What is a Vocation?
Although we are all called by baptism into the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Christ gives different gifts and talents to each for the good of all, for the building up of the Body of Christ. In order to bring about this unity, the Spirit of God calls and gifts every member to holiness, perfection in charity. At the same time, the Spirit calls and gifts each member to a unique place among the faithful. The Catechism of the Catholic Church illustrates this call:
“The very differences which the Lord has willed to put between the members of his body serve its unity and mission. For "in the Church there is diversity of ministry but unity of mission. To the apostles and their successors, Christ has entrusted the office of teaching, sanctifying, and governing in his name and by his power. But the laity are made to share in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly office of Christ; they have therefore, in the Church and in the world, their own assignment in the mission of the whole People of God." Finally, "from both groups [hierarchy and laity] there exist Christian faithful who are consecrated to God in their own special manner and serve the salvific mission of the Church through the profession of the evangelical counsels." (CCC, 873)
Thus, some are called to exercise Christ’s ministry in the lay state as either married or single persons, some as consecrated men and women religious (i.e., monks, nuns, sisters, friars), and some in ordained ministry as deacons and/or priests. A vocation is a calling by and gifting from God. God calls every member of the Church to live out their baptismal call in one or more of these ways. For example, God has called many permanent deacons to both marriage and ordained ministry. Some priests in our diocese are both members of religious communities and ordained priests. Most of the men and women of our diocese are called to marriage. Some men are called to live lives of service to the Diocese of Gary as priests.
Through prayer and reflection we can arrive at three truths about vocations. First, God wants us all to be joy-filled. That doesn’t necessarily mean the happiness that comes from temporary, external events like a favorite team winning a championship. It does mean that He wants us all to know His love, to share it with others, and find peace and contentment in doing so. Second, God knows better than we do what will bring us this kind of joy. He knows how we are made and what brings us the knowledge of His love. Third, from before we were born, God has already called and gifted us for living the vocation that will bring us the greatest joy. If we have faith in these three truths, then we will come to the joy that God desires for His beloved sons and daughters.
The hard part of these truths is figuring out which way of life God to which has called us. Discernment is the process of coming to know God, to understand His Will, and to knowing how we fit in His plans. It often means learning about the different vocations, meeting people who live these different vocations, and talking about the possibilities, and most importantly, praying, asking God for guidance in knowing His Will and for courage in following it.
Our best example of discernment is the Blessed Virgin Mary. When the Archangel Gabriel came to her with God’s message, she was open to how God was calling and gifting her. With great faith, she was open to her vocation and accepted it with joy, generosity and courage.
May our Blessed Mother intercede for all who are discerning God’s Will for their lives.