Vocation

I urge you to walk worthily
of the call
to which you have been called.
Ephesians 4:1 

Often, in Catholic circles, the word “vocation” has been restricted to vocations to the priesthood or religious life. However, our calling comes from our baptism and we all have a vocation, a calling.

I have long tried in my ministry to inspire people with a vision of life as vocation, as calling.

When I was a campus minister I would often include this quote from Frederick Buechner’s Wishful Thinking, in my talk for the student retreat called Antioch:

      [Vocation] comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work one is called to by God.
There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Superego, or Self-Interest.
By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.
Neither the hairshirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you is the place where your deepest gladness and the world’s greatest hunger meet.

I still think this description of vocation as the intersection of the world’s needs and your joy is an important insight. But I think it lacks at least one aspect of vocation, every true call has a communal dimension.

I believe that a true vocation needs to be within a community, for the sake of the common good. Otherwise, we can fool ourselves.

As I thought about coming here to Honduras over five years ago, an important part of the discernment process was consultation with others – not only the bishop here in Santa Rosa de Copán, not only my spiritual director and several close friends, but also with the St. Thomas Aquinas Church community in Ames.

A calling is not just about my joy, or even just about the needs of the world. It is about serving in and with the Body of Christ, as Paul notes in today’s first reading, Ephesians 4: 1-6.

Let there be one body and one spirit, for God,
in calling you, gave the same Spirit to all.

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