Called to Greatness
The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin ‘vocare’ which means ‘to call’. Our primary vocation, the one we all share, is the vocation to holiness. We are called to follow Christ and be in relationship with him. From the Pope to a newborn – it is the same call and equally compelling.
A secondary vocation relates to our state of life. For many of us, this is marriage. Some are called to priestly or religious life. Others to various forms of single life, consecrated or open to later possibilities.
Tertiary vocations relate to occupations – such as teaching, writing, singing, nursing, etc. These may be a lifelong vocation or may change over time.
What all vocations have in common is God’s purpose. It’s not just a vocation to teach maths, for example. It’s a vocation to proclaim God’s love to the students through the study of the laws of creation utilising supernatural gifts given for this purpose.
A calling and a choice
While we have the choice to respond to a vocational call or ignore it, most believe that their ‘vocation’ chose them, rather than the other way around. When the origin of our vocation is truly divine, our cooperation is always rewarded with an abundance of grace. God does not leave us stranded!
There is great joy in ‘finding one’s vocation’ and it drives within us a dedication and commitment to living it out. To outsiders, this can look like we are making sacrifices and limiting ourselves, and so we are! But it is sacrifice for a greater purpose and a natural expression of our passion to pursue our calling with single-minded intention.
Catholic Marriage, the most common lived vocation in the Church, is so much more than a convenient living arrangement and certainly more than venue for the wedding. It is a divine calling to make God’s faithful love for his people manifest in the world by how we love each other as husband and wife.
Catholic marriage increasingly stands as a radical alternative to the values of the common culture; different to religious life or priesthood in today’s culture, but just as radical. As Catholic married couples we forgo many things our culture views as inalienable rights: personal autonomy/independence and sexual freedom for example.
We forgo these, not as some sacrificial burden but because that is integral to the very essence of our vocation. In doing so, our radical self-donation to each other becomes a lived human witness to God’s love for each of us. A freely-given love that total, faithful until death and life-giving – just like our love.
Spiritual Practices for the Married
When we think of those in religious and priestly vocations, we naturally expect them to have life practices and disciplines that help them grow in their vocation. The same applies to married couples, but how many of us think about spiritual exercises for the married?
Here is a challenging question for us: “what have we done for our marriage today?” Would we answer that question any better if we swapped “today” for “this week”, “month” or even “year”?
All too often our answer is “nothing” or “not much”. Yet, if our marriage is to fulfil its vocational purpose, it has to be more than just an accidental appendage to our life. It must be central.
Let’s commit to a new habit: ask each day “what will I do for my marriage today”? Big or small – whatever we do to nourish our marriage – our families, communities and world will benefit from the collective efforts of the largest vocational group in our Church.