vocdefThe word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare, which is a verb that means ‘to call’. In simplest terms, a vocation could also be called a ‘calling.’ Every person has a primary call to holiness. As Catholics, whatever our state in life, our first goal should be to live a holy life. How we carry that out is our particular vocation.

Your particular vocation is different than a job. A job, or even a career, is something that you may take time off from, change from one company to another, or even change altogether. A vocation is God’s call for how he wants you to serve Him and His Church for your entire life.

Adapted in part from To Save a Thousand Souls, by Rev. Brett Brannen.
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Our Primary Vocation Is To Be A Saint

The first vocation of every baptized person is to become a saint. While that may seem daunting, the good news is that this vocation does not require any discernment. The Church and Sacred Scripture both tell us clearly and definitively that holiness is everyone’s primary vocation.”

Our Particular or Secondary Vocation

The secondary [or particular] vocation refers to the particular state of life in which we are called to fulfill our primary vocation to holiness. This particular vocation normally will have the following characteristics: 

  • It has been pre-determined or pre-destined by God
  • It involves permanent commitment
  • It involves sacrificing oneself to serve God and others
  • It is recognized by the Church as a vocation
  • Its purpose is to help others get to heaven.

Particular Vocations for Catholic Men

Holy Marriage
Holy Orders (Priesthood, Diaconate)
Religious Life (Religious Priest or Brother)
Generous Single Life in Christ

Particular Vocations for Catholic Women

Holy Marriage
Religious Life (Religious Nun or Sister)
Generous Single Life in Christ

Vocation vs. Occupation

“You will have noticed that professions such as teacher, missionary, nurse, artist, builder, writer, or musician were not mentioned in the above [lists] of one’s secondary or particular vocation. I call these occupations rather than vocations. I know that God has called and given gifts to many people so they can excel in certain fields, professions or occupations. Obviously, some people have tremendous gifts as musicians, for example, and they use these gifts to glorify God. But these musically talented individuals are still first and foremost called to one of the four states of life.”
-Quote from Fr. Brett A. Brannen in To Save A Thousand Souls; A Guide for Discerning A Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood, Vianney Vocations, 2010.

Pope John Paul II on Vocations

“I would like to ask each of you: What will you do with your life? What are your plans? Have you ever thought of committing your existence totally to Christ? Do you think that there can be anything greater than to bring Jesus to people and people to Jesus?
“You are at the great crossroads of your lives and you must decide how your future can be lived happily, accepting the responsibilities which you hope will be placed squarely on your shoulders, playing an active role in the world around you. You ask me for encouragement and guidance, and most willingly I offer some words of advice to all of you in the name of Jesus Christ. In the first place I say this: you must never think that you are alone in deciding your future! And second: when deciding your future, you must not decide for yourself alone.
“He [Jesus] has chosen you in a mysterious but real way to make you saviors with him and like him. Yes, Christ calls you, but he calls you in truth. His call is demanding, because he invites you to let yourselves be ‘captured’ by him completely, so that your whole lives will be seen in a different light. Let yourselves be seized by Jesus and try to live just for him!
Every vocation is part of a divine plan. This means that in God’s creative initiative there enters a particular act of love for those called not only to salvation, but also to the ministry of salvation. Therefore from all eternity, since we began to exist in the plans of the Creator, and he willed us to be creatures, he also willed us to be ‘called,’ preparing in us the gifts and conditions for the personal, conscious, and opportune response to the call of Christ and of the Church. God who loves us, who is Love, is also ‘He who calls’ (Rom 9:11).”
-Pope John Paul II quotes from The Meaning of Vocation: In the Words of John Paul II, Scepter, 1997.

“The word of the LORD came to me thus: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. “Ah, Lord GOD!” I said, “I know not how to speak; I am too young.” But the LORD answered me, say not, “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD. Then the LORD extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying, see, I place my words in your mouth! This day I set you over nations and over kingdoms, to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.”
Jeremiah 1:4-10 (NAB)
“The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.” He ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.” “I did not call you,” Eli said. “Go back to sleep.” So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said. “You called me.” But he answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”
At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet. The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.” Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'”
When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
The LORD said to Samuel: “I am about to do something in Israel that will cause the ears of everyone who hears it to ring.” ”
1 Samuel 3:4-11 (NAB)

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The priesthood changes a man, reconfiguring his very essence into something new.

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Principles of discernment

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