What is a Vocation?

Every Catholic has a vocation. In fact, as a member of the Church, every Catholic participates in the reality of “vocation” in three distinct senses.

First, there is the common Christian vocation that comes in Baptism. This can be expressed in various ways, but in general terms it means loving and serving God and neighbor and helping to carry on the mission of the Church.

Vocation also refers to a “state of life” or a way of being Christian – priesthood, religious life, marriage, and so forth. States in life are the special, lifelong settings in which people live the baptismal vocation.

Finally, there is personal vocation. The personal vocation of each one of us takes shape in the unique combination of talents, personal characteristics, relationships and life circumstances – including both our common Christian vocation and our state in life- that point to the special role God wants us to play in his redemptive plan.

When people speak of “vocation”, they usually mean vocation in the second sense – state in life. Most Christians are called by God to the married state, and some are called to the state of single lay persons living in the world. But Jesus also chooses certain men to act in his Person through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the other sacraments; they are called to be priests. Others are called to the clerical state as permanent deacons. And still others, both women and men, are called to what is known as consecrated life – a way of life marked by the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience – whose most familiar expression in religious life


Jesus called his first disciples at the Sea of Galilee and late said to them: “You did not choose me; I chose you and commissioned you to go out”. Christ, the Head of the Church and Lord of all creation, continues his salvific work in our own time. The ministerial priesthood is a privileged share in his work.

As the life of Christ was consecrated to the authentic proclamation of the loving will of his Father, so too the life of priests should be consecrated, in the name of Christ, to the same proclamation. The priest is called to assist the Bishop in his threefold responsibility of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling. The priest must be a teacher of the Word, a minister of the sacraments, and a pastor of his flock. Pope John Paul 11 reminds us: “Without priests the Church would not be able to live that fundamental obedience which is at the very heart of  her existence and her mission”.

As faithful members of the laity, we have a duty to support priests and encourage vocations to the priesthood. Pope John Paul encourages this important work. “The church … is called to safeguard this gift (the priesthood), to esteem it and love it”. “She is responsible for the birth and development of priestly vocations”.

Religious Life

Jesus also chooses certain men and women to be signs of his love while imitating his own way of living by embracing the consecrated life, whose most familiar expression is the religious life.

Consecrated life is a special Christian lifestyle – a special way holiness – marked by formally professing the evangelical counsels (the “vows”) of poverty, chastity and obedience and living them as a sign of God’s kingdom.

Religious life is the form of consecrated life that is most familiar to most Catholics. In addition to the elements common to all consecrated life, religious life requires that those who have professed vows as members live a common life and that they take part in the common apostolic works of their religious community. The Church recognizes many institutes of religious life, commonly known as religious orders or religious communities or societies. A religious man may be a hermit, monk, friar or brother, and may or may not be ordained as a priest. A religious woman, living the special vocation of the bride of Christ, may be an anchoress, cloistered nun, or an active sister.

High school juniors, seniors and college-age men are invited to join us in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament with sacred Hymns and Psalms on Sunday evenings. Refreshments following.

For more information:
Rev. Michael Dolan, Vocation Director
St. Thomas Seminary