Vocation is a phrase that can be used to talk about a job or career, but it has a bigger meaning in the Christian tradition. It comes from a latin phrase vocare, which means "to call". Vocation is a calling that comes from God. That call can best be summed up in Jesus' words from Matthew's Gospel:
What this means is that in loving God with our whole self we can have an experience of God's love. We are able to reflect God's love in the way that we love other people. This experience of love is more than just a nice sentiment. Throughout history this love has urged individuals and the Church to respond radically, changing the world and impacting the lives of many.
We can look back in time and identify key figures, people who changed the very course of history because of the way they chose to live their lives. Do a quick internet search of a key figure from history and identify the gifts, talents, passions and beliefs that led to their impact on the world. Make a list of all these things.
Think of the key figures in your life. Who are they and what impact have they had on who you are? It could be a parent, sibling, relative, friend, or a teacher. It could be an ancestor whose life choices have brought you to where you are today. List the gifts, talents, passions and beliefs that stand out to you about these people. Compare it to the list from your historic figure.
Consider the two lists you have made. What gifts, talents, passions or beliefs stand out to you? These people had an impact on the world and in your life because of the choices you made? How do their lives inspire you? What are some choices you can make to use your gifts, talents, passions or beliefs?
For Christians, Sacraments are visible signs of God's grace. They lead us to follow and receive God more in our lives. Baptism is the first Sacrament and is extremely important. Put simply, baptism is about connection: connection to God, connection to the Church and connection to the Christian faith.
Connection with God challenges the Christian to listen to and follow God. God can be heard through Jesus Christ, who is revealed in Scripture and the Traditions of the Church. Connection to the Church means being part of something bigger. The Church isn't just a building or isn't just an institution, it is all people who have been baptised. Connection to the Christian faith is to believe that being connected to God and to the Church requires a different way of living. This life is a life in service of God and others.
So since baptism is that first point of connection it is also the beginning of the call to serve God and others.
For Christians, Baptism connects them to other Christians, it makes them part of the Church community. Make a list of the communities that you are a part of. Include both broad communities (e.g. the global community) and specific communities (e.g. your family, your school community). Consider the responsibilities you have in these communities. What do you do in these communities currently? Is there more you could be doing?
Clink on the link below to learn about some of the symbols in the baptism rite. How might these symbols show connection with God and others? How do they symbolise a calling (or a responsibility to serve God and others)?
It's clear that every individual has a different set of gifts, i.e. talents, abilities, characteristics, traits, passions. What Christian's believe is that through Baptism they are called to use these gifts to serve God and to build the greater good.
The call to serve God and serve others sounds really "churchy" - it sounds like its only for priests or saints or "holy people". It may be hard to see how all people have a vocation. The truth is that Christians are called to offer their gifts in their profession, family life, and civic commitments, as well as at Church. All people have a vocation.
Below are two different vocation stories. Julia is a daughter, a sister, a friend and a doctor. Her calling is grounded in her relationships. Pat's story captures a different aspect to vocation. Life is a journey and throughout that journey he was challenged to be aware of his gifts and how to use them. Watch the clips and note anything Julia or Pat say that help you better understand the concept of vocation and calling. What do their stories teach you about vocation?
Once we understand that the basis of vocation is a life of service, we can understand the concept of "States of Life". In the Christian tradition, the Baptismal call to serve God and others leads to a choice of one of four States of Life: that of a single person; a married person; a religious or consecrated person (such as a nun, sister, brother or priest) or ordained life (such as a deacon or priest).
Another way of looking at the states of life is through the Sacraments. Of the Seven Sacraments, two in particular involve life-long commitment: Marriage and Holy Orders. The Christian journey leads one to make a commitment to one of these states of life in order to live out Christ's mission in the world. Let's look at these Sacraments.
The Sacrament of Marriage sounds pretty self-explanatory. For Christian's though, the Sacrament of Marriage is more than just the wedding day. It is the free, total, faithful and fruitful commitment to another person. What this means is that the marriage is a free choice and not forced (free), it is the giving of one's whole life to the other person (total), it is only to one other person (faithful) and it is open to life and child birth (fruitful). These four marks of marriage help the husband and wife to serve and love each other. Christian's believe that the Sacrament of Marriage is a reflection and sign of God's love, it is a powerful reminded to the world of God's love for all people.
The Sacrament of Holy Orders refers to the Ordained life as a bishop, priest, or deacon; and to the Religious life as a nun, sister, brother or consecrated person.
One of the earliest Traditions within the Church is the ordination of men to serve the Church community. A man commits his life as a bishop, priest or deacon to serve God specifically by serving the Church community. Priests can serve in a Diocese where they promise obedience to a bishop and to remain celibate (or unmarried). Men may also become priests as part of a Religious Order. They serve with a particular charism (or focus, e.g. education) and make vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. The Diaconate is also a form of ordination. Men can be married or unmarried and become a deacon. A deacon isn't just a sort of half-priest, they have their own ministry and service to the Church.
In addition to the Ordained Life, men and women consecrate their lives to the service of the Church. This is also called the Religious Life. These include nuns, sisters, brothers and other consecrated people. They often join orders or communities with specific charisms, for example Christian Brothers founded and ran many schools across Brisbane and indeed Australia. Part of their consecration is the taking of vows (poverty, chastity and obedience) and living in community with others.
Click on the link below and do the "Vocation Match" quiz. When you have found your match, research the entry requirements and formation process for that Congregation. Create a life map which shows the steps you would need to take to join that Congregation.
Usually ordained and consecrated people have additional jobs or responsibilities as part of their service of the Church, e.g. chaplaincy. Use the above links to create a list of jobs or responsibilities an ordained or consecrated may also perform.
Click on the link below to find a list of consecrated congregations (religious orders) around Australia. Choose one and summarise their history, charism and work.
It should be noted that, while not being one of the Sacraments, Single Life is also a vocational state of life.
All of us are single at some point in our lives, whether that's an intentional choice or not. Furthermore, some people commit periods of their life or even the whole of their life to being single. Whether it is intentional or not, or for just a time or a lifelong commitment, living singly allows a person to commit themselves to serving God and others. It's a different commitment that allows one to serve in many different ways, which may lead them to another state of life, or to commit their whole life to the single vocation. In this sense it's not about living single-minded, but committing to self in order to be free for the service of the Church.
You know about vocation now, but have you been thinking about your vocation? While you're here, why not check out our the rest of our website:
This book is based on Adam's experiences while discerning priesthood and while working for Vocation Brisbane. It's a collection of reflections on the themes of vocation, discernment, calling and purpose. You can download Draft here.
We welcome teachers to use this page as a classroom resource. Please click on the below link for teacher background and further information.