I am in Chicago for the 2014 National Religious Vocation Conference. The NRVC is the association of all religious vocation ministers in the United States. The Conference promotes vocation awareness, invitation and discernment to life as a religious sister, brother or priest. This year is the 25th anniversary of the Conference and the theme of the convocation is “It is good that we are here!” from Matthew 17:47 Yesterday I ran a workshop on tips to using media to promote religious vocations and vocations to the ordained life. Needless to say, I have been thinking a lot about vocations.
In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about vocations for about three years now (since my own ordination to the diaconate) because I spent the good part of a year working with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board to produce three videos to compliment their religious education curriculum on the theme of vocations. The videos are titled Make the Call and are a great asset to any Grades 1-3, 5-8 elementary classes, grade 11-12 high school religion classes or even for parish First Communion or Confirmation preparatory classes.
I remember when I was much younger hearing about “the call.” I don’t think I ever understood what that meant, although I didn’t think that I was going to get a phone call. But I did think that this call from God would be clearer. Little did I understand how God speaks to us in our lives.
The sad reality is that most people don’t feel called. Most people (and I’d say especially young people) don’t even know what they want to do with their life and don’t feel any calling to anything. Part of that may be this idea that we just have to sit idly by the phone waiting for it to ring, when in reality, “hearing” the call is an active process.
Now, I am not speaking about your career or finding a job. I am speaking about what the Church defines as Vocation. Our job or career has to do with our skills and things that we like to do. They have to do with making money and gaining experience. If you’re lucky, you may end up in a job that you really enjoy, that uses your skills and talents and that you feel is contributing to society.
A Vocation may include all that but it is not a job; it is a lifestyle. You can have a job and you can have a career but you are still called to a Vocation. Your Vocation is your life and, specifically it has to do with the call to holiness.
So we can say that a vocation is how we can best live our lives as Catholics and Christians. It’s about service, relationships, community and holiness.
The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word “vocare”, which means “to call.” So a vocation is something that we are called to (which is why we all learned about “the call”).
Through our Baptism and Confirmation all of us have a very important call to represent Christ and we do that by living out our vocation.
This is why we’ve been created: not for our jobs or our careers. Not to make money or to have fun; not even to make the world a better place. We’ve been created to know, love and serve God.
In 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, St. Paul writes: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
St. Paul is saying that even though there are many ways to serve, it’s all about knowing, loving and serving God and it’s God who activates these within us. That means that it’s God who gives us our gifts and they are to be used for the good of everyone. Our vocation is how we can best get to know, love and serve God by using our God-given gifts for our good and the good of everyone.
As Catholics we believe that our Vocation is how we live the life that’s been created specifically for us. Our Vocation is the best way in which we can respond to the universal call to holiness. This is the best way that each one of us can be holy: It is our means to arriving in Heaven.
There are many ways we can live out our vocation. We can respond to God’s call as a priest or deacon (Ordained Life), a sister, a monk (Religious Life), a wife, husband (Married Life) or as a single person (Single Life). There are lots of possibilities, but that’s not so important; how we figure it out is what’s important.
Next week we’ll look at how we can figure it out.