Vocation as a call to a concrete ‘state of life’. Christ has always called some people to follow him in particular ways, by giving them a more specific vocation as well as their baptismal calling to holiness. In previous generations, the word ‘vocation’ would have been used to describe the lives of priests and religious – because they had been called ‘away’ from an ordinary life to a life of celibacy and service in the Church. But today the word ‘vocation’ is rightly used also of marriage, the permanent diaconate, consecrated life, and some forms of single life – because each of these is a wholehearted commitment that we make in response to an invitation from the Lord. These particular vocations are also known as ‘states of life’, because we make a lifelong commitment to living our Christian faith in a particular context. This lifelong commitment becomes the place in which we live out our fundamental vocation to holiness. God calls us to be saints; and sometimes he calls us to be saints in a particular way – as husbands or wives, as priests or deacons or consecrated persons.
Vocation as a call to be the unique person you are made to be. Just as each saint is unique, so you are called to be holy not just in a general way, but in the particular way in which God calls you to be. God has created you as a unique individual, and calls you by a name that no-one else has been given. You are to reflect Christ’s love and show something of his face in a way that no-one else can. This is your ‘personal’ vocation – the call to be the person you are meant to be. We are therefore invited to understand our lives as a mission from God in which each one of us is called to play a unique part in God’s plan of salvation for the world. This idea was powerfully expressed by Blessed John Henry Newman in these inspired words:
“We are all created for God’s glory –
We are created to do his will.
I am created to do something or
to be something for which no one else is created.
I have a place in God’s world, which no one else has:
Whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed,
God knows me and calls me by my name.
God has created me to give him some definite service.
He has committed some work to me
which he has not committed to another.
I have a mission – I may never know it is this life,
but I shall be told in the next.
Somehow I am necessary for his purpose.
I have a great part in his work.”
This article was adapted from the CTS booklet “How to Discover your Vocation” by Fr Stephen Wang.