Sunday, December 11, 2011

Vocations for Everyone

Update (December 16, 2011)

An excellent video:
A tip of the hat to thomaspringle, on Twitter, for the heads-up on the "Vocation 101" video.

"Vocation" can mean several things, depending on what you're talking about:
  • Career, calling
    • The particular occupation for which you are trained
  • Occupational group
    • A body of people doing the same kind of work
    (Princeton's WordNet)
  • Priesthood, diaconate, consecrated life
    • The calling or destiny we have in this life and hereafter
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary; and see
    "Clergy Consecrated Life and Vocations," United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)
I'm a practicing Catholic, so if someone asks me what my vocation is, I'm likely to say that I'm married. Which isn't a way of saying that I don't have a vocation.

Vocations for Everyone

When I hear or read about the need for "vocations," the odds are pretty good that the vocations being discussed are in the hierarchy. As usual, though, it's not that simple:
  • Everybody has a vocation
    • A "calling or destiny we have in this life and hereafter"
      (Catechism, Glossary)
  • There's more than one sort of vocation
    (Catechism, 871-873)
    • Hierarchy
      • Ordained
        • Pope
        • Bishops
        • Priests
        • Deacons
        (Catechism, 874-896)
      • Vowed
        • Folks in religious orders
        (Catechism, 925-927)
    • The Lay Faithful
      (Catechism, 897-913)
      • Definition of laity:
        "all the faithful except those in Holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state approved by the Church"
        (Catechism, 897)
        • Married
          (Catechism, 1603)
        • Single
          (Catechism, 1658)
      • Vocation of lay people
        (Catechism, 898-900)
        • To seek the kingdom of God by
          • Engaging in temporal affairs
            • Directing them
            • According to God's will
          (Catechism, 898)
That list leaves out secular institutes (Catechism, 928-929), societies of apostolic life (Catechism, 930), and quite a few other ways to follow Jesus. Which shouldn't be a surprise: The Catholic Church has been around for about two millennia, drawing folks from around the world.

New Century, Same Mission

Our basic mission hasn't changed since my Lord gave those famous marching orders. Cultures have changed, though, and so have the ways we "make disciples of all nations." As the centuries rolled by, new generations took a fresh look at Matthew 28:18-20: so by now we've worked out quite a few variations on the basic vocations.

"Some Guy With a Blog"

By the way: I'm not sure how 'official' the terms "ordained" and "vowed" are, as I used them in that list. Those two terms came up when I talked about vocations with someone whose opinions and knowledge I've learned to trust. Remember: I've got the authority of "some guy with a blog," so if you want more - follow those links.

Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R.

I got started thinking about vocations last Sunday, when my home parish was visited by Franciscan sisters from Ohio. They were here to remind us about:
  • What they do
    • "Make known God's merciful love"
  • Who can join
    • Women
      • Age of 20 to 35 years
      • In good health
        • Physically
        • Psychologically
      • With "a generous heart to serve Christ and others" (Vocations, The Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R.)
"T.O.R.?" That stands for Third Order Regular. The flier we got says that this particular outfit is "a Franciscan contemplative-active religious community founded in 1988, to renew the emphasis on prayer, uniquely blending prayer with works of mercy...." There's more about them online:

"Brother Brian?"

So, am I all fired up and inspired to chuck my family obligations and become "Brother Brian" somewhere? Not likely.

For starters, I'm about as certain as I can be that I'm following my vocation right now, and have been for about a third of a century. I'm married: and that's a vocation. (Catechism, 1603) It's not the only one, of course: but it's the one I realized I wanted, somewhere in my late teens or early twenties. I thought of it as "domesticity" then, and that's almost another topic.

For another, marriage a rather firm commitment. 'I feel like it' isn't a reason for weaseling out on my marriage vows. (Catechism, 1644-1645) My Lord seems to think marriage is important. (Matthew 19:6, 8-9, 11-12; John 2:1-11; Ephesians 5:25-26, 31-33; Revelation 19:7, 9; Catechism, 1612-1617)

On the whole, I don't think it would be prudent to disrespect my Lord's wishes by treating my marriage in an 'up-to-date' way.

Ephesians?! Isn't That Oppressive?

The verses from Ephesians I linked up there to come after Ephesians 5:22: that "be submissive" thing that some men think gives them the right to lord it over their wives. Incredibly, some women seem to think that's what it means, too.

Maybe they didn't keep reading that chapter. Ephesians 5:25 and following is pretty clear about what my responsibilities are. And I've been over that before. (August 22, 2009) And that is definitely another topic.

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Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

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