The central Christian vocation to which all are called, and upon which the states of life vocations within the Church are founded, is the universal call to holiness. By this is understood to mean that every person is called into a deep and personal relationship with God and that this call is at the very essence of what it means to be human. The entry into the Body of Christ through Baptism makes explicit this vocation and provides the grace necessary to be able to respond to it.
Within this central vocation, each of us is called to a state of life vocation. That is to say, as the concrete way of incarnating our response to the call to holiness, each of us discerns which state of life we are called to, as we seek to live most closely in connection with God. It might be as a priest, a religious, a married person, or as a single person.
Our understanding of vocation has evolved in recent decades. While the call to priesthood and religious life remains highly valued, it can no longer be assumed that those called by God to those states of life are the only ones who have a vocation. Every member of the Body of Christ is called and mandated to live in accord with his or her baptismal vocation. Each one of us is to be the revelation of Jesus Christ to the world, and we are all to become attuned to how God is calling each of us to do that. In whatever form it takes, the significance of the call has a common thread: to proclaim Jesus Christ to all those we meet through everything we do and say. In this context, a hierarchy of vocations makes no sense (see 1 Corinthians 12:12 and following). Each of us is a unique manifestation of Jesus Christ to the world.
Therefore, each individual is called to discern his or her particular vocation. By this we mean that each of us has our way of living the state of life to which we are called. It is because each of us is an individual with particular gifts, a unique history, a complex personality, and concerns and interests that are particular to us. God does not relate to us as if we are all the same. God celebrates the diversity and beauty of his people.
Understanding our particular vocation is essential to being able to discern our state of life vocation. For, without that awareness, we cannot truly discern which state of life will enhance our particular vocation and which will inhibit it. It accounts for why it so often happens that those who initially believed they were called to one state of life subsequently discover that this was not what God was calling them to after all – at least not permanently. The journey to find out who we are called to be, how we are called to live, and so what we are called to do is the work of a lifetime.
We must first acknowledge that there is something that is antecedent to each of the state of life vocations, and this is our call to be the sons and daughters of God and to be the presence of Christ to one another and the world.
Original text by Shane Dwyer
Photos on Unsplash
Fr Anthony Mellor, 30 October 2019
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, 30 October 2019
30 October 2019