“The garden of the Lord includes not only the roses of martyrs, but also the lilies of virgins, the ivy of married people, and the violets of widows. So there is no one, dear friends, who should despair of their vocation, for Christ suffered for all … and he wishes all to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of truth.” – St. Augustine of Hippo
‘Vocation’ comes from the Latin word “vocare,” which means “to call.” So, when we talk about vocations, we are talking about God calling each of us personally into a particular walk of life. To understand ‘vocation’ correctly, we have to believe that God has a plan for each of us, that He loves us in a particular way, and that He wants us to be a witness for him with our lives. He created each one of us for a purpose! It is in and through the Church and our prayer life that we discern what path the Lord is urging each of us to take (a path more than likely we would not otherwise take). God’s path for us involves crosses and always follows in the steps of Christ, our Master. A vocation is not just a career; it is a call to obedience to Christ.
When Catholics are asked to pray for vocations (note that below you’ll find a link to our Elijah Cup prayers for vocations; you can also find the Elijah Cup brochure in the Narthex on the credenza), we usually think of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. But since God calls each one of us in a particular way, and not all of us are called to be priests or nuns, we are not limited only to those vocations. The Lord calls us in many ways. Certainly our society cannot be sustained without the vocation of Holy Matrimony, where Catholic parents raise up children in families that, through their self-sacrifice and living out their vocations, serve to more and more conform our world to the Gospel. We cover Holy Matrimony more thoroughly elsewhere on this website, but know that it greatly needs our prayers (perhaps it needs them the most), because it is probably the one vocation most imperiled and under attack these days.
Of course, we should pray for those vocations to the diaconate and to the priesthood, i.e., Holy Orders. In a particular way, we need to pray for our seminarians, who are courageous men following a path that almost certainly leads to future persecution in this world that is increasingly hostile to Christ. We need to pray that the Lord may call more courageous men to the priesthood, because without them, we cannot practice our Catholic Faith that is so centered on the Eucharist.
There are many signs of hope in vocations to the religious life, that of sisters, nuns, monks, brothers, and friars. These orders built our society, founded our universities, created healthcare systems, and established our educational system. We are much the poorer when religious life is in decline, as has been the case for so many orders for so many years. But, today, many orthodox Catholic orders and institutions are thriving; in some cases, they are being overwhelmed with vocations. We are grateful that the good Lord is calling so many and that so many are answering His call. We cannot imagine our Catholic Church without our Religious, and we need to pray for them. Their life of witness and service is essential to who we are as Catholics, and we believe the Lord is calling for a renewal of these institutions and orders.
Sometimes God’s plan includes calls within calls. The young man who attends seminary and studies his Greek has no idea that in about fifty years he may be elected pope. The bride who walks the aisle on one day has no idea that she will be a mother, a widow, and then a nun (like Mother Seton). We are obedient to one call, but in time there may be another call. We have but to listen.
There are some who are called to stand up for Christ under persecution. The Church calls such people “confessors.” For example, a bishop who is languishing in a Communist Chinese prison because he will not deny the Catholic Church is a “confessor.” There are some who are called to martyrdom (which is the ultimate call). But note well, we are all called to be saints through particular paths, to witness to our Catholic Faith by our life of virtue, prayer, and service.
Christ is calling us today. He is calling us to be holier. He is calling our older folks to be truer and better in the vocations in which they find themselves – to be more committed in the Faith, their witness, and their virtue. The Lord is also calling our young people to stand up and lead the way where others have failed, radically challenging them to stand out like lights in our dark times. He is calling for renewal in our Church. He is calling us all to be more heroic in the Faith.
But know this: we cannot properly discern God’s call to us if we don’t build a prayer life, if we don’t go to Mass weekly, nor if we are living in grave sin. It is true that the Lord calls the weak and makes them strong, and yes, He calls us even in our sin, but He also calls us out of our sin. When people say the Lord is calling them to do something, and it is something which the Church teaches is sinful, or which is in defiance of the Church, they are not following God’s will, but have instead convinced themselves that their will is God’s will. We should pray for them, but we should always let the words of Jesus ring in our hearts, when in his agony in the garden, as he was facing the violence of the cross, He cried out, “Not my will, but Thy will, be done.” Our obedience isn’t always an agony. Sometimes it is real joy. But we as Catholics can recognize obedience to God’s will only in and through the Church who helps us discern our calling.
If you’re a young person, the best thing you can do in discernment is start reading the lives of the saints. The more biographies of the saints you read, the more vocations you’ll likely come to know and understand. We have included some links below to help you explore religious life and the priesthood. This is just a starting point, and by no means a closed list, but we find these particular sites ones we can endorse as a sound start.
Again, we encourage you to pray in a specific way for our seminarians for the Archdiocese of Atlanta (check out the links below. These are men swimming against the raging tides, and they are endeavoring to stay the course out of their love for God, for his Church, and for us. But let us also pray for ourselves, as darkness descends upon our age, that we can, like the saints of old, stand strong for Christ, who is our light, our life, and our hope.
- Elijah Cup brochure
- Called by Christ website
- Nashville Dominicans
- Alma Sisters of Mercy
- Permanent Diaconate Program