What is a vocation?

Every member of the Church is called to holiness (Lumen Gentium, Ch V). This means we are called to love: to love God and to love each other.  The particular way that you live out that call to holiness is your vocation.

7 Essential Things About Your Vocation

1. Vocation is by invitation

The word vocation comes from the Latin vocare which means to call.  God calls or invites you to a particular vocation: single life, marriage, priesthood or consecrated life.  Although each of us must make a decision about our vocation, that choice is a response to an invitation from God.  As such, Pope Francis has commented: “to become priests, religious is not primarily our choice. I don’t trust the seminarian, the novice who says: ‘I have chosen this path.’ I don’t like this. It’s not right! But it is the response to a call and to a call of love” (Vatican City, 9 July 2013).

2. God calls you personally

God is interested in you personally and he calls you personally.  Many times in scripture we see God calling individual men and women such as Noah (Gen 6:8-22), Abraham (Gen 12:1-30), Sarah (Gen 17:15-16), Moses (Ex 3:1-4:14), Samuel (1 Sam 3:1-18), Mary (Lk 1:26-38), the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:1-42) and Peter (Mt 4:18-20).  Pope Francis has commented on this personal aspect of vocation: “In calling us God says to us: “You are important to me, I love you, I count on you.” Jesus says this to each one of us! Joy is born from here, the joy of the moment in which Jesus looked at me. To understand and to feel this is the secret of our joy. To feel loved by God, to feel that for Him we are not numbers, but persons; and to feel that it is He who calls us”  (Vatican City, 9 July 2013).

3. Your vocation is an expression of who you are

“Be who you are meant to be and you will set the whole world on fire”: this is a common paraphrase of the words of St Catherine of Siena.  It’s tempting to think of your vocation as something you do.  But St Catherine of Siena speaks of vocation in terms of being, not doing.  Vocation is not simply something that you do but it is an authentic expression of who you are, of your very identity.  

4. God knows us best

“Which of us knows what will make us happy?” asks Fr Jacques Philippe in The Way of Trust and Love.  We have all had that experience of getting exactly what we thought we wanted, only to find ourselves still unsatisfied.  But God knows us better than we know ourselves; He understands what will bring us real fulfillment, not just fleeting happiness.  St Irenaeus had this great insight into vocation when he said (to paraphrase): God did not call me for any service I might render him; God called me because he knew that in his service I would be happy. (Against Heresies, IV, 14)

Fr Philippe has explained that “the most beautiful thing in this world is to be led by the hand of God.  Not going at it alone when we pursue our interests and goals, but rather taking it on together with Someone who knows and loves us.  Not building my life alone, but in a loving and trusting communion with God, the One who knows us better than we know ourselves, who created us with infinite tenderness and who knows which path will lead us to happiness and fruitfulness” (Community of the Beatitudes, Discerning Your Vocation. A Catholic Guide for Young Adults.)

5. A vocation is different from a career

When we speak of Christian vocations, we don’t mean a job or a career.  Your vocation is the way God invites you to love and give yourself to others.  It is not simply the giving of your skills, services and expertise, but the giving of your whole self as a path to holiness.

6. Every vocation is a call to love

On the surface the vocations of priesthood, religious life, married life, and single life seem quite different, don’t they?  Although there is a beautiful diversity among these vocations, at their heart each shares a common commitment to love.   As St John Paul II explained it, “Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being” (Familiaris Consortio, 11).

7. God respects your freedom

God created us with the “dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions”; we have the freedom to choose and be responsible.  (CCC 1730).   God does not want to force you to choose a certain path, but to listen to His invitation and respond freely, and so “God does not shout but whispers” (Fulton Sheen).

We see this take place in 1 Kings when Elijah was waiting for God to come to visit him.  Elijah experienced “a great and strong wind…but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kgs 19:11-12).   In order to hear the “still, small voice” like Elijah, we must create a place where we can be quiet, still and attentive.


Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP: Worried About Committing to a Vocation?

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP: "What if I'm Not Good Enough?"