World Day of Prayer for Vocations

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.

freedom 55…not for all!

Here in Canada, fifty-five is becoming the retirement age for the lucky few who have secure pension plans. Meanwhile, some unions are fighting against mandatory retirement at sixty or even sixty-five, much to the frustration of younger workers seeking employment or an opportunity to move up in their careers. For those who are self-employed, the age of retirement is not so clear cut. And in professions that are experiencing a shortage (such as health-care), there is pressure to work for as long as one is able to.

In our local church, our diocesan priests can ask to retire at sixty-five. With the current shortage, many continue full parish and administrative duties past this age. Bishops can look forward to `freedom 75`, the canonical age at which they must retire. Cardinals have voting rights within a papal conclave until the age of eighty.

I have friends who are religious sisters, brothers and priests who continue to serve their congregations in leadership roles well into their sixties and seventies. Their work requires extensive travel to oversee mission projects and visit foundations in all corners of the developing world. It exhausts me just to think of the fatigue and jet lag. Many vowed religious `retire` from professional careers only to give their time and energy to social justice work.

My own parents retired early, but never stopped being active. My father is an inspector of home-built aircraft. He mentors other home-builders while working on his own plane. My mother turned to art in her fifties, and is now an accomplished artist. They are both voracious readers and love a good discussion. They are my model and inspiration, showing me how to nurture and support our creative potential throughout life.

Retirement can be a misnomer. How many retired friends do you have that say they`re busier than ever? My husband is turning fifty-five next week. No, there is no retirement in our near future. Our game plan is to continue working as long as we can provide a service to our community. But we are learning to slow down and enjoy more holy leisure along the way!

mad men and the church

I was watching an episode of the T.V. series, Mad Men with my daughter this weekend. My Mom loves the show for its 1960’s nostalgia and has fond memories of the styles and fashions. Her memories of gender roles of the time are not so fond. She wasn’t surprised when contemporary male viewers began to yearn for these “good-old days” when men ruled and women met their needs as help-mate and play-mate, at work and at home.

Many find comfort in clearly defined roles, especially if these roles benefit them. I wonder how many priests and bishops yearn for the good old days when they could expand their diocesan empires by building catholic schools and hospitals with the free labour of religious orders- mostly women. How many yearn for the days when women had the time to volunteer countless of hours to the parish? How many yearn for the days before feminists began challenging the inequality of gender roles in society and in the church? How many yearn for the days when priesthood garnered similar executive prestige and power as the Mad Men of days gone by?