In the Middle Ages, some Christians realized that there were women who could really use an alternative to marriage (or prostitution.) They sat down and thought about the nature of the problem. Women didn’t generally receive a lot of education but were really good with crafts and manual labor. Eventually, they decided that could create convents and fill them up with nuns, after all, “What higher calling than there be but to follow God?”
Medieval nuns were nothing short of amazing. They were caregivers and nurses long before medicine caught up with them. (They did they best they could given the medical knowledge that existed back then.) They grew gardens that fed themselves and as many of the poor souls that were fortunate enough to live near a convent.
Back then, serving God was the highest possible calling. Sure, some people were called to live ordinary lives, work all the day long to support their families. But others were set apart, either to be rich enough to not work and therefore be able to praise God with all that extra time or to serve God as a monk or nun, all day, every day, for as long as they live. This was the highest calling.
But the Middle Ages were not known for religious peace and tranquility. Eventually a new leadership took over. This new leadership was not keen on the idea that women should be allowed to have an alternative to marriage. “The highest calling for women is to be wives and mothers.” They declared. A great many convents were permanently closed the traditional way: they were completely destroyed.
Today, some would say “The highest calling is to follow God’s design by being wives and mothers.” It might sound like a combination of the two, there’s just a problem with it – it’s really not. Medieval Christians realized that an alternatives was needed as one approach does not work for everyone. Let’s consider the same logic used of another group of people:
“The highest calling for men is to be soldiers, therefore, any man who is not a soldier is not fulfilling the highest calling.” Should every single man be a soldier? No, that’s obvious. Some men just cannot fulfill the obligations of being a soldier. It’s tough work.
“The highest calling for women is to be wives and mothers, therefore, any woman who is not a wife and mother is not fulfilling her highest calling.” Sometimes there are some women who just aren’t cut out to be mothers. Some women cannot have children. Why would God require an obligation of all women and yet make some women incapable of fulfilling it?
Why did medieval Christians consider “Following God” the highest calling, even more important than family? Why did they make it possible for both men and women to follow God? Why are modern Christians continually pressured to marry? Why is there no allowance for an alternative? Why haven’t modern Christians realized that one approach doesn’t work for everybody?