Faced with the challenges of vocational discernment, it is necessary to go out to others and to open the doors so that our life can be authentically fulfilled and bear fruit for the good of all.
There are so many challenges in our time! We are still in the grip of the pandemic where little is said, but the situation continues to have an impact on our lives. War has taken hold in Europe, and it seems that little progress toward peace has been made.
How can we combat this escalation of violence and avoid the implementation of a culture of mistrust and widespread insecurity? Pope Francis warns us that “real and lasting peace is possible only on the basis of a global ethic of solidarity and cooperation at the service of a future shaped by interdependence and co-responsibility in the entire human family” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 127).
Therefore, those who think that this is only a political issue or that it is limited to a geographical space are mistaken. Whenever human life is threatened, either in its dignity or in its subsistence, this becomes a responsibility for every human being.
Thus, thinking about vocation is never something that can be done while turning a blind eye to the reality that surrounds us. Rather, all forms of life imply a human responsibility: authenticity of life is not possible if it does not assume a posture of service and gift.
We already know that no one is living an easy life, (although it seems to us that the lives of others are always easier than ours), and to dare to live a vocation is to persevere on a path where the journey is made in each moment. In each moment, we are called to respond to the vocation and, in this response, our authenticity in life is shaped.
Large-scale horrors challenge us to reflect and act, but often the greatest challenges to living out our vocation lie in our daily lives and in the concrete situations we directly experience. In these moments, we must constantly weigh on two things: on the one hand, who we are and whom we long to be; on the other, our comfortableness and our immediate desire for acceptance and validation from others. This is an arduous exercise that we could not do alone! Not because we are limited, but because we are human, and the human is, by essence, never self-referential.
We often hear that, with this war, it seems that a culture of hatred is taking hold. However, war is only the result and manifestation of an individualistic culture and identity. The drive to be self-sufficient, to need no one, and to be better than everyone else, makes us blind and unable to live our humanity fully and authentically.
The dangers of selfishness are always around every corner, and little by little it makes us insensitive to the suffering and even the joy of others; the opinion of others ceases to exist in our minds. Without realizing it, we reduce our being and our existence to our own little world and our own whims, limiting our capacity to experience deep relationships with others.
Nowadays, one of the most evident manifestations of this attempt to maintain good relationships without effort or suffering is the way in which social networks seem to dominate and determine our lives: without validation, without others’ like, life seems to make no sense! How far does this dependency take us?
“Digital media can expose us to the risk of dependence, isolation, and progressive loss of contact with concrete reality, making it difficult to develop authentic interpersonal relationships. Physical gestures, facial expressions, silences, body language, and even perfume, hand tremor, blushing, and perspiration, are lacking, because all of these speak and are part of human communication.
Digital relationships, which dispense with the fatigue of cultivating a friendship, stable reciprocity, and even a consensus that matures over time, have the appearance of sociability, but do not truly build a ‘we’” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 43).
Facing the challenges of vocational discernment is, first of all, about making room for and reaching out to real relationships-to and fellow travellers who will be there to walk the path we must take if we are to live an authentic life.
These companions, already having a life experience in the specific vocation that we think is ours, will better help us to keep up the pace, to clear the way, and to heal the blisters and wounds of those who persist in walking! Whoever wants to dare to be happy, will have to dare, first of all, to assume his humanity!
The unique advantage of true and authentic relationships that allow us to discern, to walk and to truly live our vocation, is not to “stop having headaches,” but to have constant nourishment to keep walking and the certainty of doing it in the right direction!
Accompaniment for vocational discernment is not something that should be understood from an almost ‘professional’ point of view. On the contrary, it is a fruitful relationship that implies creating bonds beyond any feeling of ‘it has to be’!
In the professional world, “a man is called less and less by his own name, less and less will this being, unique in the world, who has his own heart, his own sufferings, problems and joys, and his own family, be treated as a person” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 193).
In a relationship of journey together, the integrity of the person is always respected and deeply taken into consideration. Only in this respect, it becomes possible to authentically discern who we are and, in the light of what we dream to be, to see how the vocational path should be shaped. These are deep and special relationships that are not limited to the human sphere. God-Lord of life-is always present and is light for the path and for the whole journey that is our life.
With our decentring and openness to others, we open the doors for our life to be authentically fulfilled and to bear fruit for the good of all. The peace and the better world that we so much desire do not depend on extraordinary events, but on the authenticity of life that we dare to assume and live. To live one’s vocation and to fulfill it is not, therefore, a selfish act or a disregard for the multiple opinions that everyone seems to have about our lives, but an action of love toward God and humanity.
By seriously discerning our vocation, by being accompanied by those who have also travelled this road, we will find ways to respond to those who love us, even if they have different opinions from us. At the same time, we will come out stronger and make our life truly fruitful and a gift so that the better world is not just a wish or a utopia, but becomes a concrete reality, far beyond the impact we think our life decisions may have. The snowball effect of our personal fulfillment will bear fruit far beyond our existence. After all, if God walks with us, anything is possible! So why not take the risk and dare to be happy? (Susana Vilas Boas)