What is a vocation?
There’s no point in belaboring the etymology of the word « vocation » which comes from the word « to call ». It helps us to understand that there must be at least two parties involved: the one who calls and the one who is called. The source of the call, for the one who responds to the invitation, is God. But how does God work in calling men to follow Him? What is this voice that I think I have heard and that gets me moving? What must I do to recognize the voice of God amidst all the other voices that beckon me? The God of the Bible is a God who speaks. He calls into existence, he calls to life, he sets in motion, he pardons, and he blesses. But God also listens and he hears the suffering of his people. God enters into dialogue with humanity and into covenant with it.
« We often use the word, “vocation” or “vocations” only in the sense… of priestly or religious vocations. And we often forget that if there is a call, there is a call to or for something. The word “to call” awaits a complement, that which broadly opens up the field of discernment, that at first may be wonder at and thanksgiving for what has been stirred up, from what God calls, elicits, from what he awakens. God’s call is always radical; it shapes our life or it reshapes it; it orients it, in the strongest sense of the word, turning it to His Orient, His…rising! We are first of all at the service of this recognition, of this discernment of what God is awakening, always unique and original, and at outset incapable of being incorporated into what is already known. We are first of all filled with wonder at what God creates in man, as on the first day of creation. Diversity of vocations. »
But God also calls in order to send us. He makes of those he has chosen, apostles, disciples, missionaries. We have to keep this orientation in mind when vocations are being discerned. God entrusts a mission, and at the Assumption this gets carried out with others. The call is always a call for a mission, for the good or the salvation of a people.
When God addresses us, he is calling on us, challenging us. He requests from a man that he respond to him in full liberty. The accounts of vocations in the Bible, in the Old as well as in the New Testament, illustrate this attitude of God who upholds our freedom. God enters into dialogue with humanity and he wants us to be partners in the Covenant.
« The God who speaks addresses a partner; he calls him to come before him; he desires that he be capable of listening and responding. That is why the entire Bible can be presented and read as a vocation account, of summons sent out to persons or to the People of God, and, more broadly, to all of humanity. »
There are in life many summons that, for some, stir up a response and, for others, silence. Often, a summons stirs up fear and at other times hope. But our life cannot flourish without any response and « even not choosing is a choice, a fatal one. » One day we religious and lay members of the Assumptionist Alliance heard a call: « Do you wish to follow me? Do you wish to commit yourself? » and we responded.
The call is at the heart of existence, but it takes different forms.
The word “vocation” can be understood in a broad sense as a calling from God, including the call to life, the call to friendship with him, the call to holiness, and so forth. This is helpful, since it situates our whole life in relation to the God who loves us. It makes us realize that nothing is the result of pure chance but that everything in our lives can become a way of responding to the Lord, who has a wonderful plan for us.
Letter of the Superior General father Benoit GRIERE n° 8