Several years ago, I noticed a priest whom I didn’t know, and someone nearby said, “Oh, that’s Father so-and-so…he was a late vocation.” And that’s not the only time I’ve heard the term, “late vocation,” tossed around in conversation.
As a side note, vocation comes from the Latin, vocare—to call. Simply put, a vocation is a calling from God. Many Catholics are probably familiar with the three big vocation umbrellas: Priesthood, Consecrated Life, and Marriage (It’s just good to make sure everyone’s on the same page here).
Well, in the circumstances where I’ve heard it, “late vocation” has referred to a newly ordained man who is a bit older than the other new priests, or a middle-aged woman who joined religious life. By using the term, “late vocation” to designate these people, are we saying that God is late? That He only gave them a vocation later in life, and they just have to rough it?
Let’s think about this for a moment. Is our all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, eternal God late?
I feel a strong urge to reference The Fellowship of the Ring right about now:
So God's not a bearded, fireworks-loving friend of the hobbits. He's even better than that. He's God. And he has a remarkable plan for all of us-so I'm willing to bet that He isn't "late" with His plans.
In my experience, I’ve heard the term, “late vocation,” used a bit apologetically—people try to describe to me why so-and-so didn’t become a priest until his thirties. People feel the need to explain it, as if it’s an issue that needs explaining. While some people do run away from God’s call and choose not to commit to their vocations—which I do not advocate (and I will probably include this topic in a future blog)—we can’t immediately assume that every person does this!
We shouldn't live our lives aimlessly, waiting for our vocation to happen; you see, God is in the present moment, and our vocation is to be where He wants us in the present moment. We do need to discern, and see what God wants with our future, don’t get me wrong. It’s vital to prayerfully discern if God wants you married, in seminary, convent, whatever. We shouldn’t blow off our future vocation, and God does call people at all ages—I know ladies who’ve entered the convent in their late teens and early twenties, twenty-year-olds who’ve married, and eighteen-year-old seminarians. I’ve also known older people who become priests, religious, and gotten married. But we can’t just put our lives on auto-pilot as we wait for the first day of Postulancy, engagement, or seminary!
I’m going to step out on a limb and suggest that we stop using the term, “late vocation.” So that one man enters seminary when he’s in his middle twenties, instead of straight out of high school? Maybe he had to do all those years of volunteer work at a homeless shelter, mission work, etc. first, to realize God calling him to the priesthood, and God wanted him to bring all those people-who he otherwise wouldn't have met-to Him. So that woman enters the convent when she’s thirty? Maybe God wanted her to teach those school kids their algebra, work as a nanny, etc. and show God’s love to them in her single state. Shocking, I know. God sometimes chooses the strangely unpredictable routes for His children. Just because one man enters seminary at 18 and another at 25 doesn't imply that the latter is a “late vocation.” Just because some women get married in their thirties doesn't mean that they are “late vocations,” either. God’s vocation for you isn't just some distant, “late,” event in the future, it’s now!
|Some fabric remnants, a ran|
(I threw this together in high school when I
was voted "Most likely to join religious life" in
our school newspaper)
I have difficulties with patience. I often become very passionate about things, and I want them now. Over the years, I’ve gotten a little better about patience, though it’s still a daily challenge. But, I remember when I was fourteen years old, I got some great “vocations advice” from someone at my church. See, I had already been praying/discerning/thinking about religious life, and was pretty sure God wanted me to be a sister. And I knew that He at least wanted me to look into it. But, I was impatient, because I just wanted to live out my vocation and do God’s will now! And in my mind at that time, the only way I could possibly live out God’s vocation for me was in a convent in NYC. The person I was talking with looked at me, and wisely told me to become the holiest woman I could be, because that would best prepare me for whatever God wanted of me.
Yes, this is way easier said than done. And while I still got impatient with my future vocation, I began to focus a lot more on my daily vocation. I worked at improving my personal relationship with God and the saints, I learned more about my Faith, I developed Christ-centered friendships with men and women. My junior year in high school, while praying on a retreat, the Holy Spirit went pow: “Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice,” (it’s from JPII) I read from a pamphlet. And I knew, without a doubt, that this was my vocation: My vocation to be a sacrifice of love in the present moment.
Here’s a juicy lil’ nugget from Love and Responsibility, by Karol Wojtyla (now St. John Paul II):
“In the light of the Gospel it is obvious that every man solves the problem of his vocation in practice above all by adopting a conscious personal attitude towards the supreme demand made on us in the commandment to love.”
I also feel this is an appropriate time to reference the ever-awesome St. Therese:
“I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and places...in a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my Love...my vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is Love!”
|Our rings with the Gospel reading from our Nuptial Mass.|
Over time, I stopped living in the future and started living more in the present. God eventually did show me that marriage was my vocation, and I love living out this vocation daily with my husband. Why did God call me to this at 20, and other women in their thirties haven't met their future husbands yet? It’s a question I asked myself a while back. But I saw that God didn’t want me to feel guilty about this, and He doesn't expect me to have the answer; He has a plan for everyone. I don’t need to know all the ins and outs, and I’m not sure I’d want to know even if I could. God has everything under control, and He does weird things we could never even imagine.
God has an amazing, epic, splendid, and grand purpose for you. Not just in the future, but in today. It’s ridiculously hard to be patient for the future, but I think it’s easier when we focus on what God is giving us in the present moment. Our reality is right here, right now, and God is waiting for us to take the plunge and be with Him, living our vocation to love.
“The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.” ~G.K. Chesterton
And if vocations/discernment/patience makes you depressed/drives you crazy, here’s a great recipe I found the other day and made because we currently have a surplus of eggs and fresh lemons (seriously, what’s better than baking/eating food for therapy?). I didn’t have ramekins on hand, so I threw the batter in a greased muffin tin and it worked for me, but I’m also not a professional or a perfectionist J