27. Vocation: Introduction
In this fourth section entitled ‘Vocation’, we will explore the different state of life options open to all Catholics: the lay vocation, the religious vocation, and those called to holy orders: bishop, priest and deacon. Before doing that, we first acknowledge that there is something that is antecedent to each of the state of life vocations, and this is our call to be the sons and daughters of God, and to be the presence of Christ to one another and to the world.
Our understanding of vocation has evolved in recent decades. While the call to priesthood and religious life remains highly valued, it is no longer assumed that those called by God to those states of life are the only ones who have a vocation. In fact, every member of the Body of Christ is called and mandated to live in accord with his or her baptismal vocation. Each one of us is to be the revelation of Jesus Christ to the world, and we are all to become attuned to the way in which God is calling each of us to do that. In whatever form it takes, the significance of the call has a common thread: to proclaim Jesus Christ to all those we meet through everything we do and say. In this context, a hierarchy of vocations makes no sense (see 1 Corinthians 12:12 and following). Each of us is a unique manifestation of Jesus Christ to the world.
28. Vocation: Laity – Single & Married
The vast majority of Catholics are called to the lay vocation. This vocation is not somehow less than either the religious or priestly vocations, for God does not call any of his people to something second rate.
Lay Catholics live at the interface between two kingdoms: the kingdom of God that Jesus came to proclaim and the kingdom of this world to which we are called to announce the gospel message. Living at the interface can be a difficult place to be. We can lose sight of our baptismal vocation and allow our faith to become overwhelmed by the preoccupations and priorities of the kingdom we are sent to evangelise. Lay Catholics can begin to devalue their own vocation and to think of ‘them’ (bishop, priest, deacon and religious) as being the Church, and regard their own place as being of little, if any, significance.
How far from the truth this is! Grounded in his or her baptismal call to reveal Jesus Christ to the world, the lay Catholic is called to participate in bringing the whole world to God (see Christifideles Laici no. 1). He or she does this either as a married person or as a single person, each state of life bringing with it its particular focus and genius.
29. Vocation: Religious Life
Since its earliest days, the Body of Christ has been blessed by the presence of men and women who have given their lives over wholly to the witness of gospel values. By responded to the call to consecrate themselves to a life of prayer and of service to those in need, they remind the whole Church that prayer and service are to be at the centre of the daily lives of each of us. We see in them the living of the baptismal vocation, to which we are all called, explicitly manifest in the taking of the three vows of the consecrated life: poverty, chastity and obedience.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata, St John Paul II named the consecrated man or woman as the icon of the transfigured Christ. In religious imagery, an icon is a depiction of the sacred or divine that represents and participates in the reality that it is depicting. It is a window into the divine. By making this comparison, Pope John Paul reminded us all that those called to this vocation are given to the Church and the world to remind us of the presence of the divine amongst us.
30. Vocation: Priesthood
The Catholic theology of ministerial priesthood is intimately connected to the fundamental sacramental principle referred to elsewhere: that the spiritual is manifest through the physical. The Body of Christ receives its life from its connection to Jesus Christ as the head of this Body. As such, it is Jesus who teaches, heals and leads us. By means of the sacramental ordination of the priest, Jesus as teacher, healer and leader is made present.
In the Church and on behalf of the Church, priests are a sacramental representation of Jesus Christ – the head and shepherd – authoritatively proclaiming his word, repeating his acts of forgiveness and his offer of salvation – particularly in baptism, penance and the Eucharist, showing his loving concern to the point of a total gift of self for the flock, which they gather into unity and lead to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit. In a word, priests exist and act in order to proclaim the Gospel to the world and to build up the Church in the name and person of Christ the head and shepherd. See Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis no. 15.
Vocations Discernment Weekend: is a relaxed and prayerful weekend open to all single men and women (in yr 11 or older) who want to reflect on their direction in life and how they can make God more a central part of it – and have fun in the process. Key presenters will be Archbishop Christopher Prowse and Vicar General Fr Tony Percy. Cost is $50 (concessions available). It will be held at St Clement’s, Galong, NSW from 6pm dinner Friday 20 November to Sunday lunch 22 November, rsvp by 16 November. For more information contact Fr Emil Milat 69723655 firstname.lastname@example.org. Download the program for the weekend here: Vocations Discernment Weekend 2015 program (pdf - 2 MB)
31. Vocation: Diaconate
As we look back to the beginnings of the Church, the two most ancient examples of Holy Orders are those of bishop and deacon. Priesthood came later and evolved largely as a practical response to the fact that bishops needed assistance in their work of teaching, leading and sanctifying the Church. The priest takes his authority from the bishop.
The deacon is not a ‘mini priest’. The bishop (and by association, the priest) is the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ as teacher, leader and sanctifier. Deacons are the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ as the one who serves.
The role and place of the deacon has evolved and changed over the centuries. In the early Church deacons could be single, married, male or female. Then, as the priesthood began to assert itself as a dominant vocation in the Church, the deaconate began to wane. As a result, for most of our Church’s history, the deaconate had been reduced to being a stepping-stone on the way to priestly ordination. This is what is referred to as the transitional deaconate. Therefore we can say that all ordained priests are also ordained deacons: in the name of the bishop they teach, lead, sanctify AND serve.
In recent decades, the Church has chosen to reinstitute the role of the permanent deacon (that is, a deaconate that is not a stepping-stone to priesthood). While the Church is still pondering whether or not to reopen the role to women, both married and single men are invited to consider this vocation.
- Laity – Single & Married
- Religious Life