To look responsibly at life and to enter into the dynamism of love as the essence of every vocation is to give assent to the demands of love.
These days, as I gazed bleakly at the news of the world, the horrors of war, famine, disease, and human despair spreading across the globe, I found myself thinking about the challenge of living without alternatives.
Indeed, how can one speak of vocation and personal fulfillment to those who try to escape from situations that overwhelm them? How can one speak of fullness of life to those who have only misery, death and desolation around them?
The thoughts went on and on. At first, the feeling of empathy for those who suffer led me to think that the example of love of those who, in the field, give themselves totally to help the situation is already a path of future reflection for those who suffer today; in a second moment, I found myself assaulted by a feeling of revolt.
In the face of those who see their homes and their lives totally destroyed and, at best, having to start from scratch, how can we, from the comfort of our couch, truly affirm that the circumstances of our lives “do not allow us to make an authentic vocational discernment and experience”?
I don’t mean that our daily lives are easy and that we don’t have to fight difficult battles to be fulfilled, but perhaps we are all attacked by a kind of selfish cowardice when it comes to rolling up our sleeves towards an authentic life, the only one that will make us truly happy.
There are two key points that seem to be the stumbling blocks in this journey: the first is the limited vision of the self that sees only oneself and, consequently, the problems and blocks to one’s desires; the second is the utopian illusion of being a hero, of being able to do everything by oneself without needing anyone else and, consequently, of living an authenticity of life where only one’s own well-being counts-after all. If there is no openness to accompanied discernment, how can there be openness to others for vocational fulfillment?
No one is happy alone. We know this and it seems that we just want to close our eyes to this reality. We want to be happy, but we look more at the problems than at the solutions. We want to go further, but we want to walk alone. How far will our whims and fears take us?
Many times, we are tempted to think of vocation as something that only concerns us. However, we are not isolated beings. On the contrary, “each of us is fully a person when we are part of a people; at the same time, there are no peoples without respect for the individuality of each person. ‘People’ and ‘person’ are correlative terms. Nonetheless, there are attempts nowadays to reduce persons to isolated individuals easily manipulated by powers pursuing spurious interests” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 182).
Living “our” vocation is not an individual act nor is it individualistic. Rather, it is a loving response to all that exists. In fact, by fulfilling ourselves, we are offering the best that is within us: our happiness will have repercussions on the lives of others; our authentic actions will be a blessing for others.
Consequently, our life will not have moments of love to others; all of it will be a gift of love. The authentic living of our vocation will lead us “to love the common good, it makes us effectively seek the good of all people, considered not only as individuals or private persons, but also in the social dimension that unites them” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 182).
Every day, we are confronted with the bad moods, frustrations, and malaise of people who, for whatever reason, are not fulfilled in their lives. Like a snowball effect, we get hit, and before we know it, we are also in a bad mood and nagging everyone.
The same happens when we are confronted with people who are kind and clearly fulfilled in their lives. After such contact, we too are predisposed to smile and meet the needs of others. What snowball effect do we want to provoke in our lives? This lifestyle is not easy, but if so, is it not worth striving for wholeness and not only for what is satisfying?
Along with our dream of life, we have the desire for a better world where everyone can live with dignity, happiness, and total respect for each other. Now, neither of these dreams could come true if we don’t take concrete steps to make them come true; nor is the better world made if we continue to move with the wind, without fighting to make it happen.
“‘Social love’ makes it possible to advance towards a civilization of love, to which all of us can feel called. Charity, with its impulse to universality, is capable of building a new world. No mere sentiment, it is the best means of discovering effective paths of development for everyone” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 183).
Our dreams are always painted idyllically as if nothing could stand in the way of our well-being or our comfort. Without realizing it, we begin to delineate the concreteness of dreams. What would be, at the beginning, the dream of being happy becomes assumptions (to be happy, I need this, that, etc.) that blind us and let the ultimate meaning of the dream fade away.
The dream is there. The intuition about how to reach the goal is there, too. But in order not to selfishly circumscribe the dream or turn it into a vain illusion, it has to become a path of love–a path that is fruitful only when we allow others to walk on it. Vocational discernment is not a “waiting room,” but the concrete living out of one’s own vocation. Carrying out responsible discernment accompaniment is already taking steps on the vocational path.
The gift of a vocation is always shared life, and therefore fruitful life for humanity. What good are dreams if they end up locked in the drawer of fear? What good are our longings for happiness if we are more concerned with quick, easy and painless answers? It would be illusory to think that what we want for our life (all of life) can be produced easily and from one moment to the next.
To look responsibly at life and to enter into the dynamism of the fruitfulness of love is the essence of every vocation. It is to give assent to the demands of love, knowing that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it” (John 12:24-26).
What a joy it would be, then, to live authentically so that life might be true and worth living! Flowers and trees would never bloom or bear fruit if they claimed to do so without suffering (for their seeds, which must die to germinate) or without the help of others (without the help of the earth and its minerals, without the help of water, the sun, etc). Everything requires embracing the demands of love, going out to meet and welcome the help of those who are best able to accompany us so that our lives can also blossom and bear fruit. (Susana Vilas Boas)