If you should happen to be single and neither a cleric nor a religious, you are not without your specific vocation — your God-given vocation!
It is indeed unfortunate that the idea of a divine vocation has been limited to those who have been called to the priesthood or to the religious life. It is more unfortunate that the idea and the term are not more universally applied to those who have been called by God to be His collaborators in the act of procreation. But it is most unfortunate that such labels as bachelor girl, career woman, and single blessedness have been coined and enjoy such currency even among those who should be intimately acquainted with what Paul said to his Ephesians, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Colossians, Philippians, Hebrews, and to Timothy — namely, that each Christian, each baptized soul, shares “in a heavenly calling”; that each and all are to “live lives worthy of the God who calls”; that each man, woman, and growing child can imitate Paul himself and press on “to the prize in store for those who have received from above God’s call in Jesus Christ.”
Yes, you, whoever you are, have a divine vocation — a doubly, and even triply, divine vocation, for it is God the Father who has called you into fellowship with His Son” and has “selected you from eternity to be saved through the sanctification which the Spirit effects. . . . To this has He called you.”
Like Paul, the prisoner in the Lord, we “exhort you to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” Like him, we urge you on to “fight the noble fight that the faith inspires, lay hold of eternal life to which you have been called.”
And Paul is not alone in telling you this truth. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, taught the identical doctrine when he said that God “called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”429 and then told you the purpose of the call by foretelling your end. “God, the source of all grace,” he says, “who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, steady, strengthen, and firmly establish you.”
There can be no doubt that you have a divine vocation, for was it not God who called you out of nothingness? Was it not God who called you out of sin into His Christ and that Christ’s sanctity? Was it not God who called you “to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”? God is still calling you, whoever you are, be it pope, prelate, prince, or ordinary person. He is calling you to “grow up in every respect in love and bring about union with Christ,” calling you to go on “building up the body of Christ until we all attain to unity in faith and deep knowledge of the Son of God.” God is always calling you and every other member to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and to take no thought for your lower nature to satisfy its lusts.”
That vocation is definite enough. Its general outline and its specific principles are in the Gospel. The character of Christ is clear. But just what your individual task as “Christ” is may never be known to you until you stand face-to-face with Christ to receive your eternal judgment, which should be your eternal reward. But that lack of clarity is anything but obscurity. One hundred, sixty-four times does God call you through St. Paul to “put on Christ”; twenty-four times in the Gospel of St. John, the identical call, but in other words, is issued. So in the New Testament alone, God has called you no less than one hundred, eighty-eight times “to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is your divine vocation.
You are called to total interior change
Now, do not be deceived by terms. When St. John or St. Paul speaks of “putting on” Christ, they are using a metaphor taken from the stage, but the reality to which they are calling you is anything but stage play! Through them, God is calling you to a new life; and since every life principle is interior, God is calling you to a total renovation of your inner being. “Yes, we were buried in death with Him [Christ] by means of Baptism,” says St. Paul, “. . . so we also may conduct ourselves by a new principle of life. . . . Consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Why is it that while Christ’s life can be summed up in the line: “He went about doing good,” the lives of so many Christians have to be summed up by saying that they simply “went about”? Most of these men and women have the best will in the world. But they have no realization of all Paul meant when he said, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.” They were never told that Baptism was really a divine vocation to a complete metanoia — a change of mind and will. They were never told that they are to think with the mind of Christ and throb with all the desires that filled His Heart. They have never been told that they are to replace all their natural, instinctive, impulsive reactions to people, things, and events with the responses of Jesus Christ. Most of them have heard the divine call as it issued from the pens of Paul, Peter, and John, but they have mistaken it to be nothing more than a summons to imitate Christ; they have never realized it was a command to become totally “new creatures,” to live only with the life that Jesus, the Head, pours into His members.
Your vocation is to make Christ present to others
Your vocation is clear. The general outline is unmistakable. Even many particulars are most evident. Yet while you live on earth, you may never know in its ultimate individuality just what your precise vocation as Christ’s member is. That vocation is your real name — which is known to God alone. Just when the most important hour of your life is striking you may never know. That bit of divinely planned obscurity is what gives your life and your vocation its most real zest, for it is deep with mystery. When are we most needed by God — and men?
Father Robert Greene, the Maryknoller who was viciously brainwashed in Chine, but who managed to hold on to his sanity despite the Reds, tells you in his book Calvary in China that as day succeeded day while he was under house arrest, he wondered if his life was not a waste. What was he doing for God or neighbor as he lived under guard? Then slowly the thought came — and grew — that possibly God was keeping him there, alone, a prisoner, a subject for torture, just so that in that God-hating land Christ might live. By clever maneuvering he managed to celebrate Mass, consecrate an extra Host, and reserve this Blessed Sacrament. Christ was then doubly alive: mystically and sacramentally, in a land that had brutally exiled Him.
Who can say that the hour in which Father Greene said that Mass and reserved that Sacrament was not one of the most important in the history of China and the Church in China? Thanks to that courageous young priest, infinite praise, infinite thanks, infinite adoration and reparation, along with infinite petition went up to God from the infinite Christ in a land where God was being hated. Since man is made to glorify God, what greater work could any man do than what Father Greene did in that dark hour of seeming uselessness?
Think of Charles de Foucauld out in the desert. What was he doing for God, himself, or his neighbor as day followed day and the slow years mounted? Nothing that would stir the United Nations. Nothing that would interest the International News Service or the Associated Press. Yet, thanks to his Mass, Charles de Foucauld brought Christ to that desert.
And so with you! Your employment may seem utterly colorless; your life, weariness and a waste. But you can always bring Christ into that part of the world where you are. It might well be that God wants you in that office, that factory, that workshop because you, by being a vital member of His Mystical Body, are the only one who can bring His Christ to that particular spot. Never doubt for a moment the dogmatic fact that you have a vocation and it is from God. Believe with all your being that so long as you make an honest effort to “put on Christ” and “take no thought of your lower nature to satisfy its lusts,” you are fulfilling that divine vocation, pleasing God, and helping save your world, which is in such need of salvation.
Fill yourself not only with conviction, but with the courage those convictions give. Then go on bravely saving your world, confident that it can be saved! Realize that the very excesses to which your generation has gone — the hideous struggles of races, classes, nations fomented by the wild “isms” of your day: the first world war that brought into being trenches, tanks, flame-throwing, mustard gas, and air raids; the latest, which introduced mankind to the unbelievable atom bomb; your tragedies on the money market; your worse tragedies in the realm of Matrimony — all testify to one thing: the deep abyss in the human soul that cries incessantly to the other Abyss, the only One who can fill it, the God who called you into Christ Jesus. If God is calling to the world, never doubt that your world is calling to God. The very evils from which you and your world are suffering are evidence that there is a bleeding going on in the human heart. It can be stanched by you and your fellowmen, but only if you live under Him as Head who had His Sacred Heart emptied of blood.
Editor’s note: This article has been adapted from a chapter in Fr. Raymond’s Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.