesthood or marriage. It is prior to all other calls. It is foundational, and universal, applying even to those who are unable, for whatever reason, to follow a call to married or religious life.

It also means holiness is possible for all, regardless of conditions, disabilities, past mistakes and sins. It is available to all who "deny themselves, take up their cross daily and come after me" (Luke 9:23).

"Take up" your cross. Don’t avoid it. Don’t ignore it. And, for goodness sake, don’t call it anything but a cross. Take up your cross and carry it well.

The cross of Christ, don’t forget, was the means of redemption for all of us.

This is the Lord’s exhortation to all the faithful, no matter your state in life — single, religious, ordained, married. This call applies regardless of your conditions, disorders, limitations, hang-ups, whatever — and we’ve all got them.

Men, this means that if, for whatever reason, you are unable to marry, feel no call to holy orders, are not attracted to women or have a debilitating or embarrassing condition, you do not thereby fall outside of God’s providence.

God knows your burden — he’s known of it from all time. He also knew what he would do to help you carry it.

Don’t forget: Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, was not required, in the plan of God, to carry his cross alone. Why would we kid ourselves that God would force us to carry ours by ourselves?

St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to bear it. This is explicitly because God provides the way of escape, and that way of escape is clinging to Christ in the Eucharist, no matter what.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who we now know struggled for decades with a deep sense of abandonment by God, insisted, "God does not ask for success, only faithfulness."

The Church is not a museum for saints; she is a hospital for sinners: "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17).

"The experience of falling is nothing more than the opportunity to rise again," I once heard a wise retreat master say.

Christ, who fell three times while carrying his cross and needed assistance to complete the journey, was glorified through his cross; we are called to achieve salvation through ours, by flying to and accepting God’s bountiful help.

Tom Crowe is the Web-content editor at Franciscan University of Steubenville,

a former seminarian and a contributor at

Follow him on Twitter @TomCrowe.