What is a Vocation?
Whether beginning a new Vocation Ministry or enhancing or reenergizing an existing one, it helps to have a rich understanding of vocations. This includes gaining knowledge about the discernment and ordination processes that priests and religious already experienced, seminarians anticipate and those discerning vocations contemplate, as well as the equally important vocation of marriage. Understanding vocations will help ministry members provide guidance to others in the parish who seek to grasp this important calling. As the Archdiocese of San Antonio encourages, “Every Christian is a vocation promoter.”
The word “vocation” is derived from the Latin word “vocare,” which means a calling or summoning. A vocation is God’s invitation to love and serve him and his Church in a particular state or way of life, leading to holiness.
Vocations of the Church
The Church recognizes the vocations of married, religious, and priestly life. People in all vocations are called to holiness and are equal in dignity in the eyes of the Catholic Church. The vocations are interlaced, reinforcing and supporting one another. Faith-filled marriages produce those who answer the call to priesthood and religious life. Marriages are stronger due to the prayers and example of holiness given to Christians each day by priests and religious brothers and sisters.
Catholics are connected to and fulfill the Church’s goal for sanctity when they live out God’s call in their lives. The importance of the discernment process cannot be overstated when choosing the path God intends. In his book A Priest in the Family, Father Brett Brannen wrote, “I explain it to the grade-school children in my parish this way: ‘I am a round peg in a round hole. God made me this way and that is why I am so happy as a priest. If a person is called to the vocation of holy marriage, then it is in that marriage that he has the best chance for sanctity. But if a person chooses a vocation to which God is not calling him, then he will be like a square peg in a round hole. Holiness, and therefore happiness, will be more difficult to attain. I do not say that it is impossible. But it is more difficult.'”1 To provide a foundational understanding of the purpose of a Vocation Ministry, below are brief descriptions of vocations most commonly discussed within the Catholic Church and an explanation of discernment and ordination.
A priest is expected to be a man of prayer and contemplation. With this deeper, intimate knowledge of the person and work of Christ, the priest is sent forth to minister to Christ’s people. During a priest’s ordination, his soul is changed forever, and he now stands in persona Christi capitis, or “in the person of Christ, the head (of the Church).”
The Religious Life
The religious or consecrated life is a vocation, like marriage and priesthood, where men and women seek an intimate relationship with Christ. It is a grace given by God as he chooses a person, calling the individual to a special relationship with him. Religious sisters and brothers are witnesses to the world that we are all ultimately called to unite with Christ.
The vocation of marriage is a call to a life of holiness and selflessness within the relationship between a man and a woman. Marriage between two baptized persons is a sacrament, meaning their relationship conveys in a distinctive way the bond of love between Christ and his people.
1. [Brannen, Brett A. A Priest in Family: A Guide for Parents Whose Sons Are Considering Priesthood. Valdosta: Vianney Vocations LLC, 2014. Print.]