We live in the world and our life is not indifferent to the concrete reality that challenges us every day. And it is in the world that vocation is realized, developed and bears fruit.
What are the challenges that vocation faces? Why does it seem so difficult to discern the vocation? How can we overcome the barriers in order to follow an authentic vocational path that will fulfill us? What steps are we taking on our path of vocational discernment ?
In the midst of a pandemic, Pope Francis recalls, following the encyclical Laudato Si’, the responsibility that each human being has towards the world. The pope warns that it is not a matter of looking for a “simple ecology,” as if separating garbage would solve everything. Rather, the pope speaks of an integral ecology that “integrates the specific place that human beings occupy in this world and their relations with the reality that surrounds them” (Laudato Si’, no. 15). For this very reason, we are invited to think about our vocation in relation to this responsibility.
To close our eyes to the reality that surrounds us is to think of vocation as some form of navel -gazing. It is necessary to take into account, therefore, not only our wills and our desires but also the reality in which we live and that which we insist in closing our eyes.
If we think of ecology as caring for all of creation and respecting ourselves and others, we realize that vocation must always be thought of from an ecological perspective. Only in this way will we be open to “fixing the house” that we are in, avoiding the pollutions that overshadow our visions for the future itself, avoiding the unrestrained rush to do many things and, above all, preventing the illusions of greed and pride from blinding us to what we truly yearn for and strive to be.
This ecological dimension of vocation allows us to look beyond ourselves. Vocation is always fruitful, always bears fruit, and is always a gift to others. In this sense, it takes place by facing reality and never running away from it!
Suffering and injustices indeed abound in the world in which we live. When we look at reality from this perspective, we feel powerless and unable to embrace everything. For this very reason, the reality that surrounds us is a reality that needs, not only to be cared for, but also needs to be loved.
Now, loving a wounded reality is not easy. Embracing a vocation that faces reality is also not easy. Only with the right vocational accompaniment does it become possible to discern the vocation, avoiding the asphyxiation of not being able to reach all situations that need help. It is only in this way that we find the strength to not be discouraged in the face of the sea of suffering that blurs our vision to countless situations of hope and true life that abound in our world.
We often look at reality as if we were not part of it. The desire to escape from adverse situations leads us to focus our discernment only on the surrounding problems: on our family, on our friends, on our future challenges related to work and the economy.
Hence, we create the illusory idea of an “easy” vocation, since we feel that if we do not go down a certain path, we cannot achieve anything. However, this idea about “our circumscribed world” ends up having serious repercussions in face of the reality of the world we inhabit.
Little by little, we become indifferent to the world’s questions and the suffering of others. Without realizing it, we develop an indifference even for ourselves: it no longer matters who we are or who we want to be, but what we create as “an idea of what is possible” in relation to us, our life, and the closed-off world we immerse ourselves in. Indifference is not distinctive of being a Christian and an authentic person. For this reason, we cannot pretend that there is no world beyond ourselves.
Our world is bigger than us! We live in it and walk in it. Our life is not indifferent to the reality that exists in the world. Thus, for an authentic life, we cannot be deaf to the calls of reality. Rather, we have to let ourselves be touched by reality and allow it to speak to us.
In fact, only “in the concrete situation confronting us, there are a number of symptoms which point to what is wrong, such as environmental degradation, anxiety, a loss of the purpose of life and of community living. Once more we see that “realities are more important than ideas” (Laudato Si’, no. 110). The apathy of indifference is never life-giving. Rather, it pulls us out of the reality of who we are and what we are experiencing.
The world is not an obstacle to the realization of our vocation. On the contrary, it is where the vocation is realized, developed, and bears fruit. Indeed, we cannot go anywhere alone; we are swallowed up by social pressure and the vain desires that reach us daily through social networks and the media.
However, the vocational path does not exist nor can it be followed in isolation. Allowing others to help us in this discovery is, in itself, a sign and response to the questions of reality – questions that will be a privileged place for vocational fulfillment.
Despair is never a good advisor, yet, how often are we tempted by it! The challenges we encounter when we look at our dreams of the future and seriously think about what we would like to do with our life tempt us to let others dictate our lives for us. The forces fade and everything suddenly takes on the appearance of the impossible and the improbable.
We are never alone! Christ is our hope and from Him comes the gift of vocation. So, why be discouraged? “Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems” (Laudato Si ’, no. 61). Alone we are nothing and we achieve nothing, but with Christ – and those He places at our side in this journey – we can embrace and win everything. (Susan Vilas Boas)