Vocations

When Catholics speak about vocations, they are often referring to the priesthood or religious life.  However, it is crucial to know that all members of God’s family have a specific vocation, including married and single people.  Before we understand those particular vocations, however, it is also important to recognize that there is a universal call to holiness in the Church.  This call to holiness is the primary vocation for all people, and is discussed at length in a primary document of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium. One excerpt from that document explains:
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“Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.”
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In order to pursue this call to holiness, each individual must discern the state of life in which they are called to live out the fullness of their Christian life.  Below you will find a brief description of the main types of vocations within the Church, as well as a variety of resources related to the discernment process:
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Priesthood:  Historically, the term “priest” has been used to refer to men who live in immediate service to God and perform public worship, especially offering sacrifices on behalf of the people. In the Catholic Church, it is the primary duty of priests celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and administer sacraments to the faithful.  A  vocation to the priesthood will involve a life of service to others, and brings incredible joy to those who answer “yes” to their call.
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Religious or Consecrated life:  Denotes a stable form of Christian living by those faithful who feel called to follow Jesus Christ in a more exacting way recognized by the Church. It comprises the life in the religious institutes and secular institutes, as well as the life of the consecrated hermits, consecrated virgins and consecrated widows/widowers.
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Marriage:  Described by the Church as a “covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.”
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Resources on vocations can be found on the following sites:
  • Archdiocese of Washington Vocations: Provides a wealth of information about being a diocesan priest in Washington, DC as well as general information about the diaconate and consecrated life.
  • For Your Vocation: A website sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for men and women at all stages of discernment.
  • Vocation.com: An interactive website that provides considerable resources to young people considering vocations and all Catholics interested in promoting and fostering vocations.  These resources include texts on the basics of prayer, a collection of meditations, and a discernment checklist provide further guidance through the discernment process.

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For the complete text of Lumen Gentium, click here. Note that information on the universal call to holiness is primarily found in Chapter V of the document.