January 11, 2008


Our multiple vocations

This first issue of the calendar year traditionally includes our annual “Religious Vocations Supplement.” We hope you’ll read on pages 13-22 what we believe are stories about some inspirational men and women who have accepted God’s call to the religious life.

We decided, though, to use this editorial space to remind you readers that all of us have vocations. We all have calls from God to use the unique gifts and talents he has given us to accomplish his will for us.

Furthermore, we receive more than one call. We receive many calls as we proceed through life, and we must never stop trying to discern what God is calling us to do—now. God’s call might be different when we are in our 40s, 60s or 80s than when we were in our 20s.

It’s true that our primary vocation might not change. The first thing we should discern is whether or not God is calling us to be a priest, brother or religious sister, or to married life, or to the single life in the world. But that’s only the first step.

If a man believes that he has a vocation to be a priest, is it as a diocesan priest or as a member of a religious order? If a young woman believes that she has a vocation to be a sister or a nun (one who belongs to a religious order with solemn vows), is it to a contemplative order or an apostolic order?

All religious men and women are also called to specific ministries within their primary vocation, depending upon the talents God has given them. It seems obvious, but some priests are called to be pastors, others teachers, others missionaries, others chaplains, others administrators—all in addition to the priestly duties of celebrating the Mass and the sacraments. Bishops or religious superiors, with the help of personnel committees, help them discern how best to use their talents.

The same is true for women religious, of course. There was a time when they were mainly teachers or nurses, but today there are many other opportunities for them to use their talents in service to the Church.

But we lay men and women also have multiple vocations. God calls us to serve society and the Church by using our unique talents, whatever they might be. When we choose our profession, surely God isn’t calling us to pick something only because it will enable us to earn the most money. Our calling is to use God’s gifts for the benefit of others.

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. Such opportunities seem endless in both society and in our parishes.

We need good men and women to serve in governmental positions, either elected or appointed, and God calls some of us to do that. He calls others to serve in the military or as police or firemen. He calls others to serve the poor by volunteering for work with the St. Vincent de Paul Society or by helping people like Lucious Newsom in his work at the Lord’s Pantry in Indianapolis.

God 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 we call second vocations, changes in professions during middle age. 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.

How can we know what God is calling us to now? The same way as always: by prayerfully and honestly considering our talents and interests, perhaps in consultation with people who know us well.

—John F. Fink

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