What is Vocation?

In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a oneness of mission. Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But the laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God in the Church and in the world.

APOSTOLICAM ACTUOSTATEM – Vatican Council II

Every Christian has a vocation given to them at Baptism. At Baptism each person is grafted into the Body of Christ and from that moment onwards participates in Christ’s dual mission of redeeming the world and glorifying the Father. In this sense every Christian vocation is ecclesial; each of us is called by the Spirit to participate in Christ’s offering of himself to the Father for the sake of the whole world, and flowing from that to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Every Christian, be they a bishop, priest, deacon, religious, married or single all participate in this twofold mission according to their state, each as a member of Christ working to build up His body in their own particular way.

Within this one vocation there are a myriad of ways it can be manifest. Each person is created with a specific work in mind and each their own way of living out the vocation given them by the Lord according to the talents he has lavished upon them. As Saint Paul writes in his Epistle to the Romans:

For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:
if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
if service, in our serving;
he who teaches, in his teaching;
he who exhorts, in his exhortation;
he who contributes, in liberality;
he who gives aid, with zeal;
he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

ROMANS 12:4-8

Within the Christian community there are also those who are called in a particular way to build up the body of Christ. Some are called to the religious life, others to the priesthood, or to the diaconate, and others still to marriage. All these vocations are discovered first and foremost by living our core vocation as members of the baptised. Through living the call to abide in Christ and share His good news with the world for some people a particular vocation will emerge. Each of these vocations is a vocation of service for others. In religious life to pray for the world, priesthood to offer sacrifice for the world and nourishment to the faithful, the diaconate to share in a particular way in Christ’s ministry of service, and marriage for the upbuilding and salvation of the spouse and the Christian upbringing of children. Discerning any of these particular vocations is a joyful path to embark on but takes time and prayer, and it is never discerned alone but always in dialogue with the Church.


Useful reading

APOSTOLICAM ACTUOSITATEM (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity)
Vatican Council II on 18th November, 1965

CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI (On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and the World)
Pope St. John Paul II on 30th December, 1988

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE LAY FAITHFUL

CODE OF CANON LAW ON THE CHRISTIAN FAITHFUL