Growing up Catholic, if I thought about the word “vocation” at all, it was in the context of a call to the priesthood. We were encouraged to pray for more vocations because of the looming shortage of priests.
And this sense of vocation as a specifically religious phenomenon was in fact its original sense–not necessarily as a call (the word comes from the Latin for “to call”) to the priesthood exclusively but nevertheless a call from God.
More recently the term has been diluted to refer to one’s way of earning a living, which may in fact be a calling from God for some, to use the gifts and talents with which He has blessed them to serve a particular purpose, but which for others may be nothing more than a preference or an accident of fate.
But in the Catholic sense vocation means primarily your call to the married life, the single life, or the religious life. Starting from the the basic premise that “all men are called to the same end: God himself” (CCC 1878), it is up to us to discern with God’s help to which of these states He is calling us.
CCC 1603 states that ” . . . the vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator.” Marriage and motherhood is my vocation and I’ve never really doubted that even though at times I think somewhat longingly of how much easier I would find it to be holy if I were a cloistered nun.
From the time I was about 17 I fell in love with babies and I remember wondering how I could possibly stand having to wait years until I could have one of my own. I loved shocking people with my declaration that my aim in attending a prestigious university was to find a husband. I was only partly kidding, and I did it too. I was married the summer after graduation and had a baby 18 months later.
I am a well-educated, extremely competent, intelligent woman, and my oldest son told me the other day that he had no doubt that I would have been a millionaire by now if I had chosen to pursue a career. (I am NOT a millionaire, and we have struggled financially thanks to my remaining mostly unemployed.)
But even though I’ve worked part-time outside the home and work at home now running my husband’s law practice, all I’ve ever really wanted was to have lots of children and be at home with them. Even now with my youngest entering her teenage years I have no plans to embark on a career outside the home–after all, I’m expecting (and hoping) I will eventually need to be available to help care for grandchildren!
Yes, I am a writer and I LOVE to write more than just about anything, but writing (and any hobby) is an AVOCATION. It’s our challenge to use our avocations, whatever they are, in service to our vocations. It was instructive to me to discover that the derivation of avocation is from the Latin to call AWAY. So if our avocations become a distraction from our vocation then it’s time to reevaluate.
If you believe God speaks to our hearts, even if not from openings in the clouds or burning bushes, then maybe you’ll believe He spoke to me the other day. Everyone in the Catholic blogosphere is talking about their Saint of the Year, which you can randomly generate here. I clicked and prayed, as I was advised to do, then clicked again . . . and got MARY. Yes, that Mary. I hope she will (of course I know she will) forgive me for being disappointed. I mean, I know all about her already! I wanted some obscure, interesting saint I could learn about, who would somehow mystically illuminate my path for the year.
So there’s also a word generator, where you can get a Word of the Year if you don’t want to pick one yourself. So I clicked again and my word was . . . MOTHER. OK, Holy Spirit, I see what you did there. My mouth more or less dropped open.
So it looks like I’m supposed to be doubling down on that wife and mother vocation this year, and seeing how Mary can help me with that. And who better, of course, than the young woman who accepted God’s extraordinary call and lived that vocation so fully and perfectly?