Pope Paul VI instituted the first World Day of Prayer for Vocations, on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, in 1964. The inclusivity of the term vocations varies. Most Catholics were raised to think of vocations in terms of the ministerial priesthood or consecrated (vowed religious) life. Benedict XVI`s letter for the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations reflects this definition. Others use the term more broadly to include the laity and our life commitments. All are vocations and all need our prayers.
As I get older I have a new appreciation of the word, vocation. I`m at the age where peers and friends are firmly established in their professions and careers, or contemplating retirement. My own children are at the other end of the spectrum – still discerning life choices or in the early years of their careers. Discernment in the midst of uncertainty is difficult work and often a long, winding journey before all the pieces fall into place.
Because of our stage in life, we have had many discussions with friends and family about the difference between a job and a vocation. A job is an obligation and responsibility. We drag ourselves out of bed in the morning to face the daily grind of family tasks and paid work. Children must be looked after. Wages must be earned. There is little incentive to do more than the minimum requirement to fulfill our obligation.
A vocation is a calling. It identifies our gifts, talents, and passions, summoning us to use them for the greater good of others. In doing so, we find our own lives fulfilled. Do you know a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider who practises medicine as a vocation as opposed to a job? What about a teacher or professor? What about an emergency responder, fire-fighter, or police officer? What about the server, clerk or cashier who makes your day brighter by their professionalism and pleasant manner? What about the parents or grand-parents who selflessly care for and nurture young ones to their fullest potential? Our world is made better by those who live their daily lives as a vocation, and not just a job.
Our Church is made better by women and men who live faithful lives that honour commitments made to themselves, others, and to God. In a time of soaring divorce rates, women and men continue to pledge their life-long love to each other. And many celebrate silver, golden, and even diamond anniversaries.
With scandals making head-lines around the world, it is a difficult time for young people to contemplate vowed religious life or ordination. Yet contemplate it they do, and with amazing courage they answer the call to a religious vocation. They have as their mentors and models women and men who have joyfully celebrated silver, golden and even diamond jubilees in religious and ordained life.
On this World Day of Prayer, we pray for all young people that they may be open to God`s Spirit calling them to the fullness of life – in whatever vocation they are summoned to. We pray in thanksgiving for all the women and men we know who live their vocations with integrity, commitment and passion. They are our models and our mentors. And we pray that we, too, may be faithful in our own vocations that we may be models and mentors to others.