All Vocations have their Center in Christ

The Exhortation to the Apostles

There are a number of vocations that Catholics might consider before embarking on life’s journey. In brief, they could probably be categorized as the married life, the single life, the religious life, the priesthood, and the hermit or consecrated virgin. Such are the choices we have to choose and all are good and efficacious means to minister to one another and to keep Christ as the center of our lives.

The married state is the most common vocation and should be considered by those who have a great love of life. Those who are desirous of giving their selves completely to one another and who wish to be generous in that gift of self by dedicating themselves to their families: always keeping their expressions of love open to the prospect of new life. If one is not capable of such self-surrender, another vocation may be a better choice. The married state mirrors the life of the trinity – in as much as there is a certain unity expressed in various persons: the father, the wife and the children. Together they form but one family unit and separately they each have an equality of love and worth.

The single life is at times not chosen but thrust upon individuals who never found another person that made them desirous to surrender themselves to another entirely. Or, if they did, were rejected or went unnoticed by the other. In this case the individual desires to live in the world and should try to live a chaste life in service to others. These persons are usually quite suited to working with the poor, the sick, the old or the orphaned. Christ again should be at the center of their life and they should consider themselves as other Christ’s walking among us to relieve suffering to those in need and want. We might say that their lives mirror that of Christ as healer.

The religious life is a calling that is not often heard though many may be called to it. Those souls who heed this call desire above all else to find God Himself continuously present in their life. They wish to make Christ their life’s constant companion and the spouse of their souls. These religious men and women strive through work and prayer to advance daily in humility, virtue and prayer that they might become holy in honor of the One who is Holiness Himself. It is necessary that these individuals are attracted to living in community with others who have the same aspirations. They must be generous and eager to live their lives in complete obedience to their superiors and to the rules of their order. They do not mind this structured life, in fact they desire to give up their personal likes, dislikes, pleasures and the like for the higher good. It is a total giving of self to God and so their natures are generously given over to a life lived without any say in any aspect of their day to day service. One might say that this life mirrors the heavenly union of the Bride and the Bridegroom, the Church and Christ, lived out on this earth within each individual.

The priesthood, obviously only available to men, is for those who wish to serve as an example to others, teaching their flocks about the love of God and dispensing the graces that were given them by their ordination.  This is accomplished by the application of the Sacraments entrusted to the Church and given to them in their apostolic function of the Church. They are the fathers of the family of God who looks out for the well-being and health of their flock: a spiritual physician that applies Christ’s ointments for healing and the strengthening of souls. Again many are called but many do not heed this invitation. For these rare men, seem to mirror Christ’s care for His Apostles and disciples. They are the very real embodiments of the powers that Christ gave to His closest friends: the Apostles. They act among us as an alter Christus[1] and they function while distributing the Sacraments, in persona Christi.[2]

The last of the vocations might be called that of an anchorite. These are the men and women who have withdrawn from the world to live their lives completely hidden from the world. Some live these lives among us and others live them in seclusion. It is a life that draws those who are desirous to live humbly and to never be recognized in this life. They are persons that are models for us in their humility and mirror Christ’s desire to veil His Divinity from us. Enfleshed as man Christ walked among us and opened the spiritual eyes of man to see the Reality of His being through sacrificial love. As Christ’s servants, these consecrated virgins, hermits and unknowns are quietly setting examples for all who might enter into contact with them. It is sufficient for them, that Christ knows them and that is all they truly desire in this life.

The last group of people I would like to speak of are not a specific vocation at all. They are, I think, the highest calling of all of humankind though they are not given any choice in it. They can come from any of the above vocations at any time or they can be born into it. They have been called and chosen by Christ to suffer for the rest of us. They are those taken ill or made helpless by natural misfortune. They are babies and children born with defects and illnesses who inspire us to find ways to serve them and attempt to ease their suffering during this life. They become helpless and sometimes abandoned and hopeless, as Christ Himself experienced when tortured and accepted an agonizing death upon the cross. These special individuals then represent Christ in the most glorious way of all: their union with the sufferings of Christ Himself. Some of these special individuals are known to us as victim souls. And through their sufferings, countless other souls are saved and a multitude of sins forgiven for those who are moved to help them, pray for them, and work unceasingly to ease them from their suffering.

Any of us can experience that which drowns us in sorrow or pain. Though burdened by these maladies, those who suffer can also offer their pain and suffering to Him Who suffered before us so that we might not suffer in eternity.

God loves us all and we should never forget that to whatever vocation or state we have drifted into, that Christ was meant to be at the center of our lives; that is if we live them as He would have us live them. Everyone is called to holiness. He wants each and every one of us to be a Saint with Him in Heaven.

[1] Another Christ

[2] In the Person of Christ

The Real World

St Catherine's Monastery

What is it that is so inspiring about the monastery or convent life? Those men and women who live sheltered lives in remote out of the way places. Their lives seem totally useless to a world full of abundant trappings, so it seems for many. If one does not have the eyes to see, it appears a total waste of a person’s life.

There are those who do not understand the life but are drawn to these souls for what seems to be unknown reasons. What, one might ponder, is worth giving up everything in this world for a life of solitude and hard work? What is worth the effort and the sacrifices these men and women make? Are they merely running away from life or hiding from a past they would sooner wish to forget?

I too, pondered over these souls when I was young. For nothing in this life seemed to have an allure like it. You never forget the shock of finding out that there are people on this earth that count everything of this earth as nothing and look joyous in their trials and labors while separating themselves from the draw of the world and from their very nature as human beings.

Most people, I gather, take little notice of these men and women. They go about their lives in the real world and never give the religious life a thought. They fill their days striving for love, affection, money, honor or skills that might make their lives useful and fulfilling. It is the road we all follow, is it not?

Apparently not! The religious, if asked, might very well expound on the meaningfulness and excellence of the religious life led in seclusion. They might go into detail as to having found the real meaning in life. In short, they would counter that they are living in the Real World: a world that was created by God, held in existence by God, and which glorifies God. They suffer no delusions. It is our honor and our duty to live our lives for our Creator, to pray to Him for all our needs and unceasingly give praise to Him throughout the day and night. Their lives are ordered to their Lord and Savior as the only truly important activity that the human soul can perform – a total gift of themselves. They are ordered to their final end: an eternity of Love Itself.

Now if we were to take the time to evaluate who leads the better life, we might begin to see the futility of our lives lived in the world. Our goals and dreams are met and lost, good and evil comes and goes; and when all is said and done, it turns out to be vanity. It was much ado about nothing. Dust to dust. “Remember O man that thou art dust and to dust thou wilt return.”

So when ever asked about the courageous religious lives of those in the monastery or the convent, I simply remark that those are the people who chose to live in the Real World.