Let’s Chat about Vocations

Hopefully I don’t crawl too high on top of the proverbial soap box, but I had a moment the other day that got under my skin and I need to get this out there. I would love to have a conversation about this so please comment below or on social media in with your experience and understanding.

Vocations ≠ Priesthood

We used to live in a Church where there was an over-emphasis on the priesthood. To have a vocation went hand in hand with being called to the priesthood. Sisters or nuns were also seen as having a vocation, but on a lesser scale. Then, Second Vatican Council happened and the word “vocation” was given new life. Lumen Gentium explains:

32. By divine institution Holy Church is ordered and governed with a wonderful diversity. “For just as in one body we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another”.(191) Therefore, the chosen People of God is one: “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”(192); sharing a common dignity as members from their regeneration in Christ, having the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection; possessing in common one salvation, one hope and one undivided charity. There is, therefore, in Christ and in the Church no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex, because “there is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all ‘one’ in Christ Jesus”.(193)

The bold is mine. This is saying that each and every baptized person has a vocation. The first for foremost vocation is as Lumen Gentium states, to perfection. Another way to say this is that each person is called to holiness, called to sanctity. Yes, you, you and even you are called to be a Saint.

The path through which our training in holiness lies is unique. In Church terms, there are generally 2 – 3 broad paths. Religious Life (can be delineated into Priest and Religious Vows like brothers, sisters, nuns, and permanent deacons) and the laity (married or single). We can say that each person’s work is also a form of vocation, since we are called to holiness in all aspects of our life. If we use our work, whatever it may be, to bring God greater glory and to evangelize to our fellow co-workers and those we serve, then our work is sanctified and vocational.

I have noticed in the Church, at least in the American Church, a subtle rise in focus on the call to priesthood. This ties into the priest shortage we feel we are experiencing as parishes consolidate and in some areas of the country the priest-to-parishioner ratio is genuinely out of sync. How many of us pray for an increase in vocations during the Prayers of the Faithful during Mass?

To illustrate this point, here is what happened one morning at our Vacation Bible School. We are fortunate to have two seminarians from San Antonio working in Del Rio this summer. They have been helping with VBS and assisted during Mass. After Mass, they spoke about their experience and how God is calling them to the priesthood. Our director spoke afterward. Instead of inspiring all of the kids to think on their vocation, or exploring how God is calling each of them in the here and now, we focused on whether any of the boys thought they might be priests someday.

I was let down and felt frustrated for the girls in the room. And the boys too. We are not going to fix the priest crisis as some see it by trying to convince 5 and 6 year olds once a year that priests are cool. And we no longer live in a world where the 2nd son is automatically placed in seminary. So what’s left?

A whole lot!! Friends, I firmly believe we are NOT suffering from a vocational crisis. God has not stopped calling people, men and women alike, to religious service. But we are suffering. We are experiencing a lack of vocational awareness. If we are not raising our children to hear God’s call for their life, how can we expect them to hear it? There’s a phrase – “You don’t know what you don’t know until someone tells you you don’t know it.” We can’t hope a young man is going to choose priestly service, or a young woman will choose a life of religious service, when these options have not been thoroughly explored, witnessed and reflected upon. And where does the exploration, the witness and the reflection happen in a person’s life?

In the context of their family and community.

Which do you think is more effective for showing our youth that priests are fun, normal, sometimes even cool people too?

Option 1: Only every seeing a priest within the context of Mass or formal function like VBS? The minimal amount of conversation happens between the family and the priest – usually the good bye as they leave church. Sometimes the priest stops by for a few minutes during the Religious Education class to see what the kids are learning.

Option 2: The family has invited the priest over for dinner or a family gathering. They have asked to have their home or car blessed. Children spend a few moments talking to the priest before or after their parents go to Confession. The family has volunteered to help clean up the church with the hospitality team.

I hope everyone said Option 2.

The over-emphasis on priestly vocations is not helping the situation we are facing. What will? In my opinion we need a stronger presence in and with our families. Vocations of every kind can be cultivated or shattered within the four walls of a family home. We should be focusing on supporting new parents, encouraging all families and making every effort to help grow the faith of the parents as well as their children.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Something out of Nothing

My mom was here for a visit. Yay!! We reorganize all my decorations – it was a big job. I had bins, boxes, more boxes and random bags of decorations, ornaments, window clings and Easter eggs for days. Many hands make the work light, and it is so true. While she was here we were talking about memories, of course.

One morning, my mom was asking the kids what I did during the day. Rosie, my sweet Rosie, said that during the day I do “nothing.” My mom reminisced about how her mom would be cleaning the floor, or dusting, or anything and the phone would ring. My mom or one of her siblings would answer the phone and say “Sure my mom can talk. She’s doing nothing.”

We started talking about how, as a mom and honestly, as any person, we are very rarely actually doing “nothing.” Just right now, though you may be sitting down, you are reading. Or you could be stirring a pot of tomato sauce for pasta or flipping bacon for breakfast. You might be exercising, watching TV or rocking a baby to sleep. We are always moving, always working, always playing. Even when you are sleeping, you aren’t doing “nothing.” You’re sleeping!

In this sense, we are always working. Our bodies are always working, our heart is pumping blood, our lungs are expanding and contracting, we are smelling, seeing and hearing. Our minds remain active and more often than not so are our hands and feet. Pope John Paul II’s Laborem exercens (1981) is about our relationship with work and how it is through work we come to know ourselves and our Creator. When God created Adam and Eve, he commanded them in no uncertain terms to work. They were to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill and subdue the earth. Notice how the work our first parents were called to is creative work. As images of a creative God, we are capable of participating in the continued creation and renewal of the earth.

If we are called to work, and the work we are given has been directed by God, then the work we do in our fulfillment of our vocation is holy work. Our work, whatever it may be, has the potential to bring us closer to God and to one another. We might scrub floors, change diapers, balance accounts, engineer electrical systems or direct traffic. When we do our work with our best effort and with love for God and neighbor, it is sanctified and so are we.

This might sound sweet and naive. After all, work is more often than not hard! We have to go back to Genesis for the reason, and then look ahead to the Gospels for the reward. Our first parents, though called to be creative, also sinned. The command to work was not taken away, but toil was added to it. Now they were to be fruitful and multiply, but they also had to toil or struggle to make the ground produce food. Work became hard. Death entered the equation. If this was the end of the story, work would amount to a whole lot of nothing.

Now look ahead to Christ. Jesus did not simply pronounce us saved. He did not creatively leave us His Body and Blood and call it good. Jesus, the Incarnation, suffered, he toiled for us through His death on the Cross. The Paschal Mystery is where our salvation lies – Jesus death and resurrection. You cannot have one without the other. And so when we toil, when we work hard to do the will of the Father, we can unite ourselves to Christ crucified. Our work is purified through His work and we collaborate with Christ for the building of the Kingdom of God. All that nothing just turned into a whole lot of something.

  • To learn more about these ideas you should read Laborem exercens, especially the first and last chapters.

The will of our Father is different for each of us and therefore we each have our own unique work. Right now, my work is finding a cheerful, dedicated attitude toward keeping up with my house cleaning. I am also embarking on a new consulting/contractor position as a facilitator for online classes to help form and train catechists and adults in the faith. In August I’ll be lesson planning for our next homeschooling year. Each of these has their own elements of the Cross, of toil and struggle. But thanks be to God I can also see how each of them is bringing me closer to Jesus, closer to holiness.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

 

Catholic T-Shirt Club Box Review

A little box arrived in the mail yesterday for my Rosie. When I found out I would have the opportunity to review the Catholic T-Shirt Club Box, I knew my 4 year old girl would love to review it with me!

Rosie with the Catholic T-Shirt Club box
Rosie with the Catholic T-Shirt Club box

As you might have guessed, this subscription box has a Catholic T-Shirt. You get to pick your T-shirt size, even for little ones. There are different levels of subscriptions, some of which include sacramentals like prayer cards, rosaries or scapulars. Rosie’s box was themed around Padre Pio and his quote: “Do not forget the guardian angel who is always with you.”

Rosie received a t-shirt, a guardian angel craft and a book about Padre Pio. She immediately wanted to jump in and make the craft. Her little angel is in her room now, watching over her while she sleeps. (She named her Rosie, surprise surprise).

Padre Pio kids book
Padre Pio kids book

I think that this box is a great gift idea for so many occasions. Graduation, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, or even as a way to celebrate a special moment like the first month of school. There is even a box that has 2 of everything – perfect for a newlywed couple or as an engagement gift.

Here are a few quotes from Rosie:

A box just for me?!

Wow, I didn’t know a shirt could come in a box!

Mommy, can I make my angel now??

When can I wear my new shirt? I love it!!!

This is a great box and I definitely recommend you check it out!

Rosie's new shirt and angel
Rosie’s new Padre Pio shirt and angel

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com