Vocations

Through baptism, every Christian is called to participate in the work of Jesus as “Prophet, Priest and King”. (Reflection from Fr Tshepo) Our hope is to create a resource that will assist to explain what a vocation is, how these fit into our Christian journey and how we are all called to participate in God’s plan for salvation through our baptismal calling.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions, suggestions or comments. (contact email – vocations@bryanstoncatholic.co.za)

THE MEANING OF LIFE!?

Why are we here?

To know God and to love Him

“Of all visible creatures only man is “able to know and love his creator”. He is “the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake”, and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity” CCC356

What does that mean?  God has created us all for salvation. That means that God wants us to be with him in heaven, to be in complete harmony with Him.  To go to heaven we need to strive to be saints. That means doing what God wants us to do and living the way God wants us to live. 

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” St Augustine

How do we know what God wants?

Prayer, Holy Scripture, the Teachings and Traditions of the Church

Prayer – can you be in harmony with someone if you don’t talk to them ALL THE TIME? Can you be in harmony with someone if you don’t LISTEN TO THEM?

We have to talk to God in prayer to know Him.

“Prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.” St Teresa of Avila

Holy Scripture – Jesus tells us exactly what he wants us to do 

“Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole mind and with all your strength; and love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5) – the crib notes for sainthood.

We have to read the Bible to know God.

The Church

  • provides us with access to the Sacraments,
  • gave us the structure of the Bible,
  • interprets scripture to teach us how to live,
  • gives us the Pope, bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laypeople to guide, mentor and teach us,
  • gives us the opportunity to serve,
  • provides us with a community within which we can live our shared faith,
  • acknowledges those saints who are already in God’s Holy Presence and encourages us to seek their intercession to draw us closer to Him
  • provides us with prayers and sacramentals that make it easy for us to be in touch with God,
  • defines our role in the life of the Church and in fulfilling God’s plan for us through vocations

We have to know our faith to live it.

GOD WANTS ME??

“What is my job on the planet? What is it that needs doing, that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?” Buckminster Fuller

At our confirmation we accept our place in the Church, acknowledging that we are precious in the eyes of God and that we have something special to offer.

Through Baptism we are all called to holiness. You could look at our spiritual lives in three stages

  1. Sainthood – our ultimate goal
  2. Vocation – our state in life that frames how we live God’s plan for us
  3. Every-day actions – doing what we are doing now with the ultimate goal in mind

How do I know what to do?

There’s a lot of noise and distraction in life, we can do a lot of things and want to be a lot of things, how do we know that we are on the right path?

“Do not be afraid of not knowing and not being able to do what is rightly required …. Do something. Get moving. Be confident. Risk new things. Stick with it. Get on your knees. Then be ready for big surprises.” St Angela Merici

  • Pray – keep communicating with God
  • Sacrament of Reconciliation – keep yourself in a state of grace by going for regular confession. 
  • Do what you have to do every day – get involved

“Start by doing what’s necessary: then do what’s possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” St Francis of Assisi

Where you are now is where you are meant to be – for now.  Do the present well and you’ll start to get clues about the future. 

If you allow God into your life, He will let you know what He wants you to do.   He has chosen you for a specific purpose and He is calling you to a specific state of life – your Vocation.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” St Teresa of Kolkota

LOVE IS…

“God calls you to make definitive choices, and he has a plan for each of you: to discover that plan and to respond to your vocation is to move toward personal fulfilment. God calls each of us to be holy, to live His life, but He has a particular path for each one of us.” Pope Francis

So what is a vocation actually?

The Church teaches us that there are five different vocations that people are called to:

  1. Religious Life
  2. Single Life
  3. Marriage
  4. Permanent Diaconate
  5. Priesthood

Every one of these vocations is a sacrifice, a commitment to serve, an act of love.

“Love demands a personal commitment to the will of God.” St John Paul II

1. Religious Life – a loving response to God’s love

“At last I have found my vocation: My vocation is love.” St Therese of Lisieux

Some men and women are called to devote themselves to serve God in a very special way.  They make a decision to “Consecrate” themselves to God.  Consecrated means “set apart.”

Basically, they dedicate their whole selves, mind, body and soul for God, for others and for all creation.

We call these people religious brothers and sisters and when we address them we call them Brother or Sister. 

Religious are usually drawn to a specific order that was inspired by the charism (special gift) of the founder.  Examples are the Ursuline sisters, who follow the rule of St Angela Merici, with a special focus on teaching; or the Missionaries of Charity founded by St Teresa of Kolkata who focus on charity and caring for the ailing.

There are also orders such as the Carmelites who dedicate themselves to prayer and contemplation and seldom leave their communities. We usually call these cloistered religious nuns and monks.

Religious make special vows committing themselves to poverty, chastity and obedience.  This means that consecrated people commit to giving everything (poverty) and doing anything (obedience) in God’s service, as a loving response to God’s love for them (chastity).

2. Single Life – a heroic gesture of love for God

“As we come to know the seriousness of the situation, the war, the racism, the poverty in our world, we come to realize that things will not be changed simply by words or demonstrations. Rather, it’s a question of living one’s life in a drastically different way.” Dorothy Day

As a single person you’re not vowed to someone or something else, which means you’re free to commit yourself to serving God, the church and others.

Most of us at some point in our lives will live the single vocation. This is a time when you haven’t made a formal commitment to a vocation (i.e. ordination or marriage).  This is an important time for discernment, personal development and self-understanding. This is also a time of being available to serve: God, the Church and others.

For some, this is a permanent state of life and is a legitimate way of being able to live and serve in the world in a heroic gesture of love for God.

3. Married Life – radiating God’s love through their own love story

“Two Christians who marry each other have recognized in their love story the Lord’s call, the vocation to form one flesh, one life from the two, male and female. It takes courage to start a family.” Pope Francis

A man and a woman getting together to start a family is one of the most natural things in the world. 

But is this all there is to married life?

Within the Catholic Church, Christian Marriage is a Sacrament.  This means that is way more than a natural event, it is actually an expression of the supernatural, a sign of and a participation in God’s plan. It is also a sign of the love of Christ, the bridegroom, for His Church.

By joining together as one, a married couple are actually committing to lead each other to holiness through living in Christ through their marriage. Children are blessing to a marriage.  The Christian family is a church, the smallest and most vital cell of the Body of Christ. The extended church community is a family of families.

Living Marriage in Christ is a vocation – a call to follow the Lord in a specific way and, in so doing, to grow in holiness, participate in the very life of God and in the continuing mission of Jesus Christ as He walks it out through His Body, the Church, of which the domestic Church of the Christian family is a cell.

4. The Permanent Diaconate – volunteers out of love for God

“Do all you can to preach the gospel and if necessary use words!” St Francis of Assisi

The Permanent Diaconate is a vocation that is also a sacrament.  It falls under the sacrament of Holy Orders along with bishops and priests.

This is a calling for men to serve Christ and His Church in three specific ways, the proclamation of the Gospel, the service of the liturgy and the administration of charitable works. This means that they help the priest during Mass, by reading the Gospel or saying a homily.  They can lead communion services, confer blessings and can administer the sacraments of marriage and baptism.  They can’t consecrate the host or administer the sacraments of reconciliation or anointing of the sick.

A deacon can be married or single, but most permanent deacons are married.  They are also usually working and self-supporting.  Deacons are not paid by the Church and their service to the Church is as volunteers out of love for God. 

Because deacons live in the community and in their families, they have a truly unique role in teaching and counselling the Church community.  Many deacons are actively involved in marriage preparation and catechism as well as charitable societies such as St Vincent de Paul. 

To become a deacon requires several years of study and formation. A man becomes a deacon through ordination by receiving the sacrament of Holy orders from the Bishop. 

We address a deacon using Deacon.

5. The Priesthood – the true Joy of Love

“The joy of Jesus the Good Shepherd is not a joy for himself alone, but a joy for others and with others, the true joy of love. This is also the joy of the priest.” Pope Francis

Jesus himself instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders. While He was on earth, Jesus chose men to be His apostles and He passed on authority to these men to carry out His work of preaching the good news and forgiving sins. With this authority, the apostles then conferred Holy Orders on their successors; the first bishops of the Church. They in turn ordained priests and deacons. This tradition has been handed down since the foundation of the Church and is called the Apostolic Tradition.  Therefore, in following this Apostolic line, only Bishops can administer the sacrament of Holy Orders. A man becomes a priest through ordination by receiving the sacrament of Holy orders from the Bishop. 

Priests have three main functions, teaching, conferring sacraments and guiding the faithful.

A priest functions in persona Christi capitas—in the person of Christ, head of the Church.  As the persona Christi, the priest may consecrate the host on the altar, hear confession and anoint the sick in addition to conferring the sacraments of baptism and marriage.  A priest may also confer the sacrament of confirmation, with the permission of the Bishop.

A man who wants to be a priest must love Jesus Christ above all else.  And like Jesus, he should have a deep love for the Church, the Bride of Christ.  In general, a man who wants to be a priest will find himself drawn to Church teachings.

A priest brings Jesus to people and people to Jesus.  For this reason, a man who wants to be a priest must have a deep concern for the people of God.  He wants to help them grow in holiness; he wants to teach them the truths of the faith; he wants to minster to them during the trials of life.  The vocation of priesthood is about leading others to heaven.

“the only thing you can ever follow the same method for – and it always works – is cooking Tastic rice. This doesn’t work for evangelisation. In the work of evangelisation you can never say the word “no” because with God all things are possible.” Msgr Barney McAleer

There are two types of priests, diocesan priests and religious priests

Diocesan priests report directly to the Bishop and are not attached to any specific religious order. They are appointed to a specific parish by the bishop. Fr Keith and Fr Tshepo are diocesan priests.

Religious priests, like religious brothers and sisters, belong to a religious order and are obedient to the rule of the order. These priests serve as priests within their communities but are also placed at the request of the bishop to serve in parishes. Fr Matthew, like Pope Francis, is a Jesuit.

We address priests as Father.

SO, WHAT’S NEXT?

“We are on a journey. Keep walking, keep living the faith and sharing it. And do not forget, that you are not the tomorrow, you are not the ‘meantime’, you are the Now of God”. Pope Francis WYD Panama 2019

The Church needs people in every state of life, in every walk of life to commit to living their faith. If we make the effort and spend the time to find out about our faith, build our relationship with God and live our lives in Christ, we will find our true vocation.

So inspired by the founder of the Jesuits, St Ignatius of Loyola, here’s a little daily exercise to help you in your journey –

Examen for Youth

Examen for Adults

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