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.