Monday, September 05, 2011

How to discern your vocation

I went to World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain with mi novio and one of my favorite things I learned was during a question and answer session with the Cardinal of Chicago when two questions were asked about discerning a vocation. I'll try to summarize what he said in my own words, at least what I remember.

What is a vocation?
   He said a vocation is not a job, a job you change and it's pretty secondary. A vocation is a special type of family relationship in which you are called to live. Just like you are born without being able to choose your parents or siblings, and you can't change who your family is for the rest of your life, a vocation is also a special type of family relation that is permanent. So you become a father (priest), mother (superior), sister (nun), brother (monk), husband or wife in this new spiritual family.
Any advice for young people discerning their vocations?
   A vocation is both personal and social, so you can't discern it alone. You should discern it personally, through prayer and listening to what you like and the desires God puts in your heart. But it is also social, so you have to listen to what the other party says and it has to be discerned within a relationship... since it is a relationship! So you can't say you are called to marriage if you don't have someone who you think you'd like to marry. Along with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you discern if God is caling you to be a husband or wife and get feedback from the other person, if he/she also feels called and thinks you are the one. In the same way, you approach the seminary or convent and also listen for feedback, if they think that would be a good fit for you.

For the first time I realized why Jason Evert says you can only discern one vocation at a time in TOB for teens. Another one of my favorite explanations of vocation is what Jason's wife, Crystalina Evert, says in TOB for teens. She says she discerned her vocation to marriage at the same time her friend discerned a vocation to religious life and now she realizes they do the same thing, only in different ways. They both fulfill Christ's commandment to take care of their children, only Crystalina's are physical and her nun friend's are spiritual: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me." (Mt 25:35-36)

My vocation
This last year, I've reflected a lot about my vocation. I realized that I had been confusing job with vocation and putting all my effort into my job and activities, and not so much into relationships and family. A job is just a job, of course it's better if you like it, but what is REALLY important in life are close, family relationships... either with your immediate family or spiritual family. Whether you are called to marriage or religious life, they are all forms of community and ways to grow in holiness and pray together. My favorite definition of family comes from Theology of the Body 1:1,"...focus our attention on this community of human and Christian life, which has been fundamental from the beginning."
Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble. For, in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you." 2 Pe 1:10-11

"Por isso, meus irmãos, ponde o maior empenho no fortaleciento da vossa vocaçao e eleição. Se assim procederdes, jamais haveis de fracassar e vos há-de abrir de par em par a entrada para o reino eterno de Nosso Senhor e Salvador, Jesus Cristo." 2 Pe 1, 10-11

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