Here we speak of the particular Vocation by which God calls one to a higher state of life. Man renounces the world in order to give himself totally to God and binds himself to the observance of the evangelical councils. It is to this higher state of life that one generally reserves the word “Vocation” in its strict sense.
“The Fathers most strongly exhort those who are preparing for the sacred ministry to develop a keen awareness that the hopes of the Church and the salvation of souls are being committed to them.”
(Vatican II – Optatam Totius n. 22)
Everyone is called to Sanctity, to Salvation: “the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory in Christ Jesus,” says St. Peter (1 Pet. 5:10). We do not speak here of the vocation of every man to Salvation, but of the particular Vocation by which God calls one to a higher state of life. There, beyond the observance of the commandments of God, a man renounces the world in order to give himself totally to God and binds himself to the observance of the evangelical councils. It is to this higher state of life that one generally reserves the word “Vocation” in its strict sense.
- "Am I called by God to a state of life of perfection rather than to live in the world?"
- "Do I have a vocation?"
- “Can I? Should I give myself totally to God?”
Here we have a question which has troubled many generous souls.
It even happens that consecrated souls, in the face of temptations or of the “demon of midday,” are troubled and ask themselves: “Am I following the right path? Was I not mistaken in entering the Seminary? the Convent?”
And the devil profits from this to confuse, trouble, and discourage these souls by scruples: “Who knows if...? Am I following the right path?” etc…
Both in order to make clear for the young people who, standing on the threshold of their adult lives, pose this incalculably important question to themselves: “Do I have a vocation?”, as well as for troubled souls who are already in the religious life, we are going to consider the question head on. The first point to consider is:
There are more vocations than one thinks.
God has always given the world the vocations it has needed:
“In no time and in no place can one think that God does not provide for the needs of the Church and, as in the past, that He does not call to Himself innumerable batallions of receptive adolescents, in their generosity, their strength, their integrity, their purity, to obey the voice of Christ and have the desire to devote themselves to the Church…”
(Pope Paul VI, Allocution to the Congress of Priestly Vocations, Dec. 3, 1966).
If all those who had been called by God would have responded, the world would already be converted. But we must consider:
- Those who were not born! What a joy and glory for those large families from which God has chosen so many elite vocations: a little Thérèse (ninth child), a St. Ignatius (eleventh), a St. Francis Xavier (thirteenth), a St. Catherine of Siena (twenty-fourth!). Without rashly judging individual cases … what a shame if Madame Martin had refused to bear her ninth child! The world should not have St. Thérèse of Lisieux!
- There are the only children... adored... they are not accustomed to sacrifices. And then, a family for which God is not God, is not proper soil for vocations!
- There is that monstrosity of an education where God and His Christ are continually made an abstraction. This is a fact many times verified and besides proclaimed by those who have engineered atheistic teaching, i.e. teaching which willfully excludes speaking of God, His Revelation, the Divinity of Jesus Christ and our duties toward Him, and so on. There is nothing better than this for drying up a vocation in a man (and much more for women).
- Lastly there are those who feel the call, but do not wish to answer it.
Vatican II proclaims in its “Declaration on Religious Liberty”:
“The rights of parents are violated if the children are constrained to attend classes which do not correspond to the religious conviction of the parents, or if one imposes a unique method of education from which religious formation is completely excluded.”
But when young Christians are given a Christian upbringing, vocations flourish, are numerous and strong.
Vatican II (Lumen Gentium) reminds parents that
“Parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care any religious vocation.”
Men who understand this, as did St. John Bosco and St. Alphonsus Liguori, say: “In general, for every three children, there is one vocation!” That is more or less what Paul VI said above: “God calls innumerable batallions.”
Misconceptions about a vocation
- Some believe that, in order to have a vocation, one must have an attraction to it. There are some, however, who do not have the attraction and yet have the vocation. And there are others who desire a vocation and yet, quite clearly, are far from having one, because they do not have the required dispositions.
- Others imagine that one must one day hear a little voice inside which says: “Come!”
- Still others forget that there are many diverse vocations. I knew a priest who was not able to continue with the Chartreux (a strict monastic order) because of poor health, but who became a very holy diocesan priest, a holy vicar, a holy country pastor, and who died the curé (parish priest) of a cathedral with a true renown for sanctity.
- There are some vocations which require health or intelligence beyond the norm. Alternately, there are vocations which, in requiring a great love of God, can befit a candidate with delicate health or no instruction (e.g. the humble lay brother and porter who became St. Pascal Baylon).