The Dark Secret of Vocations

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Everyone has one and each of them is unique. There, now you know. Now that it's out in the open, we can talk about it openly.

We are all aware of the "vocational sacraments'--ordination and marriage. However, a vocation does not need to be made manifest by a sacrament to nevertheless be a vocation and no two vocations conferred by ordination or matrimony are exactly the same in every particular.

This understanding of vocation was made clear by St. Thérèse when she wrote about her own discovery of vocation. She was a cloistered nun, which is a recognized vocation that is not conferred by a sacrament; but that was insufficient for her. She continued to think about and study vocation to the point where she concluded that her vocation was to become "love at the heart of the Church."

Each vocation is unique because each person is unique. No two cells in the body are identical in all respects. So in Christ's body there are no "carbon copy" saints. This is why it is important to realize where God is calling you personally. Some time back, Tom wrote about third order Dominicans who claimed the vocation of the cloistered nuns. The same happens with third order Carmelites. God does not need another St. Dominic or St. Teresa of Avila, He already has one of each, eternally. Hence, it is improper to attempt to be anything other than what God has made me to be. I cannot be a hermit or cloistered--I cannot pull myself away from the world articificially, and even if I could, it would not be serving God as I am, but as I insist upon being. This is rebellion as much as not doing His will at all though grace be there to support it.

But Lay Carmelites are not cloistered, they live in the world, and by living in the world send a message different from the cloistered nuns and unique to the third order. This is a message of hope to all of the Church--that life in the world does not exclude the possibility of intimacy through prayer--that contemplation and action are not either/or, but rather both/and. As a Lay Carmelite, contemplation that does not lead directly to prophetic and evangelical activity is a kind of illusion, a sort of spiritual pride.

But even identification as a Lay Carmelite does not encompass the definition of my vocation, because as a lay Carmelite I do live within a vocation conferred by a sacrament--marriage. And it is the balance between the callings that defines the tension of the life. But still, that doesn't define the fullness of the vocation. I have certain talents, gifts, and inclinations that are my own and not available to anyone else. It is in the blossoming of all of these gifts of God through His grace that my vocation is defined. Already I have an inkling of it--part of my given vocation is to encourage and to help direct insomuch as it is possible to do so. All Carmelites are called to spiritual direction--some formally, some more informally--perhaps only within the community meeting. But sometimes direction can be more of a group effort, or a general pointing of the way--less direction, more signpost.

Part of "working out my salvation in fear and trembling" is the discovery and proper execution of the details of my particular vocation. In Grace, God will tell me who I am and how I am to function for the greatest good of all. My job is to respond to the best of my ability--to seize the day.

Vocation really is about immolation in God's love--utter abandonment, total surrender, complete reliance on Him and His daily graces.

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More on Vocations from Blog by-the-Sea on April 22, 2006 11:16 AM

On March 26, an earlier post discussed the USCCB's Fishers of Men project, which the USCCB website says describes as a program for priests to actively invite men to consider a vocation to the priesthood. The Pope's Message for the Read More


A friend of mine who is in seminary at Mount St. Mary's in MD was back in town for Holy Week and he mentioned that a number of the seminarians that he knows are involved with the Third Order Carmelites. It made sense to me that men called to the secular priesthood would be able to draw a lot from third-order membership in a religious community.

Steven, i still search my particular vocation. Thanks for this post.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on April 21, 2006 10:12 AM.

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