Vocation in Times of Pandemic

In the context of the pandemic, there can be reasons for giving up the path of vocational discernment. However, today we are also challenged to make decisions, setting foot on the path with perseverance, humility and responsibility.

We cannot deny that the current times have been atypical, difficult and are made of great personal and social tensions. What was normal day-to-day running became a marathon of madness where affections were banned and disinfections and masks became habits and reasons of daily conversations.

Despite these challenges, life goes on and there are things that we simply cannot postpone. While there are many limitations and setbacks, it has also become increasingly easier to make excuses for ourselves in order to avoid taking concrete steps towards a path of vocational discernment.

Today we affirm that the mask, which we are forced to wear because of the pandemic, suffocates us. It does not allow us to express ourselves properly; it obstructs our vision; etc. However, we all seem very comfortable with the masks that we impose on ourselves, when the issue at stake is not the virus, but about decision; it does not have to do with halting the progress of the disease that leads to death, but with taking risks that lead to full life.  

I say this, because this has been the discourse that has developed most recently: “I wanted to start a path of discernment, but because of the pandemic, everything is stopped at the level of formations”; “I wanted to take a step forward towards what I want to do in life, but now it is practically impossible.”

Excuses aside, the mask of the “poor person” is not at all good for those who claim to be young, daring and willing to authentically live life. It is not the pandemic that hinders us but ourselves who, faced with difficulties, put ourselves in the position of being incapable. 

Whoever wants to live a fulfilled life will always find walls on the way. Those who stand and look at the walls that hinder them will always give up. Those who discover creative ways to advance and overcome these obstacles will always win, even if they have to take on new rhythms in their journey.

It is an illusion to believe that we are capable of doing everything by ourselves. In fact, “the human being is not fully autonomous. His freedom falls ill when he surrenders to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of selfishness, of brutal violence” (Laudato Si’, n. 105). On the contrary, when the freedom of the human being puts him in an attitude of encounter with the other, to follow the path becomes possible. Today, many doors are closed. However, there are still other ways to follow the path. 

The desire to follow a path of vocational discernment is being replaced, little by little, by the utopian desire to be carried to a certain place/moment that we yearn to live. However, the path is part of vocational fulfilment. Without it, it is as if we were building a house on the sand: everything would collapse before we even realize it! There are no disposables in vocational life: there are conscious choices that we have to be responsible for and freely take. Standing still is not an option!

If it is true that, for example, many activities, celebratory and formative meetings have been cancelled then it is no less true that we will always find someone who can accompany us and help us to grow in discernment. 

This is not a waste of time, but a way to walk towards your own personal fulfilment. Life and time are gifts of God, so why hurry or just give up on the way before you even start walking? All athletes know that, in order to reach the gold medal, they have to train a lot.

Musicians, too, do not start playing in large orchestras to make great public performances; they all start with learning the musical basics, putting in hours of practice with many mistakes, making advances and retreats, and experiencing many frustrations and discouragement. However, once they learn, their concert performances are full of brilliance, not because it is easy, but because they gained skills, knowledge, and a maturity during their practice that allows them to be absolutely brilliant in musical art.

We all go through similar situations, albeit at different scales. We all had to go through primary school to be able to read and write. With time, students write better, not because they were born more gifted, but because they studied efficiently and responsibly even though they became ill, had difficulties with family and friends, or even had to be absent for long periods from school.

For each difficulty, there is an alternative that allows one to continue the journey, even though it is not the usual path. Is it not the same with vocational path?

There is nothing impossible when we put our feet on the path with humility and responsibility. Humility will allow us to ask for help, to let ourselves be accompanied, and to accept that others can help us in order to maintain a realistic and human pace in our journey. 

Responsibility will allow us to stay faithful on the road, no matter how adverse the circumstances, not because we are dummies, but because we know that to assume the vocation is to assume a responsibility for ourselves, for our life, and for all humanity. 

Even our smallest decisions will always be linked to the decisions of others and, like a snowball effect, will shape the reality of the world in which we live. Again, this setting is not visible overnight! It is not necessary to hurry. You have to be consistent.

The world we have today is the result of countless decisions that past generations have been making. Therefore, today’s life is different from the life of a hundred years ago. A hundred years ago, the world was also shaped by previous decisions. And so on.

Today, this is precisely the challenge: to live each moment with the awareness that each choice we make is a drop of water that will join with others; and that, together, they will become the ocean of tomorrow. Look at it this way: is it important to ask ourselves what are we doing, to work for a more authentic and fulfilled world?

To take a break (living on hold), until better circumstances arise? Choosing indifference to what surrounds us, as if our vocation would one day fall from the sky and, in a magical way, fulfil us fully? Our vocation only becomes life when we allow that to happen. (Susana Vilas Boas)

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Contact me at: javier@comboniyouth.org

Father Javier Alvarado Ayala