Dear impatient discerner

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Many students wonder about their vocation and how they should begin to pursue it. Photo courtesy of Marina Hoeft.

How to live out your vocation without knowing your vocation

What is the first word you think of when you hear “vocation?” I asked over 250 teenagers this question this past summer during my time as a missionary with Totus Tuus. The answers filled a wide spectrum, ranging from “priest” to “nun,” from “calling” to “voice,” and from “vacation” to “AHHH!”

I spent much of my prayer time this summer pondering the idea of vocation and wondering how I could convey what this spiritual calling is without having a radical personal testimony of my own.

To begin, we must define what a vocation is. A vocation is a call to holiness and it entails all that God asks us to do in order to pursue Him and His virtues.

When I taught this lesson to 1st-6th graders, I explained that there are two different kinds of vocations. The first is a “big V” vocation which refers to our supernatural calling that is fulfilled through our lifelong devotion to a particular lifestyle. These Vocations are married life, religious life or consecrated single life.

This was the first kind of vocation that came to mind for many of the teenagers and probably many of us as well. We are called to be nuns, priests or parents for the rest of our lives and that’s it, right?

This is where the other kind of vocation comes into play, one that is often not thought of when discussing vocation. This is the “little v” vocation and it refers to the way that God is calling us to holiness within our daily lives.

Each of us, in our own lives and in our own ways, are called to be holy and to live virtuously in every aspect of our lives. This includes our roles as students, siblings, friends and children of God. This may seem like an obvious fact given our Catholic fellowship and heritage here at UD, but it is so easy to forget what this actually means.

At UD, it is all too common to hear “ring by spring” or of pressure to enter religious life shortly after graduation. These are beautiful moments that should be celebrated, yes, but it is so easy to compare our own vocational journeys to others and wonder why God has not yet called us to that next level.

It causes so much anxiety to constantly worry about finding “the one” or to stress over whether we need to enter a convent or seminary tomorrow. We are not lesser for not having all of the answers yet. In fact, this uncertainty actually gives us an even greater opportunity to trust in the Lord as He walks with us into our next stage of life.

Like many others, I am impatient. I want to know and live out my vocation now. I can, just in a different way for the time being. St. Thérèse of Lisieux said it best when she said, “My vocation is love!”

What better way to live out one’s calling than by bringing Christ’s mercy and love to those we encounter daily? Instead of constantly searching for what God has not yet revealed to us, we can find purpose and fulfillment by living out what God is calling us to right now.

Right now, I am not called to be a wife, but a girlfriend. I am not called to be a nun, but a sister in Christ. I am not called to be a mother, but rather a role model to my siblings, friends and residents.

Whether you know your “big V” vocation or not, God is calling you to love. God is asking you in this present moment to bring His love, mercy and compassion into every aspect of your life. He is calling you to be there for your friends, to work hard in your studies, to care for those in need and to trust in the Lord deeply and entirely through all of it. I firmly believe that when you surrender your worries and live out your current vocation to the fullest, God will gently lead you into His ultimate plan for you in His own time.

I cannot say that I have all of the answers. My own discernment journey has been a whirlwind of anxiety and stress. However, I know that when the time does come for me to say “yes” to His plan for me, I will be ready and I will have nothing but peace and joy in anticipation of the outcome. For now, I will live in the joy of the knowledge that I know my purpose. I know what I am called to do. “My vocation is love!”

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