Wise words on how to make choices concerning career, marriage, and life:
“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 patents 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 Quoted from On-the-Job-Prayers William David Thompson, p.32.
I’m persuaded by Russell Shaw’s contention in America magazine that we do not suffer from a shortage of vocations to the priesthood but from a shortage of vocational discernment. Here is the quote from Shaw:
“Despite all the talk about a vocation shortage, there is in fact no such thing in the Catholic Church. The real shortage is that of vocational discernment, and that is a very different problem. The shortfall in the number of candidates for the priesthood, the consecrated life and other forms of Christian witness and service would quickly disappear if many more Catholics, and ideally all, made it a practice to discern, accept and live out their unique, irreplaceable callings from God—their personal vocations.”
The idea of personal vocation is an important complement to Vatican II’s teaching about the universal call to holiness. All members of the faithful, not just a select few, are called “to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love,” the council declares (“Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” No. 39). But there is not much guidance for living this out, and even less incentive to do so, in telling people that if God has not called them to be clerics or religious, they do not have a vocation in any meaningful sense.
(America provides web access to subscribers only. This link may work for you. If it doesn’t, email me and I will send you the complete text, courtesy of America.)