Oops, Your Vocation Is Showing!

Cookies by Lupita Balderas. Photo ©2013 Bridget Edwards/Bake at 350. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Cookies by Lupita Balderas. Photo ©2013 Bridget Edwards/Bake at 350. Used by permission. All rights reserved

November 1-7, 2015 is National Vocation Awareness Week. I'm not sure local bakeries are stocking up on vocation-themed pastries, but that won't stop us from praying!

The USCCB has a page dedicated to National Vocation Awareness Week, complete with a news release, homily helps, and prayers from several dozen dioceses to get us going.

This is how the USCCB describes the vocation-awareness phenomenon:

National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW) is an annual week-long celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.

With great joy, we unite in prayer this whole week. Some of my dearest friends have found deep happiness in their lives as priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters. These friends of mine always rejoice in the power of people's prayers that helped them recognize and follow their call.

In the spirit of fullness which we celebrated in last week's post, let's expand the USCCB's goals for the NVAW. Let's pray for 100% of God's children on earth to hear and embrace their call to a holy life. As far as I know, the USCCB does not also host another Vocation Awareness Week at another time during the year to promote the vocation to marriage, for example. If our ultimate goal is to encourage ALL people to consider what God wants of them, then, we should really include all vocations in our prayers this week.

God does not compete with himself. God gives each human person a vocation; our prayers don't change that. If we include all holy vocations in our prayers, we run no risk of "losing" a faith-filled woman to the convent when she might have become a wife. If we pray that God's will be done, a man who prayerfully considers priesthood but opts for marriage is not a "loss" of a vocation. Our heartfelt prayers this week (and always!) will help all people unravel the mystery of God's tailor-made plans for them.

In fact, if we promote certain vocations, but ignore others, we run the risk of shrinking our vision. By privileging one kind of vocation, we might interfere with authentic discernment. Fr. James Mallon discusses this in his recent book Divine Renovation. He explains that if we forget that Baptism calls ALL people to holiness, we construct false categories that confuse faith-filled people.

In the past, our categories made no space for any Christians who wanted to live out their baptismal calling to the full. We did not know what to do with them. If someone was ‘that religious,’ off to the seminary or convent they must go, because ordinary Catholics just don’t do those things.

Generously, Fr. Mallon relegates this sort of mistake to "the past," but perhaps we're still learning.  He goes on to describe a time when he served as vocations director, when he met a young man asking about the priesthood. The man described a desire to have "a deeper prayer life, to learn more about theology, to serve others, and to help others come to know Jesus." Fr. Mallon realized that "what this candidate was describing was not a call to priesthood but a call to live out his baptismal calling."

Therefore, baptized Christians, unite! Take ownership of our universal call to holiness! Let's unite in prayer all across the country this week, and ask the Lord to speak powerfully to our hearts, to reveal his plan of fullness for each of us.

Parents, we have an especially important prayer task. We already enjoy the gift of knowing our vocation: we have been called to marriage and family. This week encourages us to share with our children the joy of knowing God's call. Here are some prayerful, practical ideas to try together as a family:

  • Share the story of your engagement or wedding day
  • Open your family Bible to the Gospel reading you chose for your wedding, and display it in a prominent place
  • Say an extra prayer of thanksgiving for the children God has brought to your marriage--then top it off with a special dessert!
  • Invite a friend over who is a priest, deacon, or religious brother or sister
  • Explore great groups online that share the joy of a religious vocation ("Imagine Sisters," "Be A Jesuit," etc.)
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, ask for the grace to let your children serve God in whatever way God calls them

What a mystery and an honor to know God has a specific plan for each of us! 

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me.
— Jeremiah 29:11-14