Everyone has a Vocation

To be created is to be called by God. The mystery of vocation or call is part of God’s love for us.  It is a call to holiness, to becoming a living response to God’s love. A calling from God is common to everyone, yet responding to God’s love is meant to be unique and particular for each individual. We are called at many levels, and this call continues throughout our lives. Knowing one’s self and being honest about your dreams and capabilities are the first steps in discovering how you are called to live out your vocation to holiness.

As you try to discover whether God is calling you to holiness through marriage or single life, as a priest, permanent deacon or member of a religious community, it is important to remember that your call is not a narrow plan that God is hiding from you. Being relaxed and trusting that God loves you and always gives what you need for salvation will help you discern your call in a healthy way.

How do you know you are following your call to holiness? While all vocations will involve struggle and challenge, the life path you have been called to live will, despite these difficulties, make you more like Jesus: compassionate, forgiving and loving toward others, along with a sense of joy, satisfaction and a lasting peace in your soul.

We are All Responsible to Nurture Vocations

The Second Vatican Council taught us that through our Baptism, we all are called to holiness. Each of us must nurture our vocation and the vocations of others. This applies in a special way to encouraging priestly and religious vocations, whether we be parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts or mentors. Here are just some of the ways how:

  • Be faith-filled people. Pray for guidance in decisions, and seek to deepen your relationship with God. Let Christian values guide you.
  • Be generous and of service to others.
  • Pray. Let the children see you pray and pray with them.
  • Share faith. Talk with children about how faith affects your life.
  • Make and demand sacrifice. Help children see both by example and by what you expect of them that a holy and happy life involves sacrifice.
  • Stay in touch. Get to know priests and religious by interacting with them as opportunities arise so that you are comfortable with them and understand their commitment.
  • Educate. Teach children you know about the option of a call to religious life or priesthood as well as the call to marriage or single life.
  • Support. If a child or young adult speaks of a desire to be a priest, deacon, brother or sister, be supportive.

The Vocation of Single Life

Everyone begins life living as a single person.  For most individuals this call is transitionary as they prepare for their call to married life, religious life or Holy Orders. Yet there are some individuals who realize that God’s call is not to marriage, religious life or priesthood. If you feel this way, you may be called to the single life. This is not simply reserved as the last “default” option, but is a genuine way to serve God and neighbour.

Some who feel called to the single life put time and energy into a ministry to which they also feel called. They do this alone, without the support of a spouse or a community. But for some this is the only way they can be the person God has called them to be. At the same time these single persons can be the most wonderful, giving and supportive siblings, aunts or uncles.

The vocation to the single life is a vocation to generosity. Single women and men usually have more freedom than those in other vocations. They tend to have more time and energy to give themselves in service of God and others. Single people can become examples of great service and generosity. Often it is single people who do so much to make things happen. The vocation to the single life is a gift to the Church!

Signs of a Call to Single Life
  • Love of God that manifests itself in a desire to give one’s life as a witness to God’s love for all people
  • Desire to live simply
  • Ability to relate with a variety of people
  • Ability to be happy alone
  • Joy in serving others, especially in some form of ministry or outreach
  • Generosity
  • Desire to share God’s love without the need for an intimate relationship with one person
  • Desire to grow in union with God through prayer and service to others
The Vocation of Married Life

Similar to priesthood, Marriage is a Sacrament which calls for the total and lifelong commitment of one’s spouse to the exclusion of all others. Along with priesthood, married life is an essential building block in creating and building up the Church and the human family.

In God’s creative design, as we understand it from Sacred Scripture, the complementarity of male and female in marriage and family is intended to be the basic building block for the solidarity of human society. As St. Paul expresses it in his letter to the Ephesians, that the marriage of Christian man to Christian woman is a new level of grace. It is a marriage in Christ, modelled on and participating in the union of the risen Christ with his Church, the People of God. Modelled on and participating in the self-gift and self-sacrifice of Jesus for us, Christian marriage enjoys a new power to be a basis for solidarity and transformation of humanity.

A married couple is called to discover in great depth what it is to say “we” about many things rather than “I.” For now their individual futures become one common future, their wealth, their plans, their commitments, their homes are merged. Most of all, they are called welcome children and to create a home and family environment for them. This brings into mutually supportive relationships not only these two individuals, but ideally the families from which they came. Thus through marriage, bonds of relatedness and solidarity are established in society as a basis for peace and mutual support.

This understanding means that Christian marriages are redemptive. They are empowered to transcend all human problems and to create families and relationships throughout society that bring health, wholeness and happiness both within their own family circle and in the wider community. This, too, is an essential element of building up the Church and a participation in the work of redemption.

Signs of a Call to Married Life
  • Love of God manifested in the love for a single person in mutual love, fidelity and support until death
  • An openness to nurture and educate children
  • Generosity and self-sacrifice
  • Desire to grow in union with God through prayer and service to one’s spouse and children
The Vocation of Religious Life

The call to religious life is always marked by a desire to serve God and his people. The uniqueness of the call to religious life is living the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in community. At the heart of the call to religious life is a desire to give oneself in love to God in a way so complete that the pursuit of union with God makes it impossible for anyone to be more central, making one unavailable for marriage.

The Vows

The vow of chastity arises from a hunger to find a love so immense that it compels one to give one’s whole life to trust that God has an infinite desire and capacity for my well-being and happiness. If you feel this hunger to love and be loved in a way that seems to surpass the human capacity, you may be experiencing a call to religious life. Celibacy expresses a desire to be unconditionally attached to Jesus found in the desire to love more and more people, to see all God’s children, especially the most needy, as the ones with a primary right to one’s care. The lives of religious give witness to the possibility of loving without measure, loving those who have no claim on them as family.

The person called to religious life feels a desire to live simply. The vow of poverty involves the recognition that all things, and indeed creation itself is given by and belongs to God. Religious share material goods in common and depend upon the religious community to provide what is needed. If you feel a desire to be detached from material things, to find your treasure in God, you may be experiencing a call to religious life. Religious poverty witnesses to all people that we do not have an absolute right to accumulate possessions or to treat them as though they were not for the good of all. The vow of poverty is chosen to express dependence upon and trust in God’s care for us.

The vow of obedience is an acknowledgment that all of us are called to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through the circumstances of our lives. Religious commit themselves to listen to God speaking through the constitutions and decisions of the community and through those members who are appointed as leaders of the community. God’s call is also recognized as coming through the Church and Sacred Scripture, the needs of the world and the mission of the community. Listening is always done in prayer and with respect for each person. The witness of obedience is that we are ultimately dependent on God and that a life of interdependence is the way to holiness.

Signs of a Call to Religious Life
  • Love of God that manifests itself in a desire to give one’s life as a witness to God’s love for all people
  • Desire to live simply
  • Ability to relate with a variety of people
  • Ability to be happy alone and with others
  • Joy in serving others in outreach ministries or parish involvement
  • Generosity
  • Ability to listen to others and accept direction when needed
  • Desire to share God’s love without the need for an intimate relationship with one person
  • Desire to grow in union with God through prayer and service of the needy
The Vocation of the Permanent Diaconate

Permanent deacons are ordained for ministry to the People of God with their first responsibility to their families and their second to the way in which they witness in their place of work. The diaconate is primarily a ministry of service, especially to the poor. Deacons share some leadership roles in the gathered assembly. At Mass, they serve at the altar and proclaim the Gospel. They can preach homilies, preside at baptism, weddings and funerals outside of Mass. The call to be a permanent deacon involves a love of the Word of God and a desire to serve the vulnerable and needy in the community.

Signs of a Call to the Permanent Diaconate
  • Love of God that manifests itself in a desire to service God’s People within the wider community
  • Love of the Church
  • Love of God’s Word and a desire to proclaim the gospel
  • Desire to model holiness in service to others through a particular ministry
  • A heart that can listen to others and reach out in healing
  • Generosity
  • Desire to deepen prayer and relationship with God in service to others in need
The Vocation of Priesthood

A vocation to the priesthood differs from a call to religious life. Some priests, however, are also members of religious communities, such as the Franciscans, Jesuits and Dominicans to name a few. In addition to their call to priesthood, these men also feel a call to religious life.

Diocesan priests (those who are not also members of religious communities) do not take the same vows that religious make nor do they commit themselves to live in community. They do make promises of celibacy, of prayer for the People of God and of obedience to their bishop. These promises are primarily for the sake of ministry and stand as a witness to the primacy of God in the life of the priest.

Priests are ordained for ministry, which at its heart is a call to lead the members of the Church to holiness by loving and serving the people of a parish. They have a unique call to lead parish communities by administering the Sacraments and offering pastoral care. The priest lives at the center of the Church and offers his congregation the profound gift of God’s grace and presence by being the one who calls the parish community together for worship. In proclamation and preaching the priest has the responsibility of proclaiming the gospel in ways that inspire and challenge parishioners to live their call to holiness according to their own vocations.

Just as Christ’s role was to be a reconciler, bringing the broken back into relationship with God, so reconciling people to God and one another pervades the call to priesthood. In order to bring healing and health to the Body of Christ, a priest lives close to the people, knowing their triumphs and failures, their pain and joys. He is present with his parishioners at significant moments: when they are initiated into the Church, joined in marriage, bury their loved ones, in sickness. It is in these moments that his special relationship to the Body of Christ is most visible. He is at one and the same time the presence of Christ for the community and the representative or voice of the community in its celebrations. The priest knows the privilege and responsibility of modelling our common call to holiness.

This is a great and wonderful calling and a very demanding one, which certainly justifies a special sacrament of Holy Orders to consecrate this person’s whole life and energy to this crucial task and to endow him with the grace to carry it out to meet such high expectations. Great generosity and wisdom are required, and so great grace is also given.

Signs of a Call to Priesthood
  • Love of God that manifests itself in a desire to give one’s life in service to God’s People
  • Love of the Church and its sacraments and a desire to celebrate the sacraments with the community
  • Love of God’s Word and a desire to proclaim the gospel
  • Desire to model holiness as Christ’s representative among the People of God
  • A heart that can listen to others and reach out in healing
  • Ability to be happy without the intimate companionship of a wife and children
  • Generosity
  • Desire to deepen prayer and relationship with God

For more information on the priesthood, please visit the Diocese of Thunder Bay Vocation’s Page.

Prayers for Vocations
A Prayer for the Discernment of One’s Vocation

Lord my God, you have made me to know you, to love you, to serve you, and thereby to find and to fulfill my deepest longings. I know that you are in all things, and that every path can lead me to you. Yet of them all, there is one especially by which you want me to come to you and experience true fulfillment, happiness and holiness. Since I will do what you want of me, I pray you, send your Holy Spirit to me: into my mind, to show me what you want of me; into my heart, to give me the determination to do it, and to do it with all my love, with all my mind, and with all of my strength right to the end. Amen.

A Prayer for Vocations

Heavenly Father, bless your Church with an abundance of holy and zealous priests, deacons, brothers and sisters. Give those you have called to the married state and those you have chosen to live as single persons in the world the special graces that their lives require. Form us all in the likeness of your Son so that in him, with him and through him we may love you more deeply and serve you more faithfully, always and everywhere. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Parish Prayer for Vocations

Heavenly Father, in the fullness of time you sent your Son, Christ Jesus, to establish your Kingdom here on earth. We implore you to provide worthy priests to feed and nourish your family. Pour out your Spirit and bless us with many faith-filled leaders: priests, religious, and committed married and single women and men. Bless us with a deep love for your Church. Through prayer and reflection, with family and friends, help our parish community to guide our members in discerning their vocations; and give all of us the courage and humility to accept the guidance you offer. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.