When the word “Vocation” is mentioned, most often people equate it to Godly calls to the priesthood or consecrated religious life. Some think of their own conceptions of God’s calling to this life while others, having ruled themselves out of the running for religious life, may consider their vocation decision already made. Still, others consider “Vocation” to mean any of the “Big V” or apostolic vocations – marriage, religious or the consecrated single life.
Now, instead consider the phrase “Personal Vocation”. This may not bring much to mind, as it’s not typically a widely used term, but it is one that applies to everyone.
So what is it? According to Germain Grisez and Russell Shaw in their book “Personal Vocation”, it is the realization of what God is calling you to at this very moment. For example, the vocation of a student doesn’t begin once he or she graduates with a certain degree, rather, that time spent studying should be used to discern how one could be the student God has called him or her to be.
Grisez and Shaw propose that the same is true for discerning our apostolic vocations. From the time we are young, if the only emphasis is about deciding the state of life that God has called us to, then once we commit ourselves to marriage or religious life, we are left asking “What now?” Any married couple, priest or religious brother or sister would probably tell you that just making those vows doesn’t make life a cake walk, and in fact, each day brings a renewed commitment to the promises they made. If each day we approach our apostolic vocation as a means
to fulfill our personal vocation, we will always find ourselves – no matter our state of life – continually working to fulfill God’s plan for our lives, the ultimate goal. As Blessed John Henry Newman once said:
“For in truth we are not called once only, but many times; all through our life Christ is calling us. He called us first in Baptism; but afterwards also; whether we obey His voice or not, He graciously calls us still…He calls us again and again, in order to justify us again and again, and again and again, and more, to sanctify and glorify us.”
A personal vocation is not about allowing past decisions to deter us from the glory that God calls each of us to, even if we may have previously neglected Him. Our previous decisions and actions, good or bad, have all been in preparation for this very moment in which God can use each of us.
If we just take the time to listen for His voice we will hear His call. How is he calling you?David Burkey is the Communications Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center.
The call to holiness and the mission presented to the Church from Jesus Christ is certainly a challenging one. The fact that God created us with the ability to freely choose not only between right and wrong but between varied truths allows the members of Christ’s body, the Church, to live out the freedom given by God by our birth and baptism. The Catechism
defines freedom as “the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility ... Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude” (1731). The ‘mission,’ so to speak, of Catholics in this day and age is to live the Gospel message and to promote a New Evangelization.
This does not mean that everyone is called to any particular vocation. However, everyone is called to a
vocation. It is up to the individual, because of their freedom, to choose and discern where they are being called by God and for what purpose. Thomas Merton, in his book New Seeds of Contemplation
, eloquently puts it:Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny. We are free beings and sons of God. This means to say that we should not passively exist, but actively participate in His creative freedom, in our own lives, and in the lives of others, by choosing the truth. To put it better, we are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity.
Concrete personal reflection has never come easy for me, and there is a reason that people tend to hide their emotions. Reflecting on the meaning of vocation and what God is calling me to do conjures up memories of high school retreats of discovering where God is found in daily life. While structured experiences of faith exploration and formation are important in shaping the broad spectrum of faith, I have learned that is not all of what my faith encompasses.
At the very first meeting with my spiritual director, he asked, “Who is Alex?” I began to spew answers such as student, friend, brother, and the like. What I wanted to avoid was the internal reflection on the self because I didn’t want to have to address the underlying feelings regarding vocation and personal identity. If we are indeed called to shape our own identity, then we very often have a choice. This could be a choice between choosing the truth over a falsehood or even between particular vocations. In discernment, it is my task to look forward, to look to the future. If I dwell on the things of the past, I will never adequately be able to say that I have done what God is calling me to do, whatever it may be. It is the Christian’s responsibility, my responsibility, to discern this vocation, whatever it may be, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
If we must seek the Creator “spontaneously,” as the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes
puts it, on their own accord and out of impulse, then it becomes clear that the mission of the baptized Christian is to seek God always and in all things. The Italian priest Saint Vincent Pallotti, patron of the Catholic Apostolate Center, wrote, “Seek God and you will find God. Seek God in all things, and you will find God in all things. Seek God always and you will always find God.” I have often found consolation in this prayer of Saint Vincent. It serves as a reminder to attune my heart and mind to God, in all things and at all times. Out of this freedom of choice and seeking comes a responsibility to act out of instinct and to lead others closer to Jesus Christ by first seeking the very God who created us.Alex R. Boucher is the Program & Operations Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center. Follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexBoucher.