Vocations

I. What is a Voca­tion
II. The Reli­gious Voca­tion

 I. What is a Vocation

Accord­ing to the Cat­e­chism of the Catholic Church:

The dig­nity of the human per­son is rooted in his cre­ation in the image and like­ness of God; it is ful­filled in his voca­tion to divine beat­i­tude. It is essen­tial to a human being freely to direct him­self to this ful­fill­ment. By his delib­er­ate actions, the human per­son does, or does not, con­form to the good promised by God and attested by moral con­science. Human beings make their own con­tri­bu­tion to their inte­rior growth; they make their whole sen­tient and spir­i­tual lives into means of this growth. With the help of grace they grow in virtue, avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust them­selves as did the prodi­gal son to the mercy of our Father in heaven. In this way they attain to the per­fec­tion of char­ity (CCC 1700).

Each per­son has a voca­tion, or a call­ing from God. This voca­tion is meant to per­fect us in the love of God and our neigh­bor. Three major voca­tions are reli­gious life, mar­ried life, and the sin­gle life. Within these three there are also many other voca­tions. For exam­ple, a mar­ried man may be called to be both a father and a doctor. God has given each of us spe­cific gifts and tal­ents in order to help us live out our voca­tion more perfectly.

 II. The Reli­gious Vocation

Those who are called to the con­se­crated and reli­gious life have a super­nat­ural call­ing. “Vir­gin­ity is prefer­able to mar­riage then, as We have said, above all else because it has a higher aim: that is to say, it is a very effi­ca­cious means for devot­ing one­self wholly to the ser­vice of God” (Sacra Vir­gini­tas 24). One of the rea­sons for this is that, as St. Paul says, “The unmar­ried man is anx­ious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the mar­ried man is anx­ious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his inter­ests are divided. And the unmar­ried woman or girl is anx­ious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the mar­ried woman is anx­ious about worldly affairs, how to please her hus­band” (1 Corinthi­ans 7:32–34).

There­fore, those women called to reli­gious life are, “To be the liv­ing images of the per­fect integrity of the union between the Church and her divine Spouse” (Sacra Vir­gini­tas 31). For this rea­son the Church hon­ors those women who are called to con­se­crate them­selves to Christ, the Brides of Christ. This is a noble call­ing that only a few can attain to, “For vir­gin­ity is a dif­fi­cult virtue; that one be able to embrace it there is needed not only a strong and declared deter­mi­na­tion of com­pletely and per­pet­u­ally abstain­ing from those legit­i­mate plea­sures derived from mar­riage; but also a con­stant vig­i­lance and strug­gle to con­tain and dom­i­nate rebel­lious move­ments of body and soul, a flight from the impor­tun­ings of this world, a strug­gle to con­quer the wiles of Satan” (Sacra Vir­gini­tas 49).

For this rea­son, it requires strong and gen­er­ous natures, such as, vaulting over the stream of plea­sure, direct the char­iot of the soul upwards from the earth, not turn­ing aside from their aim, until hav­ing, by swift­ness of thought, lightly bounded above the world, and taken their stand truly upon the vault of heaven, they purely con­tem­plate immor­tal­ity itself as it springs forth from the unde­filed bosom of the Almighty” (Method­ius, Ban­quet of the Ten Vir­gins).

The reli­gious state is thus one way of expe­ri­enc­ing a “more inti­mate” con­se­cra­tion, rooted in Bap­tism and ded­i­cated totally to God. In the con­se­crated life, Christ’s faith­ful, moved by the Holy Spirit, pro­pose to fol­low Christ more nearly, to give them­selves to God who is loved above all and, pur­su­ing the per­fec­tion of char­ity in the ser­vice of the King­dom, to sig­nify and pro­claim in the Church the glory of the world to come (CCC 916).

The Cat­e­chism goes on to state in para­graph 923, “‘Vir­gins who, com­mit­ted to the holy plan of fol­low­ing Christ more closely, are con­se­crated to God by the dioce­san bishop accord­ing to the approved litur­gi­cal rite, are betrothed mys­ti­cally to Christ, the Son of God, and are ded­i­cated to the ser­vice of the Church.’ By this solemn rite (Con­se­cra­tio vir­ginum), the vir­gin is ‘con­sti­tuted … a sacred per­son, a tran­scen­dent sign of the Church’s love for Christ, and an escha­to­log­i­cal image of this heav­enly Bride of Christ and of the life to come.’”