Vocation in Christianity is defined as one’s special calling or mission from God. It’s the concrete realization of his purpose for a person’s life, and can take many forms, from the religious and intellectual pursuits of a seminarian, to the business and social endeavors of a lay person. Whatever option a Christian chooses, it should be based on his or her gifts and talents, and used to glorify and serve the Lord. The Catholic Church frequently talks about a “vocation to holiness” as the purpose of life, and how each person’s unique calling is a reflection of God’s grace.
In classical Christianity, the term “vocation” usually refers to the specific type of work a person is called to do. For example, a nun might be called to serve in a convent, praying, meditating and teaching. A minister in a parish might be called to preach and to lead a congregation in a variety of ministries. A married couple might be called to start a non-profit organization to help the poor. Christian teaching generally affirms that whatever the calling is, it should be viewed as a gift from God.
Leading Christian thinkers have discussed the importance of vocational discernment. For example, in his writing “A Teologia Para Todos”, the Portuguese theologian, Antonio F. Gomes speaks of how we must be wise in our discernment in order to better understand our calling. Similarly, St. Augustine in “Confessions” begins with his own story of vocational discernment, by asking God to guide him to the right path and to show him how to best glorify the Lord with his life.
In later times, the term “vocation” came to be understood as a broader concept, encompassing the very purpose for which a person exists and the specific mission he or she is to fulfill. Accordingly, it is less about a certain kind of work, and more about the kind of person a person should strive to be. This is in part due to the influence of German theologian Paul Tillich in redefining vocation as something more universal, and speaking of it as an attitude or orientation rather than a particular occupation.
When considering vocational discernment in Christianity, it is important to remember that it should never be done in isolation. In order to make wise choices, Christian need to continually seek out the wisdom of God’s Spirit, through prayer and study. A person’s unique gifts, interests and talents should also be taken into account. At the same time, it is important to remember that regardless of one’s vocation, it is meant to serve and honor God. No Christian should ever forget that God’s love and grace is the foundation of their life.
The Role of the Church and Pastors
The Church, as the body of Christ, plays an important role in fostering vocations and in providing resources to individuals who are seeking to discern their calling. Pastors and other church leaders can be especially helpful in their capacity as spiritual advisers and mentors. They should be able to provide guidance, support and direction to individuals who are trying to discern the right path for their life. In addition, pastors and church leaders can offer resources and support in the form of seminars and workshops focusing on vocational discernment and decision making.
The Church can also provide service opportunities to those looking to explore their vocation. Most churches offer volunteer and outreach programs that allow individuals to explore a variety of options and practice their gifts. Many will also assist in connecting people with internships or part-time jobs that will help them gain practical experience. Finally, the Church can also provide a safe space for individuals to openly talk and share their stories.
For churches and pastors, it is important to recognize that everyone’s journey is different. Everyone has unique gifts, circumstances and limitations and will therefore have a different definition of their vocation. As such, it is important that individual’s stories be heard and respected, while providing spiritual support to help guide them on the right path.
The Importance of a Vocations Council
In order to effectively assist individuals in discernment, many churches have established Vocations Councils or similar organizations. These organizations typically offer resources, such as vocational readiness assessments, career guidance, and counseling and spiritual support. Furthermore, these councils can also provide opportunities for networking and connecting individuals with potential employers or mentors. Such initiatives help to ensure that everyone is equipped with the necessary tools and resources for discerning God’s calling for their life.
For those who are already involved in the Church, a Vocations Council can be especially beneficial. Through participating in such initiatives, individuals can gain access to a supportive community, as well as thoughtful reflection and guidance. Furthermore, organizations such as these may also offer workshops and seminars centered around vocational discernment and decision making, which can provide a much needed foundation of knowledge and wisdom.
For those who are not formally affiliated with any church, there are still many opportunities to explore vocations. In particular, the internet offers a wealth of information on different types of vocations, including information on the qualifications, experience and background required. Furthermore, networking venues such as LinkedIn and other job boards can provide connections to employers and mentors. Additionally, there are numerous books and magazines that can aid in vocational discernment.
Conclusion of Solitude for Discernment
Ultimately, it is in times of solitude and quiet reflection that we can best hear the voice of God calling out to us. By setting aside the craziness and noise of our lives and taking the necessary steps to discern our vocation, we can discover our true calling and mission from the Lord.
Christians must remember that vocational discernment is about more than just choosing a job or a profession; it is about finding purpose in life and living a life that is pleasing to God. To that end, it is important that we constantly seek out God’s guidance, while also listening to our own inner voice and taking action on our convictions. By investing time and effort into discernment, we can gain the clarity and insight we need to make wise and loving choices.
Ordination of Women
Within Christianity, there has been much debate and discussion in recent years regarding the ordination of women. While the church’s official position is that women can be ordained to the priesthood, there is still a diversity of views within the tradition, from those who oppose to those who support the idea. Supporters argue that women are equally capable and call to leadership, and that all vocations should be open to them. Opponents argue that ordination should be reserved for men, and asserts that women should focus their calling on other roles such as motherhood or service within the Church.
Despite these differences of opinion, most Christians agree that men and women are equally called by God. Both should be given an opportunity to investigate their vocational calling, be it in leadership or in another area. As such, it is important for the Church to provide women with adequate resources and opportunities to explore ordained ministry, while recognizing and respecting the different views within the tradition.
Missionaries and International Service
For many Christians, engagement in international service and missions can be an important part of their calling. Working in the mission field can provide an invaluable opportunity to put one’s faith into action and explore new cultures and ways of life. For those looking to serve more broadly, organizations such as Mission International have an extensive network of mission opportunities ranging from short-term trips to long-term placements.
For those who do go on mission, it is important to remember that it is not merely a religious exercise. It is also a chance to gain new perspectives on the world and to foster meaningful relationships with people from different backgrounds. Most importantly, it is an opportunity to glorify and serve the Lord on a global scale.
For those considering mission work, it is important to remember to discern carefully and prayerfully. This includes not only one’s vocational calling but also how best to understand and honor the culture and people where the mission will take place. By being mindful and intentional, missionaries can have an impactful and transformative experience.
Pastoral Counselors and Life Coaches
In addition to church leaders and Vocations Councils, many churches and ministries provide pastoral counseling and/or life coaching services. This Christian approach to counseling aims to help individuals gain insight into themselves and to identify their unique gifts. It also seeks to help people make wise choices in their lives and to discern their true calling. Such services are often offered free of charge and can provide individuals with invaluable guidance and support.
For those who are looking to delve deeper into their vocational discernment, there are also certified life coaches who specialize in helping Christians with this process. These coaches not only provide guidance but also offer accountability and encouragement, helping individuals to stay focused on the task of finding their true calling. Additionally, many of these coaches provide resources such as quizzes and assessments to help guide clients in their exploration.
Vocation in Christianity is ultimately a divine process of discernment and exploration. While it is important to seek out resources, advice and guidance, it is ultimately the work of the Lord to direct one’s path in life. Christians should therefore remain open to God’s guidance and discern the unique calling that He has for their lives.