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February 1, 2009
What Is a Vocation?
The concept of Vocation in the Catholic Church is often misunderstood. For many years the expression was used solely for vocations to the priesthood or religious life. When our teachers speak of the idea of vocation we all knew that they meant a calling to be a priest, a sister or a brother. Since Vatican II, the term vocation has come to express a much fuller, more comprehensive calling. In truth, the word vocation means calling and all human beings have a calling, perhaps not as consecrated religious or priests but we all have a calling.
As people of faith we know and understand that a calling is from God. Because of our Baptism, we are all called into God’s service in one way or other. For the vast majority of people, the calling is to the married life. This is a very important and very beautiful calling because it reflects the love God has for his people. When two people love one another they experience first hand what love is. As scripture tells us, where there is love, there is God.
Some of us are called to the single life. This is a very different call from the married state but nonetheless it is important. As single people we are free to serve all of God’s people to the best of our ability. Still others are called to the priesthood or religious/consecrated life. These vocations are not necessarily more important but they are vital to the life of the church. Without people who respond to God’s call in this way our church would have great difficulty sustaining its spiritual health.
The same questions continue to be asked by young people everywhere: How do we know for certain what our individual calling is? What do we base ourselves on when trying to discern this important step in our lives?
Charlene Diorka, a member of the Srs. Of St. Joseph, and associate director of the National Religious Vocation Conference in Chicago, Ill., answers these questions with honesty and clarity. She writes, “My call did not come in isolation. It arose as one among several good opportunities from which I could choose. I was not grasping at this choice as a last chance because there was nothing else to do. God provided a rich array of invitations and allowed me to see that they were all good. I looked for which choice would allow me to be most at home in myself, to be generous in service to others and to live the dream that God was dreaming for me.”
Sr. Charlene tells us that her calling gave her the energy and joy which provided her with what she needed to be at home within herself. She tells us that we must listen attentively to what God is saying. This is often down through others in our lives. We also should look at our gifts and talents. God will invite us to serve in an area in which we are well suited. Frederick Buechner defines call as “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” This is very true. If we are patient we will come to experience God’s hand in our calling. Let us all pray for those who are discerning their call.
Lorette P. Nault