Last week, I mentioned that I had been made Director of Vocations in the Archdiocese. A few people have already told me that they have begun praying for me, which I really appreciate. Some others have asked for more information about what the role actually involves.
The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin vocare, to call. The experience of a calling is fundamental in Christianity, since it is the response to the Word of God. One of the names of the Church, the Ecclesia, itself comes from the Greek word for a calling out from, like the parallel Hebrew term, Qahal. These both refer specifically to liturgical gathering for the purpose of listening to the Word of God. From this, one sees that the Church is made up of those who recognise God calling them. Jesus says as much (Mt 12:46-50). This recognition is sealed in baptism, and then lived out. Thus, every Christian by definition has a vocation.
This universal understanding of vocation was emphasised at the Second Vatican Council. You might have heard the phrase “the universal call to holiness”. This comes from that Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, which is more commonly known as Lumen gentium. In this document, the Church proclaimed the obvious truth that we are all called to be saints, and that there are as many ways of being saints as there are people.
The job of developing and promoting vocations, then, is the job of every Christian. One has to grow in holiness oneself, and also proclaim the Word of God so that others can realise their own vocation. This should be the life of each parish and Christian family. It is such work that develops the soil for particular vocations. Particular vocations are the individual ways that people live out the universal call to holiness.
Traditionally, the Church has highlighted some particular vocations. These have been seen as intrinsic to the life of the Church, whether that be consecration to priesthood, to prayer or to service, the latter two often being by way of becoming part of a religious community. The Office for Vocations therefore focuses on these particular “particular” vocations: priesthood and consecrated religious life. There is of course a need for all Christians to be aware of their vocation and their responsibility in respect of it; I am thinking especially of marriage. However, as I mentioned, this is the bread and butter job of parishes.
That said, these days that might be the bulk of the work: to get people to remember their personal calling, and to help enliven it and develop it. I noted last week that the ministerial priesthood, in some respects, arises out of and is ordered to the baptismal priesthood. What I meant by that was that, although the ministerial priesthood is divinely ordained and therefore is not reducible to the baptismal priesthood, the ability to recognise such a calling is more likely to be exercised in circumstances where the baptismal vocation is understood and lived.
Our Archbishop has established Proclaim: Office for Mission Renewal, headed up by Teresa Rhynehart. Their focus is discipleship, which obviously is deeply connected to a sense of vocation. I assume I will be working quite closely with them. Perhaps we can all work towards a deeper sense of the baptismal vocation of each of us, which will in turn foster an environment in which calls to priesthood and religious life are easier to hear and easier to respond to.