from The Listening Heart
A.J. Conyers

Of course the obverse side of that question also comes into view. What happens when a society loses this idea of its existence and of what shapes its existence? The sentiment of "being called," of experiencing life as a pilgrimage, is not, of course, altogether missing from modern life, but it is a much diminished idea without the attractive and compelling presence it once had. It has been reduced to philosophies about "work" or "occupation," or confined to the church "professions." Rightly understood, however, it is a view in which human life is drawn toward some purpose that is greater than the individual, one that stands above national interests, that invests life with nobility and beauty, and creates "room" for the common life. More than "work" and more than a "religious identity" or membership in a religious community, it is the notion that being human means one is drawn toward a destiny--and not simply as a worker or as a religionist, but as a soul that properly belongs to that which is yet dimly seen, but which already lays claim to one's very existence.

This is a powerful statement of what "vocation" actually means. We talk of "having a vocation," but it is a misunderstanding, a limitation of vocation that does injustice to the ordinary individual. Each one of us has a vocation, a specific calling. We are needed at a certain place, performing a certain function within the body of Christ. The vast majority of us are called to the vocation of married life. And within that vocation to stand as God would have us stand. St. Therese of Lisieux noted that her vocation was not merely to be a Carmelite, although that was the first step on her way to realization. Her call was to be "love at the heart of the Church." And while she may have stated it most clearly, all of us share some part in the vocation for those around us. For the homeless, those without friends, those who are despised, we are called to be love at the heart of the Church. But beyond that there is a unique identity for each of us--a place we must find and accept among God's people and it is unique. There is no jostling for position. James and John misunderstood this when they asked who would sit at His right hand--they turned vocation into competition. But for our own true vocations there is no competition because no one else can do what we are specifically called to do. And if we fail to do it, it will be left undone. That is the meaning of vocation. The call to our place--and that call takes in all that we are--it is as unique as we are, while at the same time all vocations share commonalities. At once unique and universal, our vocation once found is our opportunity to imitate the Blessed Mother and say with all that we are, "Yes."

That is the meaning and the power of vocation--living completely allied to God as God would have us be, doing what serves Him in the way He needs us to serve.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 21, 2007 12:30 PM.

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