Wednesday, September 24, 2014
The Reality, Love, and Suffering of Vocation
Hey there, Coffee Talkers,
What's presented below includes an abridged and edited version of an old post that I came across and realized that I needed to hear again and meditate on at this stage in my spiritual journey. When I write about the faith I see that God is often speaking most directly to me even if I'm answering a question that someone else has asked, and if a few people out there have been also been helped in their life of faith by my writings then I'll count that as an added blessing. So here's one on the concept of vocation because I need to revisit it, and maybe you do, too:
When Catholic Christians talk about vocations, most people think only about priests and nuns, but a vocation refers to a person’s calling from God. This means that every one of us has a vocation, or a divine calling, and the fact is that most of us are not called to be priests and nuns. In my own spiritual journey I have reflected a great deal on the concept of vocation, and have summed up God’s lessons to me in three major themes.
1. Vocation is always rooted in reality, and in the present moment.
Have you ever known someone who was always 'discerning' their vocation, or a person who says, “I’ll pray about that” as a way of side-stepping even the most simple decisions or commitments? Don't get me wrong; discernment and prayers are very important, but I think that sometimes we use prayer as an excuse to be perpetually non-committal and confuse discerning with fanciful daydreaming. These daydreams don't necessarily have to take the form of something glamorous, for even the dream of suffering or martyrdom can be heroic in the mind's eye.
Ultimately, the most important aspect of any vocation is rooted in our present reality – God is not going to ask us to neglect our obligations to our current state in life to pursue another. A widowed mother is not likely to be ‘called’ to a cloistered convent while her children are still young and relying upon her for their care and formation, for example. Each of us is called to continue dedicating our lives fully to those tasks at hand until such a time as the Lord presents something else to us, puts something or someone clearly in our path and asks us to take a different direction. When that happens, we should act on it, and promptly. Until that time, however, there is no use spending countless hours (or even minutes!) thinking about what could be or what might have been. Vocation is reality, plain and simple, and often that involves our lives being very different than we might have wished them to be.
2. Vocation is always rooted in love, and in loving again and again.
Whenever I think of vocation, I think of little St. Therese of Lisieux, a young cloistered Carmelite nun whose feast we will soon celebrate on October 1. Therese wanted to be so many things, but in the end realized that her vocation was love. What does this mean? Some think Therese to have been a syrup-y sweet little saint who always had life easy, and so her joy and happiness and vocation of ‘love’ must have come to her with ease, as well. However, anyone who has read her ‘Story of A Soul’ can assure you that this was not the case, nor is it the case with any sincere disciple of Christ. No, we are asked to choose love and to live love again and again in the face of countless sufferings, as Therese did.
The act of loving in the face of hatred, persecution, malignment, and every form of human suffering is a discipline that is possible not by human effort alone, but by grace. Just when we have reached the end of our own strength, it is then we are called to love again, and to be willing to take the risk of loving not just once, not twice, but an infinite number of times. I suspect that this is part of what the Psalmist is referring to when he says, "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts." Do you hear God's voice, even in the midst of your pain and suffering? Open your heart to the possibility of loving again, to hurting again, to being healed again, and then once again to loving.
3. Vocation means being God's, even on the Cross.
Anyone who preaches a Gospel solely based on prosperity and success in this life preaches a lie; we must realize that the Christian vocation means following Christ even unto death, and that means accepting the Cross. If we are humble enough, many people of faith will admit that while we may have followed a number of paths to which we surely felt God calling us, we ended up in a place entirely different than the place of our imagining or choosing. Even in the face of uncertainty, embarrassment, disillusionment, pain, and suffering we are always God's, and God is always present, always. 'Being God's' is the one vocation that never ends. For both in life and death we belong to God, and we know that the story of the Cross is one of unimaginable and seemingly senseless suffering bearing the greatest fruit of redemption that the world has ever known.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.
Peace and all good,