Vocation is openness to life, for it is only the full acceptance of the gift of vocation that makes a person capable of changing the world.
In a prophetic tone, Pope Francis anticipates the reality that we are living today in the encyclical Fratelli Tutti. “For decades it seemed that the world had learned from so many wars and failures, and was slowly moving towards various forms of integration. But history is showing signs of regression. Anachronistic conflicts that were thought to have been overcome are rekindled, closed, exacerbated, resentful and aggressive nationalisms are resurfacing” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 10-11).
In fact, the fervour and extremism of positions foresaw that weapons would invade our space and our lives, challenging us to reflect on what is really important and on the meaning of our lives. We are watching the horrors of war from the comfort of our homes.
We hear cries for peace and words of solidarity and compassion for the Ukrainian people. But aren’t we in danger of remaining idle bystanders giving out empty words, observing and criticizing the measures that governments have been imposing as a means to peace? Aren’t we in danger of being narrow-minded, focusing on one war and being ignorant of the other atrocities that are also happening around the world? Aren’t these troubled times calling us to be more determined and responsible?
Vocation is openness to life, in the certainty that “caring for the world that surrounds and sustains us means caring for ourselves” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 17). This caring for ourselves does not suppose an escape from reality. Rather, it is going beyond our individual desires. As the old saying goes, you only throw stones at trees that have fruit. Indeed, the gift of vocation is a gift for others!
A vocation is never something isolated, individual, or solitary. On the contrary, vocation has a relational character, without which it can be neither discerned nor realized. This does not mean that everyone will help us see the path and help us take steps toward our fullness of life.
We are human, and so anything that seems “strange,” “out of the norm,” or “not expected” always presents itself as a challenge where fear often gets the better of us. That is why, not infrequently, when we talk about what we think is the fulfillment of our life, a thousand opinions always come up, usually beginning with “if I were you…” or “don’t get involved in that.”
It’s not because people mean any harm, but because they think that they know what is best for us. Should we then succumb to a lonely path? Not at all! As Pope Francis reminds us, “no one can face life alone; we need a community that supports us, that assists us, and within which we help each other to look forward. How important it is to dream together! Alone, you run the risk of having mirages, seeing what does not exist; it is together that dreams are built” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 8). In fact, it is not a matter of walking alone but of daring to choose those who will accompany us.
Those who live and feel fulfilled in a similar vocation to ours will be very capable of helping us to discern and to realize whether or not this is the path that will make us live in fullness.
If this is the path, they will be able to help us on our path because they have already gone through theirs, and they will become our lifelong companions. If it is a different path, those who accompany us will be able to guide us to the right direction because they know us well. So, what is there to be afraid of? Why not dare to take the first step to find the right people who can best help us discern, face the difficulties of vocation, dialogue with those who do not understand our path, and share the joy of a fulfilled life?
What often seems to be a big obstacle doesn’t always have the strength to block our happiness. Everything is solved if we humbly tread the right path with companions. The fear that our friends and family may have of straying from the path stems from their love and concern for us.
However, a quiet and easy life does not necessarily have to mean happiness and self-fulfillment. So, the normal process is that many will be angry with us because of the choices we make. However, when they see that we are happy on the path we have chosen, they will be the first to embrace us and recognize that they were wrong
The fear of failing or displeasing those we love should not dictate our choices. Life is a constant risk/failure, so why not take a risk for what is worthwhile? As for displeasing those we love, we have to keep in mind that those who love us want us to be happy. To refuse the accompanied path of vocational discernment is to give up on happiness, and no one wants this!
We have to open ourselves up to life and go beyond our fears. We have to stop looking at the paths we dream of, saying “I wish I could do this.”
The world is in turmoil. Every day, the voices of war grow louder. We all wish for a better world, but nothing will change if we remain idle.
This doesn’t mean that we are all going to “save humanity,” like superheroes! On the contrary, what causes a lasting positive change in the world is more people assuming their role in the world, leaving behind the pettiness of fears and daring to live fully. It is not by chance that vocation is a precious gift! It is in the full acceptance of the gift of vocation that each one becomes capable of changing the world, not because he goes alone, but because he walks securely with those who support him, in the certainty that the way is God’s and not man.
From this perspective, what could go wrong? What obstacle will hinder God’s will? Where is our real will to live a full and happy life? It is the cowardice of good men that leads to the victory of hatred, envy, and the thirst for power. So let us not close our eyes to the gift that awaits to be received and let us remember that “hope is bold, it knows how to look beyond personal comforts, the small securities, and compensations that reduce the horizon, to be open to the great ideals that make life more beautiful and dignified. Let us walk in hope!” (Fratelli Tutti, n. 55). (Susana Vilas Boas)