The Spiritual Life: A Personal Vocation

Authored by Simone Rizkallah in Issue #7.1 of The Catechetical Review

He had a name inscribed that no one knows except himself. (Revelation 19:12)

There is a lingering experience of anxiety which I believe is a particularly Christian one. It concerns the problem of vocation. Joseph Ratzinger, in one of his Advent homilies, preached:

The movement of becoming a Christian, which begins at baptism and which we have to pursue through the rest of our lives, means being ready to engage in a particular service that God requires from us in history. We cannot of course always think through in detail why this service has to be done by me, now, in this way. That would contradict the mystery of history, which is woven together from the inscrutability of man’s freedom and God’s freedom.[1]

The first point about the “Christian anxiety” is that vocations are mysteries. No one knows or will know God better than he knows himself, and no one knows me better than he does, either. Vocations flow from the dynamics of what is ultimately a mysterious relationship. To further frustrate the problem, the heart of the vocation is the relationship itself. Therefore, if we want to execute the work of the call as best as possible, the focus is not to be on “the call” at all but on the One who is doing the calling.

One of the steps we can take to alleviate the anxiety surrounding vocation is to begin dialoguing on the level of the personal vocation and, in so doing, reframe our current vocational categories.

The “umbrella” vocation under which all other vocations (even state-in-life vocations) subsist is a personal vocation. Some will argue that the primary vocation is the “universal call to holiness.”[2] The Christian, however, is not called to a vague form of general holiness but to a specific form of personal holiness. There is a difference between intellectually assenting to God’s love, friendship, and call and the experience of God Himself saying “I love you (insert your name here) and I call you my friend (see Jn 15:15) and then engaging actively in service to that friendship.[3]

The other problematic framework is understanding one’s state in life as the “primary vocation.” While it is true that callings to priesthood, consecrated life, marriage, or some form of permanent celibacy become the primary form a personal vocation takes, it is still unhelpful to refer to a person’s state in life as their primary vocational call.

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This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting

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