Monday, January 10, 2011

National Vocations Week: What's a Vocation?

Until last night, I wasn't aware that this is National Vocations Awareness here in America:
"National Vocation Awareness Week"
Aggie Catholics blog (January 9, 2011)
"National Vocation Awareness Week is January 9-15 this year (2011).
Here are a few good vocation sites to get you thinking:...
There's a short list of resources, and a request to pray for vocations. Good idea, I think.

Being the sort of person I am, I couldn't just quote the Aggie Catholics blog post's introduction, add a link, and leave it at that.

Vocations: Everybody's Got One

I've noticed that when a Catholic in America says that so-and-so found his or her "vocation," it often means that the person decided to become a priest, monk, or nun.

That's an accurate way to use the word, but there's more to "vocations." In the Catholic sense, "vocation" means pretty much the same as it does for everyone else:
  • Career, calling, vocation
    • The particular occupation for which you are trained
  • Occupational group, vocation
    • A body of people doing the same kind of work
    (Princeton's WordNet)
So far, so good. It still looks like a "vocation" is something that some folks have - but not everybody. Just as not everybody has a "career," a particular sort of work that they've trained for. Some folks 'just work' and whatever job comes their way.

Before I forget, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a section on their website about vocations:
  • "Vocations "
    Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, USCCB
Another point: I have the full teaching authority of "some guy with a blog." In other words, I'm a Catholic layman. I don't speak for the Church.

"Vocation" is "Career:" Sort of

So far, it still looks like a "vocation" in the Catholic sense is sort of like a career: something a person seeks out and trains for.
And so it is, sort of.

That 'sort of' is where things get interesting.
"VOCATION: The calling or destiny we have in this life and hereafter. God has created the human person to love and serve him; the fulfillment of this vocation is eternal happiness (1, 358, 1700). Christ calls the faithful to the perfection of holiness (825). The vocation of the laity consists in seeking the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will (898). Priestly and religious vocations are dedicated to the service of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation (cf. 873; 931)."
(Glossary, Catechism of the Catholic Church)
That's fairly clear, but there's more. There always seems to be more.

As nearly as I can tell, everybody has - or should have - a vocation. Which isn't to say that we're all supposed to become priests, nuns, or monks.

Life in the Spirit: Say What?

The USCCB's online copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church's Table of Contents includes links to the catechism's major headings. There's a whole section called "Section One: Man's Vocation: Life in the Spirit."

Here's how that section starts out:
"Life in the Holy Spirit fulfills the vocation of man (chapter one). This life is made up of divine charity and human solidarity (chapter two). It is graciously offered as salvation (chapter three)"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1699)
Wait a minute! Does that mean that Catholics are supposed to go around "filled with the Spirit," babbling nonsense and shouting HALLELUJAH! At odd intervals?

Happily, no: that doesn't seem to be what the Catholic Church is about. There are folks who really do get the grace to speak in tongues. God works miracles through some folks, too. Sometimes. (Catechism, 2003) But we're not all alike. We're not supposed to be, and I've written about that before. (August 26, 2010)

Vocations: a Short List

Some of the vocations, in the Catholic sense, are:
  • Priest
  • Holy orders
    • Monks
    • Nuns
  • Chastity
    • "...the integration of sexuality within the person...."
      (Catechism, 2395)
  • Marriage
  • Parenthood

Chastity: It's Not What You Might Think

Later, in "Section Two: The Ten Commandments," there's this heading: "II. The Vocation to Chastity,." That doesn't mean that only virgins go to Heaven. Here's part of what the Catechism has to say:
"Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man's belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.

"The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift."
(Catechism, 2337)
That's in a discussion of the Sixth Commandment, "do not commit adultry." Turns out, sex is okay. It's the misuse of sex that isn't good for us. Which is another topic. Sort of.

Turns out that parenthood is a vocation, too. (Catechism, 2369)

And there's this summary:
""Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being" (FC 11)."
(Catechism, 2392))
Before that, there's quite a bit about the Sacrament of Matrimony. (1601-1666)

I like this introductory paragraph from the section on Life in the Spirit:
"The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son1 to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity."
(Catechism, 1700)
I think it's important to remember what we are - and that's another topic.

Sort-of-related posts:


Brigid said...

Missing letter: "something a person seeks out an trains for."

Missing space: "the Catholic Church's Table of Contentsincludes links to the"

Your fingers stuttered: "Before Before that, there's quite a bit"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Got 'em. Thanks! That 'finger stutter' is something that's been cropping up more often, lately. Interesting phenomenon.

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.