To live the dream of vocation is to share hope, life, and mission. It implies uninstalling oneself, getting up, and taking concrete steps.
A poet once said that dreams “command life” and through them the “world leaps and advances.” The beauty of the verse can lead to a certain ambiguity in the understanding of what the poet means by dreams. In fact, it is neither the dreams that occur when we sleep nor the dreams that spring from an illusion or a whimsical desire for the impossible.
Here, dreams are understood as something greater-a mission that one longs for and hopes to achieve. Otherwise, as Pope Francis reminds us, “we fed ourselves on dreams of splendour and grandeur and ended up consuming distraction, insularity, and solitude. We gorge ourselves on networking and lost the taste for fraternity. We looked for quick and safe results, only to find ourselves overwhelmed by impatience and anxiety. Prisoners of virtual reality, we lost the taste and flavour of the truly real.” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 33).
The distinction between dreams and hope seems to reveal the essence of what is at stake and underlines those dreams only “command life” if they reflect true hope – a hope that goes beyond the circumstances of life. On the contrary, it is worth fighting for these hopes and dreams, not looking at the difficulties so that, effectively, through our dreams the world (ours and others) “leaps and bounds.”
This is the dynamism intrinsic to every vocation. When seen from the moment of discernment as a selfish desire where only “what I want” counts, it becomes an illusion that is destructive for the life of the person and, consequently, for the world around him/her. However, if vocation is understood as a gift and as a dream of hope and not as an illusion, it will become fruitful for the happiness of the person and the good of all.
It is not by chance that the same poet says that dreams are a source of hope. In fact, if dreams are understood as something greater than the capricious and individual will, the great storms and difficulties that can be anticipated along the way often become moments of growth, personal and vocational maturation, and, consequently, moments of true fulfilment and happiness.
Of course, you can’t go into the sea without carrying good equipment, a good crew, a good map, etc. Without this, the storms will always be awesome and insurmountable. To tread the paths of one’s vocation is to always see a beacon of hope. It is to live accompanied in navigation that one becomes sure that the greatest difficulties will become the greatest triumphs, and that the greatest obstacles can become the helpers of a flatter and smoother path.
For this very reason, we must not forget that “no one can face life in isolation. We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead. How important it is to dream together… By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together.” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 8).
Vocational discernment makes it possible to ‘cleanse’ our dreams, to remove the illusions and selfishness that often prevent us from seeing further, and to set our feet on the road towards a fulfilled and truly happy life.
By going beyond illusion, we plunge into a hope in which God walks with us and, with those who walk the path beside us, hold hands and free us from the fears and chains that keep us from moving forward. In fact, if the dream-delusion makes us apathetic and anxious for a reality that is “served to us on a platter,” the dream-hope leads us to act and reach goals and horizons never before thought of or even imagined.
“Hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and it can open us up to grand ideals that make life more beautiful and worthwhile.” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 55).
How do we walk without being alone? How do we dare to live hope and to walk the paths of vocation without slipping? There are two things to keep in mind. The first is obvious and fundamental: to walk we need to get up and take concrete steps. The first big step will certainly involve looking around and discovering who, within the vocation to which we feel called, can help us discern and live authentically what we are and what we dream (hopefully) of becoming.
Someone who is already in a vocational experience similar to the one we dream of will certainly be better able to help us see the steps we should take, how we should do it, and how we can avoid falling into caprice and/or illusion. Without this first step, there is no walking. It’s as if we set out to go on a hike, but never get out of the house just for fear of not making it!
The second step to take is related to this first one. It is the true awareness that we are not alone. On the contrary, God places in our midst a multitude of people who can help us on our way!
It is true that nobody is perfect, but in our imperfections, we are all capable of being the voice of God and of welcoming the mediations that God puts on our path.
Moreover, we are not lacking examples of people who discovered their mission and lived it only because they had the humility and availability of heart to let themselves be helped, to let others help them on their way of discernment and, finally, to help them walk in hope. The ecclesial community, our groups and movements, give us a plurality of possibilities and people who can help us make a journey and discern the best way to walk.
The Church we are and want to be is precisely the one that dares to hope. She is not afraid to disassociate herself and live authentically, according to a specific vocation, the professed faith. “Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, we want to be a Church that serves, that leaves home, that leaves its temples, that leaves its sacristies, to accompany life, to sustain hope, to be a sign of unity, to build bridges, to break down walls, to sow reconciliation.” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 278).
To share the dream of a vocation is to share a hope, a life, a mission, and this has nothing illusory or mutilating. By dreaming together, we discover ways to make the dream possible! Living the dream, however, implies uninstalling oneself, getting up and taking concrete steps that have to be taken not in isolation. They are personal steps, but never individual/individualistic. To discern the dream is to dare to start living it. (Susana Vilas Boas)