When does one’s vocation start?
We have heard people say, “my vocation started when I was in Grade 2,” or “God called me when I was in high school,” or “I knew my vocation during the college years,” or “I am a late vocation.” These statements are true only if we put them in the right context.
To understand correctly when one’s vocation starts, we need to make the distinction between God, Who actively calls, and we, who passively receive or hear the call.
When God calls it is eternal. There is no timeline that applies to God because time is the measurement of change and God does not change. God calls us perpetually: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." Jer. 1:5. “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands” Is. 49:16. It is a profound mystery to realize that God already knew us before we existed biologically through our parents. He has consecrated us to be His own and willed us to live out our mission and purpose. Our vocation originates from God’s intention for us to partake in His divine life, and this is also the beginning of our calling.
When we receive or hear the call can vary. Some hear the call at a very young age and others at a later year. We have to remember that this is not when God is calling us but rather when we recognize and answer the call.
There are people who for different reasons cannot distinguish the call, or are confused about it and take longer to detect it. Samuel is a good example of this. After the Lord has called Samuel two times, he thought it was Eli who called and so responded to Eli. However, when the Lord “called Samuel again for the third time, he arose and went to Eli and said, ‘here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli discerned that the LORD was calling the boy. And Eli said to Samuel, ‘go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, 'Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening,’” 1 Sam. 3:8-10.
There are others who perceive the call very clearly at a young age. One of the saints who received this privilege is Therese of Lisieux. At the age of 9, she was already given the special grace to begin to see God’s plan for her.
If you have a comment or a question, please drop me a note and I will be happy to write you a response.
Next week we will discuss Step 3 of the labyrinth: Can you list different kinds of vocations? Please ask yourself this question through next week and I will post my comment at the end of the week.
Fr. Hien Nguyen