Nobody is happy alone, so it is necessary to make the vocational discernment with realism and responsibility, a path marked by interdependence and the autonomy of those who look and live life with maturity.
PUBLISHED ONApr 2021
Some time ago, I met a neighbor of a certain age on the street. Between greetings and confidences about life and, particularly, about the pandemic situation we are experiencing, I ended up saying goodbye to this kind lady, concluding our conversation with a resignation: “It is like this. In life, there is living and there is dying!”
I went home thinking about these words and the implications that this vision can have on our way of living and facing reality. How can we look at life with hope if our daily lives are marked by such fatalistic resignation? What implications does this have when we want to undertake a path of vocational discernment?
It is not by chance that Pope Francis warns of the fact that “when the human person is considered just another being among others, we run the risk of attenuating in our consciences the notion of responsibility ”(Laudato Si ‘, no. 118).
Now, the resigned apathy of irresponsibility does not exist only concerning the world around us. On the contrary, it affects, first of all, the person himself, leaving him at the mercy of external pressures and incapacitating him to walk as a free person, capable of dreaming of an authentic future in which personal fulfillment is possible.
Fatalistic visions do not help discernment, as many fatalistic excuses keep us from walking and blockading our vocational journey. Everything seems to be an insurmountable obstacle. Everything seems to haunt the present time, making it impossible to set foot on the path and, consequently, everything becomes a justification to postpone the future, the dream, and the hope of an authentic and happy life.
Importance Of Discernment
Without succumbing to fatalistic perspectives, we ought to think with realism and responsibility. Each human being is unique and, for this very reason, we cannot simply follow others and imitate everything they do.
To better understand the importance of vocational discernment, let us start with something simple. Think, for example, of what happens when you want to open a business or even build a house. “In any discussion about a proposed venture, a number of questions need to be asked in order to discern whether or not it will contribute to genuine integral development: What will it accomplish? Why? Where? When? How? For whom? What are the risks? What are the costs? Who will pay those costs and how?” (Laudato Si ’, no. 185).
These are practical issues that have to be “on the negotiating table.” It is no coincidence that great investors surround themselves with a team to analyze the market and, considering the capital of the investors, help to select the places where it will be safer and more profitable to invest.
Similarly, those who want to “invest” in their vocation will have to discern. This discernment cannot be done at random and without criteria. After all, this is an “investment for life”.
Rather, it must be initiated by the constitution of a “reflection team”. Discernment implies, first of all, a serious analysis of the people who, given “our capital” (what we are and want to be), better help us to discover the vocation we have received–the one that fulfills us and makes us happy.
As we are not alone in discerning our vocation, on the one hand, we are more safeguarded as to the path to be followed. On the other hand, we have the security of not having to overcome obstacles alone!
Vocation is incompatible with individualism! The vocation is personal (not individual) and, therefore, it takes into account the totality of the human being–including the fact that he is a relational being. This does not mean that, with responsibilities being shared, everything will be easy for us! We will have those who help us, but not those who will do everything for us.
Vocation always demands responsibility. A responsibility not only marked by interdependence, but also by the autonomy of those who look and live life with maturity.
On the path of discernment, we must try to keep out the noises that make us deaf to the heart’s calls. It is necessary to remove the spotlight that blinds us and prevents us from seeing the reality before us. You have to hold hands with those who walk with us to taste life with authenticity.
This is the ecological effort that must be present in discernment. It is an ecological walk, a walk marked by “an integral ecology [which] requires openness to categories that transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we follow in love with someone” (Laudato Si’, no. 11).
To live the vocation is to live in love and always in personal growth. Is this an easy way of life? Certainly not. But is there any form of an easy life or some way of being happy if not through experiencing love fully? We all know that loving is not easy. Love is always demanding, it always means overcoming adversity and going beyond what others say. But, isn’t love worth living? Of course! In love, we are not alone.
There are always the people we love and the people who help us to overcome adversity in favor of an authentic experience of love. It is the same in vocation: discerning it and living it is demanding, but it is always worthwhile. This is a demand of love that we do not have, nor can we fulfill alone insofar as in it we find the meaning of our life and existence.
Nobody is happy alone, so how can we think of our vocation in an isolated and individualistic way? Listening to those who accompany us is not always easy since they say things to help us authentically look at ourselves and not to please us or to meet our whims.
Discerning who can accompany us on our vocational discovery is a sign of maturity. What is at stake is not finding someone who pleases or thinks like us, but someone who helps us to see further. Someone who, through his life experience, has already walked the path that we wish to take now and who, for his vocational experience is for us a paradigm of what we want to be and live.
Discerning vocation is having the courage and daring to remove all the garbage that blocks our path, separating what we like from what we love, and, ultimately, understanding and distinguishing what we are and what we dream of being.
Only in this way “can we propose an ecology that, in its various dimensions, integrates the specific place that human beings occupy in this world and their relations with the reality that surrounds them” (Laudato Si ‘, n. 15), building, step by step, a healthy path, pure and full of authenticity, in which the vocation grows more fruitful every day.