Br. David Relstab, O.S.A.
Over this week during National Vocation Awareness Week, I was invited to speak to some of the Theology classes at Providence Catholic High School, where I am currently assigned and working parttime within the Campus Ministry office while completing graduate studies at Catholic Theological Union and Illinois State University. As I began my discussion into what a Vocation is, it is first necessary to understand what ultimately entails a vocation, this can be understood using a threefold definition.
1. Is it something that gives glory to God by the way we live?
2. Does it contribute to the building of society, both locally and globally? and
3. Can it accomplish personal human flourishing as a means of life that is supportive in allowing the individual to grow into their best form of self that they can be?
Naturally when speaking with high school students it is imperative that some of them already have some sort of idea of ‘what they want to be when they grow up’, certainly it is good to have career and lifestyle aspirations but if we are using those plans to become closed off from the workings of the Holy Spirit then what we do will be done in vain.
Reminding the students that as we journey through life it is important to be willing and free to explore different options and interests in how one can live their lives and be at the service to others in the world. It is also central to be mindful of one’s interior thoughts and spiritual responses to different events that occur during their lifetimes, in the moment it may be hard to comprehend what that Lord may be asking of us but having a network of peers and trusted individuals to which we can confide in is vital in our vocational journey.
Additionally, as we journey through life, it is not only necessary to be reflective in the variety of events that may come our way, but it is just as important to welcome the challenges that can be imposed on us. Recognizing these challenges not as stumbling blocks, but invitations to grow as children of God allow us to advance and strive at the goal of our lives, which is union with God. Therefore, it is crucial to appropriately respond to the different opportunities that push us outside of our comfort zones in how we approach the world around us. The vocation an individual responds towards should be made of out a decision that is attributed to an attainment and growth of life than something that is a detriment, or restrictive.
When two people join together in dating that may lead to marriage, these same questions must be answered by the man or woman preparing for vows within a religious community. How is this way of life allowing me to see God, others, and myself? By living out this vocation, am I truly being the best ‘ME’ I can be? Authenticity in the living out of our vocation is fundamental in not only how we respond to the needs of society, but more importantly how we respond to the call of our Creator. Bringing in the thoughts and spirituality of St. Augustine, the keywords of: restlessness, truth, community, and love, can quickly come to mind. As Augustine speaks in his Sermons “Let us never be satisfied to where we are not yet”, becoming stagnate and complacent in this life will not yield itself to a way of fulfillment of what we have been called to do, which is to ‘journey together on our way to God’. How these watchwords are lived out for each person is uniquely specific.
The different situations and experiences we may find ourselves in or the variety of people and opportunities we encounter along the way should be accepted and met with a willing and open heart. With all of these questions and prayers, eventually we have to make a decision, a ‘Yes’ to a particular way of life. This can be seen as ‘No’ to the other option, but when we say ‘No’ to one thing we allow the Lord to welcome us into many different ‘Yeses’ and opportunities that we would never have ever imagined. Being willing to accept and welcome in a call from the Lord to any particular way of life is first off, a crucial step in any vocational search, having an established prayer life and places to where people can gather to speak on their faith journey is reflective in how we answer the call fully. Fostering a mentality of all vocations lends to life when lived to their respectful call, to be true and honest in how a person and be the fullest and most compete person that God has created them to be.
When we answer the call with a willing disposition to serve the Lord and work towards union with ourselves, others, and God, then it can be a very confirming sign that what we have responded to is true. However, we are continually invited to work and strive towards embracing whatever vocational style that we have chosen. It is then important for all of us to pray for another, to remain faith and courageous in their vocation to all the different forms it can be expressed, either married life, single life, or consecrated religions life. When we pray for and respond to the call from the Lord, then the Love which was shown to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ can be utilized and spread to all.