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Vocational Discernment

June 19, 2010

I was encouraged by the following reflection on vocational discernment by Father John English and amazed at the overlap of terms and concepts present in this post vatican II understanding of vocation.  The one caveat that I have is that much time and energy is spent on what I believe is an overemphasis with married, single or religious callings.  With that said I am sympathetic to the pressures that moving exclusively into a religious calling brings in the life of a follower of the Roman Catholic church that isn’t prevalent in Protestant circles… there also seems to be a slight sacred/secular dichotomy that is related to this tension, that appears less often in Protestant circles.  Here is what Father English had to say:

Reflective persons, especially those who are trying to discover the basic direction and commitment of their lives, realize that there are myriad voices beckoning them to give full attention to these calls. The sirens and the prophets are everywhere. How do persons discover true calls from the Lord and the way they are to respond? How do persons discern their life vocation?

… Vocation comes from the Latin word for call or calling. It implies that there is an action from God who is beyond ourselves that is beckoning and calling to us. In a sense, we cannot deny this activity. We respond to it by answering yes or no. To ignore it is to answer no. Our belief is that God calls each one of us to do some good in this world. We are called to be concerned for other human beings, to be instruments of his love, peace and justice.

Some persons experience being called by God as an invitation into the desires (dreams) of God for the human race, for the church, and for ourselves as we live out our lives. God has a dream for each one of us. We are uniquely loved and called by God. God only wishes good for us as a human race and as individuals. God’s dream is that we in our own unique way will join Christ in building a better world and so experience ourselves fully … Our very existence is shaped by the experiences of call. In fact, the whole human race and the church are in a dialogue of call and response with God. This dialogue, in a mysterious way, expresses the activity of Christ to transform the world into Himself. Our own dialogue of call and response is part of this transformation of the world…all of us are called to respond to these calls and to discover who we are and what our role is in this world. Moreover, this dialogue is to be our continual way of life.

This applies especially to Christians, for our basic call is to be other Christ’s. Christ is not only the call but also the response. We are to respond constantly to the Lord’s call, “Come, follow me.”, much as he responded to his Father and to the needs of the human race. We are all called to develop the full potential of the human in ourselves and in other persons. Our response is to encourage the seed of the divine in all of us and enable us to love as Christ does: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). … we are to live out Christ’s words … St. Ignatius Loyola expresses our purpose and goal in this way: God’s purpose in creating us is to draw forth from us a response of praise, reverence, and service to God (like that of Christ) and in this way to experience the fullness of being.

This quote was taken from a Canadian Jesuit website where Father English spent his career.   For a more thorough treatment of the history of calling and work and the distinctives found during various points in history consider reading “Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life”

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