What is a vocation?
A call… The word comes from the Latin word ‘vocare’ which means ‘to call’. Vocation, then, is about a call or a calling in people’s lives – but whose call and in whose lives?
A call from… We believe that throughout history, God has called people to play a particular role in his plan of salvation for the world. Many of the stories in the Old Testament are about such individuals – Abraham, Noah, Moses, Hannah, Samuel, Jeremiah and Ruth, to name but a few. In the very first few lines of the Bible, in the Book of Genesis, God calls creation into existence by his Word. Throughout the Old Testament, God is continually inviting the people of Israel to be his Chosen People, to be a light for other nations. When Jesus comes, he also calls people to follow him and to live the kind of life he does. So, when we talk about vocation, we are talking about the call of God.
A call for… But who is this call for? You might be surprised to hear that it is for everyone, including you. Many people only use the term ‘vocation’ to talk about priests, monks and religious sisters. But this can be misleading and unhelpful. Of course we believe that these people have a vocation, but to limit our understanding of vocation to these few groups of people doesn’t do justice to its full meaning. The Church believes that God calls each and every person into existence and then calls us to be a living sign of his love for the world. We are created out of love and we are created to love.
A call to… This means that for the Christian, a vocation is not just something that God calls us to do, it is also the person God calls us to be. When Jesus called his first disciples by the Lake of Galilee it wasn’t just so that they could help him in his work, it was so that their lives could be transformed through his friendship and love. We have been called to follow Christ, the Son of God, the eternal Word of the Father, who came to save us and lead us back to heaven. He has sent his Holy Spirit so that we can share in his divine life even now, here on earth, and express that life by trying to love him and to love our neighbour as Christ loves. The Christian vocation is thus a call to share in the life of the Holy Trinity.
This article draws on material adapted from “How to Discover your Vocation” by Fr Stephen Wang and “The Catholic Priest – Answering God’s Call”.