Most of us recall the saying, “I must hurry and catch up, for I am their leader.” Most days, this is reality. Most days, I think I am so far behind; I will need to live forever in order to complete the many tasks at hand. Many times I wonder why I hurry so much. Is this rushing to live a part of my vocation? Does it have anything to do with the reality of my vocation in life?
Purpose, mission, calling, and vocation are words that most of us use on a regular basis. The longer I live, the deeper my questions have become. I’ve known even as early as second grade the meaning of the word vocation, however simplistic it might have been at that time. Over the years this definition has expanded. Today, my thoughts center on living my vocation in extremely practical ways. I find that I often ask myself questions such as, “How does my vocation unfold within the reality of my everyday life?”
As a young person, my calling included lofty and sometimes idealized hopes of saving the Church and world in grandiose style. Yes, I had the longing to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, but I wanted to do so in dynamic and huge ways. I wanted to make a gigantic difference on a large scale and in mountain-moving ways. I was rather proud back then even to know that the word vocation is derived from the Latin word vocare, which means to call.
Something happened between the “back then” of my life and “the now.” In short, life happened. I still long to follow in Jesus’ footsteps each and every day. However, my longing is now based in service rather than the mountain-moving vision of my youth.
Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy, the great writer and philosopher, defined vocation very simply by saying, “The vocation of every man and woman is to serve other people.”
Life’s experiences have helped me to learn that vocation is service. Our lives are defined by the sorrowful, joyful, luminous, and glorious mysteries that defined Jesus’ life and all who have lived before us. Our vocation, our calling in life, becomes real when we are able to serve in the midst of pain, disappointment, and sadness, as well as in the resurrection moments.
Service patterned after Jesus’ service is a beautifully simple reality. Our baptismal calling summons us to service. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we find an awesomely simple definition of vocation: “Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.” (CCC 2392)
I attended the wake of a small child who had died tragically. As can be imagined, the mother was grieving deeply. At the service, the mother was sitting in the front row when a very small child came to her and reached out her arms asking to be picked up. This mother picked up the child, and the child cuddled in her lap, saying to this mother, “I’ll let you hold me instead now.” This act of love and service defined the vocation of that child at that moment.
Each of us is called to that wonderful reality of love and service. And in the reality of its fulfillment, we will live a fulfilled life, a life of purpose, of calling, of mission and vocation.
Reflect on the reality of your own vocation. How is it manifest in your daily life?