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Frederick Buechner on Calling

July 4, 2010

The following quotes are attributable to Frederick Buechner:

Vocation comes from the Latin vocare, ‘to call’ and means the work a person is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling to all kinds of 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 to do and (b) that the world 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 cigarette ads, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b).

If, on the other had, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time your bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only surpassed (a), but probably aren’t helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do.

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

– Frederick Beuchner, Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith

One life on this earth is all that we get, whether it is enough or not enough, and the obvious conclusion would seem to be that at the very least we are fools if we do not live it as fully and bravely and beautifully as we can.


For a greater understanding of the historical views of work and vocation and how the ideas of career, calling and profession inter-relate take a peek at Professionals: Men and Women Partnering with the Trinity in Everyday Life.

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