The Common Vocation of Man
A number of years ago I attended a vocations retreat with a Dominican religious order, thinking maybe God was calling me to the religious life since I was not feeling a call to marriage. The only real call I felt at that time was a call to continue my academic studies. Wondering why God would not want someone to get married or join the religious life at my age, I thought maybe entering a vocation would enable me to love God more fully. I was willing to accept whatever my vocation was; I simply wanted to know so I could commit myself more fully to the path God had for me.
During my meeting with the mother superior, she told me I should stop thinking about the religious life, stating, “Your vocation is definitely to marriage. Pay attention, because he could be sitting next to you in the classroom.” I was disappointed and frustrated to hear these words because not only did I lack confidence in her judgment, I also realized that if she was right, there was nothing I could do to start my vocation. The lack of peace and joy I felt persisted until I finally realized that my vocation is not reducible to earthly marriage or consecration but is a call to love in everything I do, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “love [is] the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being” (CCC 1604).
Vocation to Marriage and Consecration
Having entered the New Covenant through Baptism, we are called and given the grace to love as Christ loves. In every encounter we have with other people, we are called to love, and the way we love differs according to the plan God has for our life. Whether we are working, fulfilling the duties of daily living, or engaging in leisurely activity, we can choose to complete these tasks with or without a spirit of charity. St. Paul describes this spirit more fully:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor 13:3-7)
Although we are all called to live according to the love described by St. Paul, God sometimes calls people to live this fundamental vocation to love through a particular vocation to marriage or consecration. In other cases, God calls people to forgo these states of life in order to dedicate themselves to other responsibilities. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the call God gives to these people: “Some forgo marriage in order to care for their parents or brothers and sisters, to give themselves more completely to a profession, or to serve other honorable ends. They can contribute greatly to the good of the human family” (CCC 2131).
Discovering God’s Plan for Your Call to Love
Whether we are married, consecrated, or single, the questions of discernment remain the same: What does God want me to do in this particular moment or in this particular situation? Which choice will enable me to love most fully? When we make choices that conflict with our particular call to love, we experience unrest or a lack of peace. If our choices involve sin, we can be restored by going to Confession. But sometimes the unrest is not due to sin, but rather an uncertainty in the face of major life decisions. During these times, we can discern more clearly and easily by turning to God in prayer, the wisdom of Sacred Tradition, and the counsel of those trained in spiritual discernment.
No matter what our particular vocation is, remaining faithful to our fundamental call to love is the only path worth traveling, for only that path can ease the unrest we find in the words of St. Paul:
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor 13: 1-3)
If you are experiencing unrest over your particular call to love, consider opening yourself up to the Lord’s guidance through a daily devotion such as praying the rosary, reading Scripture, or attending Eucharistic Adoration. No effort toward faithfulness will go unmatched by the Lord.
The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.