What is a vocation?

What comes to your mind when you hear somebody saying my vocation is to be...? Have you ever thought about the possibility of having a vocation to serve others in religious life? If you look up the word vocation in a dictionary, it is defined more or less like this: “a regular occupation or profession; especially, one for which one is especially suited or qualified”. If we look at synonyms for vocation on google, you will find words like art, trade, undertaking, calling, career, etc.  The Middle English vocacioun, divine call to a religious life, which was used until the late 15th century, and it developed into early Modern English “vocation”.

People will speak of vocation and calling. The word vocation comes from the Latin vocare which means to call. God who brought you into this world, calls or invites you to a specific vocation: single life, marriage, priesthood, or consecrated life. First of all, as Christians or followers of Jesus Christ, we are all called to holiness, this means we are called to love: to love our God and to love each other. The specific way you live out that call to holiness is your vocation. Each person is called individually to respond with love to God’s plan for them – their vocation in life with generosity and courage in this adventure of love. Our holy father Francis said in July 2013 “to become priests, religious is not primarily our choice...But it is the response to a call and to a call of love”. “Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being”. (St. John Paul II) “God did not call me for any service I might render him; God called me because he knew that in his service, I would be happy”. (St. Irenaeus). So do not hesitate to follow the bright star of your deep desire. May you allow it to guide you all the way, and find your true place in the Church, the body of Christ.

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A vocation is very personal to each person.

There are many vocation accounts in the Sacred Scriptures. Every call in the old testament has a mission as its object. Whenever God summons someone, He sends him. To Abraham (Gn 12,1), to Moses (Ex 3,10.16), to Jeremiah (Jr 1,7), and Ezekiel (Ez 3,1.4). Reading these passages of the Bible we are more aware and understand better that God is continually calling men and women to witness to His plan of salvation. A divine choice, then, is the basis of a call; its purpose is to accomplish the divine will of God. God invites you to follow Him, but He respects your freedom. Ultimately if you wish to respond to His call, you must surrender your heart to God who loves you passionately, and embrace courageously an eternal perspective. May you allow Him to enter into a deep relationship with you, and may you experience His deep love for you.

Every life is a vocation.

In the New Testament Jesus, Himself offers many calls to follow Him. Jesus “called” the Twelve Apostles. (Mk 3,13). A similar call is made to others (Mk 10,21; Lk 9,59-62). Not everyone answered the call. A call asks us to step out and follow Him along a new path known only to Him: “If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16,24). The life of every person as a Christian is a calling because it is a life in the Spirit. For the Apostle Paul, there is real parallelism between himself, who is called by God to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the gentiles, and the Christians loved and called by God to belong to Jesus Christ, called to be His people (Rm 1, 1.7; 1 Co 1, 1f). We Christians firmly believe that the Church is the community of those who are called and chosen to be God's people. Even though we are many we belong to the same body, we drink the same Spirit. Because the vocation of the Christians is born by the Spirit and because the Spirit is the one source of life for the entire body of Christ, there is at the heart of the Christian vocation “a diversity of gifts...of ministers...of works...” Yet in this variety of charisms, there is ultimately but one body and one Spirit (1 Co 12,4-13).

Not everybody is called to a single life; not everybody is called to married life; not everybody is called to the priesthood or consecrated life, yet everybody is called to a Christian vocation. We can live fully this beautiful vocation of being Christian in different fields of life. Our world needs good scientists, doctors, nurses, teachers, writers, politicians, singers, engineers, architects, etc, etc... Our planet is like a beautiful orchard full of fruit-bearing plants and the Gardener is pleased with each particular tree. He does not ask the orange tree to give apples or the apple tree to produce bananas, on the contrary, he is very pleased that each tree produces its fruit. Our God called each one of us to be a living member of the body of Christ, His beloved Son. The most important thing for you, is to identify where God wants you to be, so you will be happy and fulfilled. The sign that you are following the right path is that you will experience deep peace and joy despite the struggles and challenges of life.

 Discerning your vocation to the religious life
Perhaps you are already very successful in your professional life, you are happy in every aspect of your life, and yet you are still searching for something else, and you do not know what is it. You feel it perhaps like being thirsty continually, and the glass of water you have at hand is not enough to quench your inmost desire. This desire springs from your deepest desire for something as perfect love. A love that never will end nor lose its beauty. If this is your case, do not allow the time to pass. Start exploring. You will never know that you are good at swimming if you do not jump into the water. God has a plan for you, you have to discover it and set sail into the journey of love in faith and trust. St. Catherine of Siena addresses these beautiful words to you: “Be who you are meant to be and you will set the whole world on fire”.

A vocation to religious life is a calling from God
As Carmelites, we believe that a vocation to consecrated life is a calling from God, and in truth, demands total dedication and a free-response from those who receive it.
It is not always easy to understand or accept, and for many, it takes time to discern if they have a vocation to religious life or not. This period can be the cause of much searching and at times upset as one seeks to respond to what is after all a life-changing challenge.
To discern one's calling it is best not to stress or set artificial deadlines. Rather it is a time for prayer and reflection-a time to be truthful about all those aspects of your life that are called into question. It is also a time to seek help, support, and encouragement from those who know and love you.
We the Carmelite Sisters are ready to help you in this process of your discernment. 

What should I do during my process of searching?
Make time for silence and solitude, listen to your heart. If possible, at least thirty minutes per day. Attend Mass and the Sacraments regularly. Read the Sacred Scriptures, especially the Gospels, practice Lectio Divina. Make time for prayer and reflection. 

Vocations Ireland have a programme designed for you which helps to explore your vocation. www.vocationsireland.ie Contact one or more Religious Congregations and have a chat about it.

Read about the foundresses/founders of Religious Congregations. Does their mission appeal to you? 

You may need to visit several Religious Communities before you make a decision. All Sisters and Priests will be glad to help you in your journey, after all they are journeying too.

If you think Carmelite life might be for you do not hesitate to contact us for further information. We invite you also to read and explore the writings of our founders Sts. Teresa of Jesus (Teresa of Avila) and John of the Cross. We have also many beautiful young saints whose writings helped many, many young men and women in their discerning process. They are Therese of the Child Jesus (Little Therese), Elizabeth of the Trinity, Teresa of Jesus of the Andes, Mary of Jesus Crucified (Little Arab), Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Teresa Margareth Redi of the Sacred Heart, Mary Magdalen De Pazzi, and B. Maria Felicia of Holy Sacrament (Chiquitunga). Good luck and happy searching!