Same Call, Different Context

by Adam Burns

Often when I see a new movie, I like to compare it with another movie which has a similar storyline. There's a theory that there's a limited number or storylines that are perpetuated throughout humanity, but within different frameworks. For example, the movie Avatar was (for me) the space version of the older movie, Dances With Wolves. Or, one of my favourites, Glory Road, a story about a college basketball team confronting the racial attitudes within their school community, reminded me of Remember the Titans, a story about a high school football team confronting the racial attitudes within their school community. Same story, different context.

The same can be said about vocation: that God calls us still remains the same, but the context of that calling most certainly has changed. Vocation is a concept that has grown to have a broad and fluid understanding. Certainly this is the challenge in promoting vocation today, when the word "vocation" itself has so many meanings attached to it:

So in promoting vocation in a Church sense, we use a lot of new language and expressions, compared to how it may have been presented in the past. There are several reasons for this.

Firstly, our world has changed. Women have a greater role in society, we tend to not stick to just one career path, there are more opportunities for further education and up-skilling, and technological advancements in both travel and social networking have broken down barriers making the whole world accessible to everyone. We also now have broader understandings of the human person, human development and of the individual. All this means we can't talk about fixed categories anymore, as what may have been in the past: choosing a State of Life isn't as definitive as it was previously. So we do talk about gifts and passions and dreams, because these are all real concepts now, given how we understand the human person and the broad possibilities available in our global community.

Secondly, our Church changed. The Second Vatican Council presented the identity of the priest, the vocation of Religious, the role of the laity, and the shape of the Church and it's interaction with the world all in ways that had long been forgotten. Within this understanding of Church, a vocation can't just simply be a State of Life, but each Christian person's response to their Baptism:

Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as children of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”
— Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1213.

Following on from Vatican II, the Church also came to understand the need for a New Evangelisation: the same Gospel proclaimed through new methods, new ardour and new expressions. In the context of the Church's renewed understanding of itself against the backdrop of the changes in society, how we express each Christian's place in the Church and in the world has had to be revised. Vocation, as a response to the Gospel, needs to be promoted with new methods, new ardour and new expressions. 

What this means for those seeking God's call is: yes, you are called, you do have a place in the Church and you are needed to shape the world! What this means for those of us further along the vocation journey is that we must keep encouraging young people to discern their calling and we must keep praying for vocations. While a lot has changed about how we understand vocation, one thing will always remain the same: God is calling us!