The simplest definition of vocation and the literal meaning of the word is a “call”.
However, a vocation is much more than an ordinary call as it is a call from God. The process for those who have felt God’s call is anything but simple. Most people’s concept of vocation relates to what they are called to do in life; however it is important to understand that the first and most important call from God is a call to be – the universal call to holiness.
Your profession or your career is not the same as your vocation. There is an overlap between a vocation and a profession however.
A profession or career is something which constitutes a way in which you support yourself to provide the means to contribute in some way to the good of society. To choose a career or profession, there is no need to have a belief in God. People choose and switch professions freely depending on personal preferences, talents and strengths and individual circumstances. Profession and careers can be viewed as having a horizontal dimension.
A vocation introduces a vertical dimension to our life, that being God. One no longer asks “what is my preference?” but rather “What does God want me to be?” You cannot switch a vocation like your profession or career.
An example could be a person who works in a sales department because they have the skills to sell a product, have good interpersonal and customer relations and an ability to work effectively in a team to accomplish tasks. The vocation of this same person may be to be a wife or husband, a single person, or a priest, deacon, religious brother or sister.
There is an important distinction between a call to holiness and a call to a specific vocation, i.e. married life, single person, consecrated life or ordained ministry.
The call to know, love and serve the Lord is the universal call to holiness rooted in our Baptism. There is a growing desire to love God and our neighbour thereby moving toward a deeper union with God. There is also the dawning understanding of there being a reason for our existence and that there is meaning in our lives.
We perceive that the call to holiness is an experience of ongoing conversion. Our eyes are continually opening to a new awareness of the loving presence of God. There is a constant invitation to align our will with God’s, in so doing, turning to Him in faith.
There are two convictions on which a willingness to do God’s will is built. We must believe that God loves us more than we love ourselves and God’s desire for our happiness is much more than we want it. In essence, we must believe that God understands more than we do what will make us truly happy. Our desire to find and do the will of God should be based on the belief that to be lastingly and truly happy our only chance is God’s willed for us.
Depending on which vocation we have chosen, we will live out the invitation “to be holy” in differing ways. The four specific vocations are: single life, married life, consecrated life or the ordained ministry. Each of the vocations is a call to follow Christ closely.
Someone who has chosen the single life has not formally taken the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. However, they put their freedom at the service of others in their work and prayer thus making a personal commitment to strive to follow Christ in their daily lives.
A married Christian couple follow Christ in the gift of themselves to each other completely and without reservation, upholding the promise to love each other faithfully to end of their days, and in whatever circumstances life brings them, sharing the joys and sufferings together. Their love is expressed in their sexual union, this very closest intimacy bringing them together and opening them to the gift of new life.
Someone who has chosen the path of consecrated life follows Christ through their vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. Their calling is to live as Christ lived, modelling their lives on the life of Jesus, chaste, poor and obedient. By doing this, they make their hearts more free for prayer and service.
Those who have been ordained through sacramental ordination share in the priesthood of Christ in a special way. They are uniquely and intrinsically transformed to represent Christ the Good Shepherd for God’s people and Christ as the Head of the Church. In offering their lives to the Father, as do all Christians, they also stand before the Church and minister to the faithful as Christ ‘in person.’ In doing so, they teach with the authority of the Church as Christ teaches; the sins they absolve in the Sacrament of Penance Christ forgives; when the Sacrifice of Mass is offered then Christ offers that Sacrifice; when they support, care and love God’s people, then Christ is present with his people.
There are some similarities between particular vocations, although the lifestyle and demands of each is very different. There is a commitment in each vocation to love in a certain way; however the object of every vocation is God. It is not necessarily renewing the Church, having a family, fulfilling yourself, confronting new challenges, helping people or building a better society. All these elements may play a part however the primary objective in to love God.
There is a challenge in each vocation to live our faith more deeply and to follow Christ more closely. Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote, “Love makes us seek what is good; love makes us better persons. It is love that prompts men and women to marry and form a family, to have children. It is love that prompts others to embrace the consecrated life or become priests.” For each vocation, when lived faithfully and generously, there will be times of lasting happiness and reward; however there will also be times of suffering, challenge and sacrifice. It is important not to make comparisons between the value of different vocations but to concentrate on the appreciation of each one and the discovery of that one which is right for you.
If you are happy to respond to God’s call or need any help to discern your vocation, please contact vocationbrisbane.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or (07) 3336 9392.