September 20, 2013

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Year of Faith: We have multiple vocations

John F. FinkI wrote last week that, if we are to know, love and serve God, we must do that by discerning our vocations—our calls—from God.

We receive many calls from God to make our unique talents available to the community, and our jobs should usually be seen as at least one of those vocations. We are expected to glorify God by our work. We can and should offer our work to God and achieve our salvation through our work.

All honest and moral work has equal value if it is done well, whether it is work in the home, as a waitress or dishwasher, a factory worker, a lawyer or businessman, a politician, or even a journalist. There should be no distinction between “prestigious” and “modest” work.

But to have spiritual value, work must be done well. The work that is best from a spiritual viewpoint is ordinary work done extraordinarily well.

Labor is an essential part of God’s plan for humans. Jesus himself sanctified work by spending most of his life as an obscure carpenter in Galilee. And St. Paul prided himself on his work as a tentmaker while preaching about Jesus.

However, we must remember that our job is not an end in itself. The ultimate goal, in our work as in everything else we do, is the glorification of God. This can be done even through boring and routine work, especially when it is done as a means of supporting a family. Or it can be done by working as a volunteer, doing work for which there is no payment.

Or perhaps the job itself is not a calling, but only the opportunity it provides for our true vocation—that of witnessing to our faith through our relations with those we meet in our daily work.

The early part of our careers usually corresponds to the early years of our marriages and the raising of our families, and our vocation is to do that to the best of our abilities and energy. As we age, though, surely the opportunities we have for volunteer services should be seen as God’s call.

He calls volunteers in our parishes to be lectors, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, ushers, choir members, collection counters, members of school commissions or parish councils, or religious education teachers. Some men are called to be permanent deacons.

Our society has come to accept what are called late vocations. Many men and women have recognized their vocations to the priesthood or religious life after years spent in secular occupations. Does that mean that they missed their vocations earlier in life? Probably not. In all likelihood, they were following God’s call both times because he continually calls us to serve him and others in different ways.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once told me and other journalists: “You cannot do what I do, but I cannot do what you do. Each of us has his or her own work to do. The important thing is that we do something beautiful for God.”

Could it be expressed better than that?

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