After writing my post yesterday, I felt good at getting out some thoughts that had been eating at me...but I also felt not-so-good for airing criticism without offering a positive antidote. It's always easier to tear down rather than build up, to say what's wrong about a situation instead of saying what could be done better.
And Catholic Mutt's comment in particular got me thinking. She wrote: "I think there's a lot more we need to do for all those that do not fit into the appropriate boxes." (For example, the unmarried, whether they be single or divorced; my "pet issue" of couples struggling with infertility; or basically anyone who seems overlooked in the parish family-focused setting.)
So here's the positive antidote to my complaining yesterday, and I think also the solution to those folks who don't "fit" into parish life.
*drum roll please* =)
The universal call to holiness!!!!
It's so simple, right? Like right under our noses this whole time.
There's a whole chapter in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium about the universal call to holiness. It's chapter 5. I encourage you to read it!
Money quote: "Thus it is evident to everyone that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity" (no. 40, my emphasis).
Then it goes through a list of various people in the Church (ordained, lay, single, married, those who are suffering) and explains how they can live out this universal call.
The thing I love the most about it is that it is a universal call.
Universal: for everyone.
There is no one who is exempt from the call to holiness.
There is no circumstance in life that can remove you from this path toward heaven, toward sanctity.
But the call to holiness looks different for every person, which is pretty easy to grasp when you think about it. You just have to look around at your particular circumstances and ask, "How can I love God by loving the people He's put in my life and the circumstances He's given me? How can I become a better person through the "raw material" of my life's situation?"
It's that easy. (Or that hard!!)
So for me, as a married childless woman, living out my call to holiness looks different than a mother with many children. Just as it looks different than a single person, or a bedridden person, or a refugee, or a homeless person, or [fill in the blank].
I think the universal call to holiness is the perfect antidote to what I was complaining about yesterday. My gripe (in large part motivated by an disordered love of self and want of attention, I'm sure, but somewhat motivated by the desire for truth) was that sometimes it seems like there is only one way to holiness: having a large family. (Even writing that, I am sure that my particular woundedness right now makes me myopic here. In other words, I have no doubt I am keenly, overly sensitive to adulation of big families, given my unwanted childlessness.)
The point is, everyone can and in fact is called to life a holy life!
For me, my path toward holiness comes from accepting what I did not want: childlessness, and from loving my husband as best as I can.
For a single person, perhaps his/her path toward holiness comes from living chastely and offering up desires for marriage, and then more concretely, loving people: siblings, parents, co-workers, friends, and doing a great job in whatever profession they have.
For abandoned spouses (aka divorcees who didn't want the divorce), maybe the path to holiness is still loving the spouse who abandoned you and being faithful to your marriage bond (this is my MIL, and trust me it is a path of holiness!)
For a mother of many, maybe the path to holiness is striving to be free of impatience and giving of herself constantly to her children's needs.
Even the disabled, the infirm, the very young and very old can walk the path of holiness by loving God, offering up their sufferings, and loving everyone around them.
I think the problem comes when we forget that sometimes how people live out their call to holiness is very hidden. Sometimes it's not: the mother of many comes to mind here, as does the martyrs or those who are being actively persecuted. But so often those movements of the soul toward acceptance, love, forgiveness, and hope are entirely hidden from everyone but God. (And that is hard for my pride to accept.)
All that is to say: there is a "box" for everyone to fit in the Church, regardless of their circumstances! It's called the "I am called to holiness" box. It's universal. No exceptions.
(Just writing this makes me feel so joyful and excited, because it gives me something to do and strive for instead of sit around and whine about what I don't have.)
So I for one would LOVE to hear more homilies on the universal call to holiness! Because it's so unifying - it's something we all share, and all can journey together.