Chapter 17 – Vocation
“The Following of Christ,” in chapter the seventeenth of the first book, treats on the Monastic Life; that is, it tells us how a person must be and what he must do to lead a good and happy life as member of a religious order of community. Instead of speaking to you about religious or monastic life in particular, I wish rather to say a few words about vocation in general.
God calls every person growing up to manhood or womanhood to serve Him in a certain station of life. This calling, which God give one, as also the station of life that one embraces after perceiving this call, are both called vocation. We pray to God to show us our vocation; and when once he has shown it to us, and we know it, and have entered it according to His holy will, we keep on praying to God that He may assist us constantly with His grace to faithfully serve Him in that vocation, to do His holy will until death.
It is all-important to find out this vocation and to embrace it. If one should happen to enter the wrong vocation—a vocation to which God has not called him—it would be a dreadful misstep, and might prove to be a fatal one. God, in a certain measure, give His graces according to the vocation He has marked out for one. If you have embraced that station of life to which God has called you, you will receive those special graces He has prepared for you—graces that are necessary to fulfil the duties of your station faithfully and perseveringly, and to overcome bravely the obstacles that you meet with in your way. If you have embraced the wrong vocation, then, naturally, many of these graces will be wanting, and the difficulties on your way greater.
You must not think, however, that, if you should have chanced to make the misstep, that is, if you have entered the wrong vocation, you must then give yourself up for lost. No, indeed! Never give yourself up for lost. God is always willing, even if you have entered a vocation against His will, to give you all the graces you may stand in need of in order to save your soul in that vocation. But you will meet with and have to overcome greater obstacles, and your work will be a great deal harder. It is like this: instead of taking the straight, smooth road to your home, you have taken a side road, rough, full of logs, stumps, mud-puddles, briars, and thorns; it is a long, roundabout way, hard to travel; but keep on faithfully; even on that road you can still reach you home!
From this you can see how important it is to find out one’s vocation, and after having found it, to follow it. How many vocations are there? And what should you do to find out your own?
Vocations may be divided into two classes: Life in the world, and life consecrated to God in religion. Life in the world may be of two kinds: single life, and married life. So also, life in religion may be of two kinds: the priesthood, and life in a religious order or community, as Brother or Sister.
Of all these different vocations it may not be wrong to assert that that of married life, though not the highest in worth, is yet the most important, on account of the manifold, far-reaching, grave duties connected with it—duties on whose fulfilment both the temporal and eternal welfare of all mankind depend.
Why is it that there is so much misery in family life? That so many families are unhappy, even here in this world, and are doing nothing but making themselves unhappy also for the next? Certainly, there may be many other reasons, different from the one given here; but in many a case, this may be the first cause of all the subsequent misery: father and mother were not called to enter the married state; or, they were not called to be partners in that state; they have entered the wrong vocation.
Thanks to the good God! There are many whom God calls to the holy state of the priesthood, and to the religious life, even in our days. God will never let these vocations die out, if we may say so. But the number of persons living a single life in the world, comparatively, is very small. What do you think? Is the state of single life in the world, consecrated to virginal purity, less pleasing to God than it was hundreds of years ago?
Ah, yes! It is so important to find out one’s right vocation.
Then, what should you do to find it out? When the time has come for you to choose a vocation, then do as follows: first, you must see to have yourself instructed in all that is necessary for you to know concerning the various stations of life. Such books as “The Youth’s Director,” “Catholic Christian Instructed,” and others that might be named, will give you much of the information you may need. For particular instructions apply to the priest, your pastor. Secondly, you must pray much and devoutly to the Holy Ghost. I would especially counsel you to make a novena—nine days devotion—to the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of Good Counsel. During the devotion try to go to confession and to Holy Communion once extra. Thirdly will also be good if, in a general confession of your whole life, you will open you heart to a good, learned, and experienced confessor, and let him guide you in this all-important affair.
If you do all this in humility, and with a good will and intention, God will not fail to show you the way. Whatever, then, be your vocation, strike out for it courageously, and hold on to it faithfully.
You must not envy others, who may be called by God to something higher and better than you are. Be you faithful in the little, and you shall have the same reward as those that have been faithful in the great. King David said to his men after the battle with the Amalekites: “Equal shall be the portion of him who went down to battle, and of him that abode at the baggage: and they shall divide alike.”
My little follower of Jesus, this chapter must close now. I would like to wedge in a little story, by way of illustration; but you must do without it this time. St. Paul admonishes us: “As God hath called every man so let him walk.” “A cripple limping in the right way is better than a racer out of it,” says St. Augustine. And Thomas à Kempis remarks: “He that seeketh anything else but simply God and the salvation of his soul, will find nothing but trouble and sorrow.