Some others love to describe the 3 vocations in the Church. They then proceed to give the classic speech about how the 3 vocations in the church are married, single, and religious life. Ok…this captures a little more about what a vocation is, but does it really capture the heart and soul of it? For me, the answer is absolutely not!
For me, the essence of one’s vocation is something much, much deeper. A vocation is a personal call from God. It is a call given to each of us personally by the God who loves us and wants us to serve him. Now I could go into some crazy theological stuff…but instead I’m going to try to explain what a vocation is in terms of a baseball team. I’m going to warn you…this is going to be a long post, but I think that the concept of vocation is too important to go misunderstood by so many people. See if you can keep up with my crazy baseball imagery…
Every Major League Baseball team’s roster has 25 players on it. Those 25 players are all very different from each other, but they all work together, working towards the same goal of a World Series victory. It would be impossible to accomplish that goal without each member of the team…everyone from the cleanup hitter down to the fourth outfielder. Regardless of your role on the team, your job is to work alongside the other guys to get a World Series win. Is not vocation in the broadest sense the same exact thing? No matter if we are a priest, nun, married person, doctor, lawyer, actor, barber, etc. are we not all members of the Church, working towards the same goal…building the kingdom of God?
Just as nobody on the baseball team could win the World Series by themselves, in the same way we Catholics must work together as a community to build the Kingdom of God, no matter our state of life. This is the first point of vocation…through baptism; we are all “put on the team” and thereby are called by God to be a positive part of the Church.
Now, as we look closer we cannot help but notice the wide variety of positions on the baseball team. This relates to the many different ways we can spend our lives serving God. I’m going to look at the different positions in three groups…the infielders, the outfielders, and then the pitchers and catchers.
Just as most of the players on the field are infielders (4 out of 9), most of us are called to the vocation of marriage. This is a beautiful way to serve God and build the church, as we are always saying that the family is the foundation of society. Take out your infielders and you lose the possibility of getting any outs, take out the vocation of marriage and you lose this precious foundation. Married couples are called to give of themselves completely to each other and to their children. But remember, vocation is a deeply personal, not general, thing so the vocation of every married couple is not the same. Just as the second baseman and shortstop play similar, though slightly different positions, the vocation of married couples will also differ slightly from couple to couple. Some couples have large families, with up to eight or ten kids, others much fewer, still others are called to be parents to mentally or physically handicapped children, or maybe adopt the children of others. Other parents may not be able to have children at all. Even things like jobs can make one’s vocation distinct from others. Is not a doctor called to witness to God’s love in a very different way than a store owner? It is true that most people are called to marriage, but just David Wright is more than just an infielder (he is a third baseman), all married couples are not the same and are called to build the Kingdom of God in different, personal, beautiful ways.
Next are the outfielders…the guys who seem to be the furthest from the action. Most little leaguers will tell you that the outfield is the most boring place on the field to be. But are they any less important than the infielders? Without the support of the outfielders, the infield could not do their job, and the team could never reach their goal. For me, this relates perfectly to the vocation of single life. I doubt many people would admit it, but I think today many see the single life as the pointless vocation. If you can’t marry or be a priest, what’s the point? Well…just as the outfielders are called to contribute to the team in a particular way, so are people called to single life. They are able to build the Kingdom of God in a different, though no less beautiful way. They are freed from a lot of the obligations and responsibilities that fall upon those who are married, as well as priests and religious brothers and sisters, and are therefore able to give themselves in unique ways. My uncle is not married, and probably will never marry, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a vocation, in fact it means just the opposite. His vocation is different from mine and from my parents. In addition to that, just as with the infielders, the way single people live out their vocation is going to vary as much as the three outfield positions. The three outfield positions look the same, but in fact they are very different, distinct from one another.
Finally we have the pitcher and catcher. Even though there are only two of them, they are absolutely vital to the game. They are also the central animators of each and every baseball game, directly responsible for everything that happens. Doesn’t this perfectly describe our priests and religious? Without the pitcher, the game could never start…without our priests it would be impossible for us to receive any of the sacraments. Without priests, it would be impossible for us to receive God’s grace through such a beautiful and direct channel. However, not all priests are the same. Just as some pitchers are starters and others relievers, some hard throwers and others more finesse, in the same way the vocation of the priest is a personal, specific calling. Some priests are called to work within their home diocese, others to go off as missionaries, others to join a religious order, which is its own vocation and discussed below…
The catcher I think is another misunderstood position in baseball. Oftentimes his hard work goes unnoticed. It is also not a glorious position, like the pitcher and some of the other positions on the team…the catcher takes a beating every single day so that the team as a whole can succeed. This is how another misunderstood vocation operates…the religious life. Through vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity religious brothers and sisters are called to model the life and love of Jesus as closely as possible. They are called to be a living witness of the beauty of God’s love for the entire world. Through
the witness, and intense prayers of religious brothers and sisters, just like the catcher on the baseball team, takes a beating so the rest of the team can succeed. Just remember again, just as with all the other vocations in the Church, no two religious sisters are going to be the same. Some religious are called to be monks, others poor Franciscans, others educators in schools, and still others are called to minister to the sick and the elderly in hospitals. This is just another example of how truly personal one’s vocation truly is.
I think it’s clear that there are a wide variety of vocations in the Church and that all are necessary if we are to build the kingdom of God here on Earth. Take any one of the nine positions off the baseball team and suddenly the goal of winning the World Series becomes almost impossible. In the same way, all Christians…no matter their family, job, personality, etc. are all called to build the kingdom of God. Vocation is not a word tied exclusively to the priesthood. Could you imagine what kind of pitcher Roy Halladay would be if he didn’t have the rest of his team backing him up? There is room for everyone on the team that is the Catholic Church and everyone is needed if we are going to achieve our goal of building the Kingdom of God.
Now that we (hopefully) understand what a vocation is…the final question must be how do I find my vocation. Remember…a vocation is a call placed into our heart from God, not something we choose because simply because it attracts us. When I played baseball I was a catcher not because I chose it, but because it chose me. My gifts and skills lent themselves to making me a good catcher. I was a terrible hitter, couldn’t run, or catch a fly ball…but I had a strong arm, was a good leader, and a hard worker. The skills and talents led me to become a catcher. Now, I could’ve decided to play any other position I wanted, but I wouldn’t have been as good of a player and the team as a whole would have suffered. In the same way…a vocation is not something we decide because it attracts us. I can’t decide to be a priest because it looks cool or decide to get married because I could never give up dating. I need to look deep down into my heart to see where God is leading me. How does God want me to devote my life to him? It’s not an easy question, but just as baseball players trust that their coach will always be right there in the dugout to lead and guide them, we need to trust that our Heavenly Father will always be that coach…always there to lead and guide us to find our vocation, our calling from God.
“Heavenly Father, I thank you for blessing me with this beautiful life you have given me. I know in my heart that you are calling me to a divinely inspired vocation, a path towards devoting my life to you and building your Kingdom here on Earth. Help me, guide me that I might discover that calling and so grow closer to you, closer to spending eternity with you in heaven.”