Many words are said and expounded on when one speaks of vocation. Often, these words assume a more religious or clerical tone. However, it matters to understand vocation in the fullness of its meaning, not confining it to one or two paths.
In fact, as St. Paul says, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.” (1 Cor 12: 4-6)
Thus, there are no more valid paths than others. On the contrary, if it is true that there is an immense number of possible paths for us to go through and if each one corresponds to a specific vocation, then one has to take into account the direction of his or her own journey to fulfill his or her vocation and, consequently, feel fulfilled.
The desire and the dream of God for each one will be just a dream unless one dares to set foot on the “road.” Begin by discerning, that is, walk the path that seems to lead to vocational accomplishment and see if it is in tune with what you are.
Embark on A Journey
Fears surround the journey (especially before starting to walk). However, as St. Daniel Comboni tells us, it is often necessary that “the path so far followed must be abandoned, the old system must be changed and a project must be drawn up which will lead more effectively to the desired end.” (Writings, 809) You have to take a step forward. To stop is cowardice!
Of course, it is not always easy to make decisions, but we don’t go anywhere if decisions are not taken. The first steps will be full of uncertainties, misunderstandings and may even cause suffering. This is the normal process of happiness.
Take, for example, the moment of birth of a baby. The suffering of childbirth is undeniable, but it would be unthinkable for a mother not to wish the child to be born for fear of giving birth. On the contrary, the future mother will try to learn the best way to live the moment of childbirth and, after the pains of that moment, happiness inhabits her and not the memory of the pains nor the worries and sufferings that may arise in the future.
Vocational discernment elevates our lives and, like St. Daniel Comboni, allows us to discover the joys and true happiness in the midst of the most adverse situations. Like him, along the way, we can pray: “Blessed is the Lord for he has guided me on the way of the Cross, and now he shows me his mercy a hundredfold!!!” (Writings, 187).
Share and Move On
When everything goes gray and the path we take seems to lead only to blind alleys, it is important to have someone beside us who, in addition to helping us discern our vocation without judging or condemning us, listens to us and understands us.
The vocational path always has sharing as its mark: sharing of feelings, of worries… sharing of life. This is a path that cannot be done alone nor can it be confined to individualistic solitude. Because vocation is a gift of God, one only advances on this path by sharing one’s joys and sorrows.
This sharing reveals who we are… and what we want to be. Above all, the gift that God offers us, and its acceptance, is translated into true and authentic life.
It is not a question of telling everybody about one’s own life, but of accepting to walk the path with someone we trust, with someone who opens up and understands us beyond his or her own personal desires and without the concern of pleasing someone. What is at stake here is happiness itself, and for this very reason, it is only when authentic sharing happens that it is possible to discern the intricacies of the vocational path.
It should be noted that this sharing is not an effort or burden for the one who shares and the one who accompanies. As with the different parts of the body, all are important and for the body to be healthy, it is necessary that all members live in fullness.
In this way, it is natural for the members to have the same concern for each other. Thus, “if [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” (1 Cor 12: 25-26) Sharing promotes growth and happiness to all who intervene in it, because… in the end, everyone shares and everyone comes out stronger and enriched.
Vocational discernment compels us to share and it leads us towards the goal for our full realization. One might think that making everything depend on us would be faster and easier to achieve what we desire. However, when we talk about vocation, things are not what they seem.
It is necessary to walk accompanied in order to go further. Only this accompaniment can help us to overcome difficulties, to discover new possibilities, to rise after the fall, to prevent one from giving in to difficulties and, finally, to go further than what we even dare to dream of or to imagine.
God’s dream for us is always greater than we imagine when we decide to walk a path of discernment and vocational experience. To make this journey with a companion is to make possible the entrance into this divine dimension that overcomes all our frailties and apparent incapacities. With God we are more than we appear and more than what we believe to be.
There is no right vocation or wrong vocation. Every vocation has the mark of God and, as such, the way we respond to that gift may be right or wrong. However, it is not something external that is imposed on us by God, but something that is life and is given to us for our happiness and fulfillment.
With Two, Three … Or More!
Vocation should not be confused with something isolated. It exists only insofar as it is shared and accompanied by the following: with God, with those who accompany us in the vocational discernment that lasts a lifetime, with the people who most directly become part of our life along the vocational journey, and with all the humanity that, in some way, benefit from the blessing of our vocation.
Who can deny the goodness of being next to a fulfilled and happy person? In our day-to-day life, we all experience the benefit that comes from the joy of others. Where does this incessant joy come from? Certainly it is not the result of a life without difficulties, but it will undoubtedly result in an authentic life lived in its fullness.