There is a Latin phrase that goes: Deus adest et vocat te. God is here and calls you. ‘To what is He calling me to? ’ you might ask. Everyone has a specific vocation in life, unique to each individual. Perhaps the question is not, ‘Do I have a Vocation?’ But rather, ‘What is God calling me to?’. The Second Vatican Council has placed a special emphasis that the universal call for all peoples is to Holiness. Laity and religious alike. In whatever condition or state, all are called by the Lord, each in his own way to Sanctity (Matt 5:48). We are all called to be Saints!
Here are some starter tips that might be useful as you uncover the personal vocation and state of life (religious, married or lay faithful) that Jesus might be calling you to.
1. Journey with a Spiritual Director. To be Christian is to grow in the Lord. Spiritual direction helps us do that as it is growth-oriented. A Spiritual Director is a guide who helps us recognise God in our lives. His role is to listen and help the directee to hear, understand and respond in love to what God is revealing to that person. With the Holy Spirit as the principal director, the directee and the Spiritual Director are co-discerners on this journey of faith. Simply put, a Spiritual Director is not there to provide answers but to help the directee to clarify his faith-experiences. Often, Spiritual direction inculcates in us a habitual sensitivity of Jesus’ presence and workings. There were countless times in my journey where my Spiritual Director spoke life and wisdom into the seeming messiness of my life, helping me to see the fingerprints of God, connecting the dots and encouraging me to dig deeper and explore the soft promptings that I have missed.
How to choose a Spiritual Director? Fr Thomas Green S. J. identifies six criterions: Compatibility, shared vision, objectivity, good listener, confidentiality and lastly important but not essential: Ahead of me on the journey. A Spiritual Director could be a priest, a religious sister or a layperson schooled in the art and science of directing souls.
2. Frequent the Sacraments. A vocation is a calling. To habitually choose the good, we need God’s help. We need grace. Sanctifying grace to participate in the divine life. The sacraments give us the graces necessary to live the supernatural life. In particular, receiving Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Reconciliation have helped me the most. Grace can do more than human efforts. Once, St Teresa of Avila saw a soul in grace, and it radiated so much light that she mistook it for God himself. When a soul is in a state of grace, one is better disposed to hear the voice of God in prayer and discernment.
3. Grow in Virtues. Vocation arises out of virtue. A religious vocation is an invitation by the Lord. We can refuse it and the Lord will love us just the same. Whether it is marriage or religious life, we cannot desire our own sanctification. We are called to co-operate with the grace of God as we begin to grow deeper in relationship with our Lord Jesus. If we allow God to lead us, we are in fact growing towards our vocation in every moment. ‘Carpe Diem’, Horace writes. Seize the day to develop the virtues in whatever capacity that God has placed you in right now. Whether as a student, a young working adult, a single, someone who is in a committed relationship working towards marriage – everyday there are many opportunities to do so.
There are many virtues out there, but as Christians what virtues should we focus on? “As it is, these remain: faith, hope and charity, the three of them; and the greatest of them is charity” (1 Cor 12:13; 13:31). Virtues are likened as chicks to a mother hen. When we grow in one virtue, somehow the other virtues will follow, in time to come.
4. Be in a Community. Isolation is the greatest danger in our times. Man’s deepest desire is to love and be loved. To understand and to be understood. There is a deep hunger in the world for authentic relationships. More than a social group, an authentic Christian community invites us to communion with God and with others. In community, we are called to go beyond ourselves. To love especially those we struggle with and to allow ourselves to be loved by others. In doing so, we minister and offer God’s presence and healing to each other. Through serving together and building His kingdom on earth, one’s gifts and charisms are also being drawn out and affirmed by others. As Hahnenberg says, For God always calls me through others… for others.
Our Lady and her Immaculate Heart/Lawrence OP
5. Ask Our Lady for help. All vocations lead us to fullness of life. And the journey is made easier with Our Lady, the Mother of our Vocations. “It was through the most holy Virgin Mary that Jesus came into this world, and it also through her that He has to reign in this world” …continues St Louis de Montfort, “If devotion to the Blessed Virgin is necessary for all men simply to work out their salvation, it is even more necessary for those who are called to a special perfection. I do not believe that anyone can acquire intimate union with our Lord and perfect fidelity to the Holy Spirit without a very close union with the most Blessed Virgin and an absolute dependence on her support (Treatise, 43). Mary accompanied Jesus throughout his life and ministry. She will accompany you in yours too.
6. Befriend the Saints. Chesterton perceived that ‘discovering’ the Catholic faith is most enjoyable, easier than joining the Catholic Church and much easier than trying to live the Catholic life. Thankfully, there are plenty of role models in the Saints. In the Catholic tradition, there are Saints for (almost) everything. Personally, I’ve been inspired by the little way of St Therese of Lisieux, the gentleness of St Francis de Sales, the lovingkindness of St John Bosco, the long-suffering love of St Teresa of Calcutta, the magnanimity of St John Paul II amidst countless others. The goal here is not to be another Archbishop Sheen or Henri Nouwen, but to realise sanctity in the way that God calls you to. Ask God to send you friends! In heaven and on earth. True friends urge and encourage each other to discover and live out their vocation unhesitatingly. Befriend the saints and ask them to intercede for you as you embark on your journey to discover Jesus’ invitation to fullness of life.
Being Called is being Loved
Eternal life begins here on earth. If holiness is what Vatican II urges us to, then there is an even more urgent need on our part to live out our baptismal promises fully and radically (even before considering the topic of a vocation). Despite our unworthiness, imperfections and brokenness, we are loved, cherished, affirmed as God’s beloved (1 John 3:2). We live in the mystery of being called. For being called is being loved.
Love is a mutual relationship between persons. In embracing God’s call for each of us, is the deep interior call to freedom. Authentic freedom to be who we are called to be, in relationship with the Triune God. At the heart of a vocation is relationship. God calls, and he continue to calls each one of us to participate in his salvific plan for humanity through the unique gifts, charisms and disposition that He has gifted each one of us with.
Each of us has a personal vocation in life. To not live mediocre lives, but life to the fullest! The world today needs authentic witnesses of married life. The world needs joyful witnesses of consecrated religious. The world needs dedicated singles living their lives compelling for Jesus.
Every generation needs Saints of its own time to sanctify its people. Why not you?
To be a saint means to be my true self. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I truly am and of
discovering my true self, my essence or core. Merton
This is an introductory piece of a 7-part series. In the upcoming weeks, we will hear from an artist, an educator, a social worker, a seminarian, a married couple and a closing reflection to cap off the series.
Top Photo: Interior of Minor Basilica Sta Maria della Victoria in Rome/Lawrence OP
Cassandra is finally answering the call to go deep with Jesus. She loves Assam laksa, a good book and the Holy family. But not in that order.