“You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. You will know. You will know when it is right.” - Dorothy Day
Dorothy really got it right.
Lately, I have been speaking with many young Catholic women about what can perhaps be coined "vocational trauma."
I know and often meet many beautiful and holy young Catholic women who were raised in the faith, and I also meet and know wonderful women who converted or came to Catholicism later on in their teen years or twenties. They are all so magnificent and amazing and have so much beauty to offer the world. What has been troubling me lately is that so many I have spoken with have experienced some extreme distress at some point in time about their vocation, about what they are supposed to do with their life and how God is asking them to serve. And it has ravaged some of their lives with fear or guilt for years at a time, and I do not think this is something we often talk about publicly.
Many people mistake our work for our vocation.
Our vocation is the love of Jesus. - Blessed Mother Teresa
Firstly. Your vocation is to love God with all your heart and with all your soul. You can choose to love God above all in everything that you do - no matter what kind of profession or ministry or life you choose to live. Your call is to love those around you - to pour Christ into their hearts and to be light in their life. That is your vocation as a Christian and a follower of Jesus. You are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. This mission we have as Catholic-Christians is a radical thing in and of itself; it changes plans and forces us to be courageous and it makes everything a beautiful adventure.
And women, I want you to understand this...in your faith journey and in your life, God is not out to torture you. He is not out to make you miserable and unhappy and call you to a life that He knows would make you so. God knows your heart and knows best what will fulfill you in your life. And we spend so much time fearful and worried whether we are in the right place or doing the right thing or living the right life. Please stop and breathe and believe and know this... God does not want you to live in paranoia.
For God is not a God of confusion but a God of peace. 1 Corinthians 14:33
God does not point to any certain vocation and say, "Figure out how to get there." God guides. He does not drive you in panic or anguish or confusion. He leads you and puts the right circumstances and people in your life to fulfill the plan He has for you as you keep walking forward with Him. As Dorothy Day said...you will know by the joy it brings you. For instance, God puts a glimmer in the hearts of women for motherhood who he has called to be mothers. While all women may feel that attraction to motherhood in our humanity, God puts a glimmer in the hearts of women for religious life who are supposed to be in that life. It brings them joy. Through prayer, the thought and beauty of the life God wills for you should bring you serenity, calm, and delight. And stop and breathe and believe this too...He wants you joyful.
God does indeed call every person to a different way of life, according to the gifts that He has given them and the way he wishes them to share their gifts with the world. I assure you that whatever way of life He does guide you to - just because you are not called to the other vocation doesn't mean you aren't being generous enough with God.
I had a long talk with a friend over the summer who had serious vocational distress for a period in her life. She told me that for so long, she felt weighed down by the guilt that she wasn't being generous enough to God if she chose to be married instead of become a religious sister. When she was finally free from these thoughts, she was able to live more fully and be present to the vocation of marriage in her life she knew God was calling her to enter into. She then expressed frustration at the fact that even when she was engaged and would meet sisters, they would prod, "Well, it's not too late to change your mind!"
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
God alone will call you to what He wills for you. Sure, other people can chime in and people have received signs or messages from the Spirit about their vocation through other people, including spiritual directors. That is certainly true and God undoubtedly works through the people around us. But the path to your vocation is ultimately between you and God. It is about your relationship with Him and what He knows will make you come alive. He will lead you there and you must rest assured in that and people may joke or encourage or push or pull you one way or the other, but the people around you are not God. God is God and He is the one you must listen to.
So when the young little sister you met 5 minutes ago leans in and shakes your hand and will not let go, asks you if you have ever considered religious life, and tells you she thinks you would be really happy in it...you can rest assured in what God has already revealed to you and there is no need to panic. You can tell her with confidence that you are so happy she is joyful in her life, but that God has revealed to you in many ways that you are called to a different vocation than she is. And you can be at peace.
Women, breathe in and simply bloom where you are planted. There are people around you who need the love of Christ today. Here and now. Focus now on fulfilling that first call to be Christ to everyone around you. You need not worry about your vocation or what you will do with all your days. God has you right where He wants you in this very moment and will guide you along with His glorious and loving hand. He will show you the way in peace and in love.