Vocations: unique and universal ...
What is a vocation?
Our Calling comes from God
A vocation is a ‘calling’ from God, unique to each person - no two vocations are the same. A vocation is something particular that God is asking us to do with and in our lives and which only we can fulfil. Cardinal Newman put it this way:
“God has created me to do him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another”.
A vocation is not static but fluid – a person may feel called to different things at different stages of life - but in discovering our vocation, we discover that which gives us life and makes us feel most fully ourselves.
It is, however, important to recognize that each individual vocation needs to be seen in the context of the whole. As baptized Christians we have a universal calling as members of the body of Christ, the Church, a body which is made up of people seeking to strengthen and enrich the whole. In the words of St Paul:
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ…But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” (1 Corinthians 12.12)
God does not give any of us a vocation simply to suit ourselves or to be purely self-fulfilling. The nature of a vocation is that it looks outward to the Church and to the world; a true vocation will serve others as well as ourselves. This in turn means that a certain element of sacrifice will be involved as we seek to fulfil our vocation in the service of others.
Do I have a vocation?
Yes! Every person has a vocation which is then concretized at the moment of Baptism.
What form does a vocation take?
A vocation can take any form at all, but it will be based upon the gifts God has given you as an individual. Perhaps your vocation is being fulfilled through your choice of occupation. Maybe you feel called to lead a bible-study group in your place of work, or to work with the elderly or the homeless, with children and young people, as a Parish Treasurer or Stewardship Officer. The options are endless.
Some people are called to a particular ministry, perhaps as a reader, to the Church Army or to some other accredited lay ministry such as a pastoral auxiliary, an administrator, educator or missionary.
Other people are called to ordained ministry within the Church as a deacon or priest. In conjunction with the Society of Catholic Priests, Affirming Catholicism hosts an annual vocations conference for all those considering ordination.
Still others are called to the religious life, to live as monks/brothers or nuns/sisters attached to a community.
What if I feel afraid or overwhelmed by my vocation?
The Bible’s pages are full of examples of people who struggled with their vocations, Moses (Exodus 3-4) and Jonah (Jonah 1-2) being but two. It is not unusual to feel overwhelmed by a vocation, but it is important to remember that God never asks us to do something which is beyond us. The key is to trust that God knows us better than we know ourselves.
What do I do now?
The most important step towards discerning a vocation is a commitment to prayer. Prayer is our way of tuning in to God’s voice, through which we begin to discover our inmost selves and God’s will for our lives.
If you feel you need help discerning what God is asking you to do or you feel drawn to reader, accredited lay or ordained ministry, the best place to start is to talk to your local parish priest – he or she should be happy to accompany your explorations. Many people find seeing a Spiritual Director or Soul Friend very useful too – this is another person who will journey with you in your explorations, helping you to discern where God is in your life and to discover what it is that is life-giving for you. Again your parish priest should be able to help you find a Spiritual Director.
In addition, you may find some of the documents and web pages listed on our subsequent pages helpful to you as you discern God’s will for your life.