About Vocations

What is a Vocation?

Vocation is God’s will for you

The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin word that means ‘calling’. For the Christian a vocation is not just something that God calls us to do, it is also the person God calls us to be. When Jesus called his first disciples by the Lake of Galilee it wasn’t just so that they could help him in his work, it was so that their lives could be transformed through his friendship and love. We have been called to follow Christ, the Son of God, the eternal Word of the Father, who came as one of us to save us for eternal life. He has sent his Holy Spirit so that we can share in his divine life even now, and express that life by trying to love him and to love our neighbour. The Christian vocation is a call to share in the life of the Most Holy Trinity.

Vocation as a call to holiness

One way of expressing this is to say that the fundamental human vocation is the call to holiness, the call to be a saint. The saints are not just heroic people who live in history books. They are ordinary Christians who have tried to live their faith without holding anything back – to love God with their whole hearts, to love those around them without counting the cost, to work at what is worthwhile with dedication and purpose, to be people of joy and kindness and prayerfulness. All of us are called to be saints – however weak or sinful we feel. This is not so much a command as a promise that God makes: he promises us, by giving us his Holy Spirit, that he will help us to find our true happiness in following him, and that he will give us whatever we need for the journey.

You already have a vocation

The vocation to holiness is already a part of your life, given to you at your baptism, and it is so important to remember that. Whatever situation you are in now, however unsatisfactory it seems, you already have a vocation. You might be working, studying, travelling, unemployed, or caring for someone at home; you might be very content, or utterly miserable; full of hope, or close to despair. Whatever your situation, you can trust that God is with you, and that he calls you to be holy in this very situation. Things may well change – and perhaps they need to. But at this moment you must have the confidence to believe that even now there is a meaning and a purpose to your life; and that you can begin to fulfil that by everyday acts of love and kindness and patience.

Living well in the present

This call to live well in the present is the ‘Little Way’ recommended by St Thérèse of Lisieux – the importance of simply doing your duty, saying your prayers, loving your neighbour, bearing your sufferings; and doing all this with a generous and loving heart. It is not very dramatic, but it is the secret of holiness, and it reminds us that your first and fundamental vocation is not something to be discovered in the future – it is living the Christian life in the here and now. Perhaps this is all God wants of you for the moment. You must avoid the temptation of thinking that your Christian life can only properly begin in the future, when everything is crystal clear. And if you do not discover a more concrete vocation, or if you are to die young, then you should not feel that you have wasted your life, or that your life is unfinished or unfulfilled.

Vocation as a call to a concrete ‘state of life’

Christ has always called some people to follow him in concrete ways, by giving them a more specific vocation. In previous generations, the word ‘vocation’ would only have been used to describe the lives of priests and religious – because these people had in some sense been called ‘away’ from an ordinary life to a life of celibacy and service in the Church. But today the word ‘vocation’ is rightly used also of marriage, permanent diaconate, consecrated life, and some forms of single life – because each of these is a wholehearted commitment that we make in response to an invitation from the Lord. These concrete vocations are also known as ‘states of life’, because we make a lifelong commitment to living our Christian faith in a particular context. This lifelong commitment becomes the place in which we live out our fundamental vocation to holiness. God calls us all to be saints; and sometimes he calls us to be saints in a particular way – as husbands or wives, as priests or deacons or consecrated persons.

Vocation as a call to be the unique person you are made to be

There is yet another level to ‘vocation’. Each saint is unique, and you are called to be holy not just in a general way, but in the particular way that God has made you to be. God created you as a unique individual, and calls you by a name that no-one else has been given. You reflect Christ’s love and show something of his face in a way that no-one else can. This is your ‘personal’ vocation – the call to be the person you are meant to be. The more you discover who you are, and the more you discover what lies deepest in your heart, the more you will be able to discern what God’s will is for you and what direction he wants you to take in life. Your lifelong vocational commitments and the particular path of holiness that you are called to follow will inevitably grow out of the person God created you to be.