Vocation, a gift from God, is like a small seed that wants to germinate, grow and bear fruit; but for that to happen, we need to find the right terrain.
Almanacs and calendars were once extremely useful. More than a guide to follow the chronology of events, they were a way especially for those who lived in the countryside to know the times of the sowing or planting seasons.
Times have changed and today there are other means of information and, in particular, other means of controlling the environment. With greenhouses, artificial means of heating and cooling the temperature, means of regulating the humidity of the earth or other mechanisms, it becomes possible to develop all types of crops regardless of the time of year.
Something similar occurs with vocation. If we think of vocation as a small seed that wants to germinate, grow and bear fruit, we will also have to think that it is necessary to find the right environment for this to happen.
The seeds of vocation, as a gift from God, are never sterile! They always have the ability to germinate and bear fruit, to fully develop and fulfill themselves, becoming a gift for those who approach it whether satisfying themselves with its fruits or cooling themselves off with its shadow.
However, this does not happen instantly. It is necessary to “create the environment,” find the right place for germination and proper time, trusting that whether you are sleeping or awake, night and day, the seed germinates and grows (see Mark 4, 27).
We can ask ourselves what this “suitable environment” means for the germination and development of vocation in practice. First of all, we must think that if there are different vocations there are also “different terrains” for them to develop. However, it is essential to realize that the origin of the whole vocation is found in the same place–all are a gift from God and all ultimately will lead to God!
Let us think, for example, that we want higher education. What is the right environment to develop studies and knowledge in a certain area? The common denominator is the same: university or polytechnic education. But the right environment will always be the higher educational institution that promotes the course we want.
In vocational life, we must seek the environment capable of enhancing both discernment and the development of a vocation. It will always be about an environment where it is possible to live a family-communion dimension in which ideals are shared.
Vocation is always special and it is always something that has our heart as its ground, a heart that will become fertile ground as long as the environment around it allows it to be truly fruitful. Let us think of the parable of the sower (Luke 8, 4-15). The seeds are sown (by the same sower), but they can germinate, grow and bear fruit in abundance only in the appropriate ground. When the land that is well prepared for the seed receives it, it “does” everything necessary for its healthy growth.
It can be said that it is not even difficult to know what the right environment would be for a given vocation (or at least, for the vocation that we think can fulfill us). More or less, we can distinguish which environments are more favourable. Then, from among them we can lean more to one side than the other, but we know the “type” of environment we need.
However, not everything is simple. If it is even easy to discern favourable environments, it is often difficult to dare to enter them with the seriousness and perseverance necessary for serious vocational discernment.
Around us, numerous obstacles prevent us from staying in these environments for a long time. “Environmental pressure” (family and/or social pressure) distances us from the right habitat and sometimes leads us to believe that we are able to germinate and bear fruit in other environments. How do we overcome this pressure?
The environment that we think is suitable for the discovery and experience of vocation has something extraordinary: the gardeners who love God’s sowing/planting! They will help us both to discern our path–the right environment for our full realization–and to cope with pressures that keep us away from ourselves, from God and from all those who could, in some way, be blessed by our vocational experience.
If it is certain that we have to choose and dare to live in an environment that we consider appropriate, it is no less true that this is a path that we will not go on our own. It would be impossible to overcome adversity and obstacles if we counted only on ourselves.
The relationships of trust and friendship with those who accompany us “offer the opportunity to strengthen social and relational skills in a context in which one is neither analyzed nor judged. Group experience is also a great resource for sharing the faith and for mutual help in bearing witness.” (Pope Francis, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christ Lives, 219)
To be accompanied by those who live and move in the environment we dream of living is the best way to understand if this is also our place and to fight with greater force against the adverse pressures of our growth. It is not always easy to remove the bonds that bind us and start off on a discovery journey of our vocation with the right environment for its growth. Daring to create an environment will not only mean trying to overcome the pressures and opinions contrary to our desire, but also learning to understand what we want for ourselves.
This is often an arduous and practically impossible task if we are not willing to go further, that is, to go beyond ourselves! We need to find people capable of helping us. The most difficult thing is to realize that we are not capable to do everything by ourselves. Therefore, we must have the humility to ask help from those who are already living the vocational dream. (Susana Vilas Boas)