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Becoming fully alive: vocational discernment

Young women and men pray during a Holy Hour for vocations Jan. 20 at St. Patrick Church in Bay Shore, N.Y. The service, which invited teenagers and young adults to pray for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, was sponsored by the vocations office of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic) Young women and men pray during a Holy Hour for vocations Jan. 20 at St. Patrick Church in Bay Shore, N.Y. The service, which invited teenagers and young adults to pray for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, was sponsored by the vocations office of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y.
By Father Jon Schnobrich

What is vocational discernment? Vocation comes from the Latin word, “vocare,” which means, “to call.” God calls each one of us by name to become saints, thereby the first vocation in our lives is the universal call to holiness: “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).
 
How do perfection and holiness relate to each other?
 
Let’s understand what our Lord means by “perfect” as that word today is so unfortunately misunderstood. Being perfect is not perfectionism. This call to be perfect comes as the climax in our Lord’s teaching on Christian love:
 
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for He makes His sun rise on the bad and the good and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:43-48).”
 
Jesus points to the Father’s love, which is without calculation or condition. The Father loves in truth with mercy. He loves sinners and saints alike. To freely conform one’s life, one’s inner attitudes and one’s way of thinking so as to love unconditionally and mercifully is the holiness of life to which our Lord calls all of His disciples without distinction.
 
However, to love like this means to love in the way that God reveals. God is love, which means that we as creatures look to our creator to define love. To love as God loves, as St. Thomas Aquinas explains, is to will the good of the other for the other; to desire another to flourish in their being. The perfection to which Jesus calls us relates to holiness of life precisely in love. Love conforms itself to its object; thereby the more we love God who is love, the more we become like God who is love.
 
To put it simply: If God is LOVE, the more we love LOVE, the more we are able to love as LOVE loves.
 
The universal call to holiness is the call from Christ through His Church to become fully who God intended us to be. In the words of St. Irenaeus of Lyon, “The glory of God is the human being fully alive.” Because Christ is holy, we, His body, are called to strive each day for the sanctification of our lives, the integration of all that we are into all that Christ is: “Each in his own state of life, tend to the perfection of love, thus helping others grow in holiness” (Lumen Gentium, 5, 39).
 
Every disciple is called to perfect love, to love the way the Father loves.
 
Father Schnobrich is vocations director of the Diocese of Burlington.
 
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