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Pontifical Work for Ecclesiastical Vocations
New Vocations for New Europe

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  • PART TWO THEOLOGY OF VOCATION
    • 19
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From the Trinity to the Church in the World

19. Every Christian vocation is "particular" because it questions the freedom of every person and generates a most personal response in an original and unrepeatable history. Therefore each person, in his own vocational experience, finds an event that cannot be reduced to a general schema; the history of every person is a little story, but is always a unique part of a greater story. In the relationship between these two histories the human being plays out his liberty.

a) In the Church and in the world, for the Church and for the world

Every vocation is born in a precise place, in a concrete and limited context, but it does not turn in on itself, it does not tend towards private perfection or the psychological or spiritual self-realisation of the one called, rather it flowers in the Church, in that Church that journeys through the world towards the Kingdom, towards the realisation of a history that is great because it is the history of salvation.

The ecclesial community itself has a profoundly vocational structure: it is called for the mission; it is a sign of Christ, the missionary of the Father. It says in Lumen Gentium: "the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of a sacrament — a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men".(40)

On the one hand, the Church is a sign that reflects the mystery of God; it is an icon that goes back to the Trinitarian communion in the sign of the visible communion, and to the mystery of Christ in the dynamism of the universal mission. On the other hand, the Church is immersed in human time and lives in history in a state of exodus, is in mission to the service of the Kingdom to transform humanity into the community of the children of God.

Therefore history asks the ecclesial community to listen to people's expectations, to read those signs of the times that make up the code and language of the Holy Spirit, to enter into critical and fruitful dialogue with the modern world, sincerely welcoming traditions and cultures to reveal in them the plan of the Kingdom and plant there the seed of the Gospel.

In this way the small great story of each vocation intersects with the history of the Church in the world. Just as it is born in the Church and the world, so every call is at the service of the Church and the world.

b) The Church, community and communion of vocations

In the Church, the community of gifts for the one mission, is realised the movement from the condition of believer inserted into Christ through Baptism to his "particular" vocation as a response to the specific gift of the Spirit. In this community every vocation is "particular" and is specified in a life project; there are no generic vocations.

In its particular nature every vocation is, at the same time, "necessary" and "relative". "Necessary" because Christ lives and makes himself visible in His body that is the Church and in the disciple who is an essential part of it. "Relative" because no vocation can exhaust the witnessing sign of the mystery of Christ, but expresses only an aspect of it. Only all of the gifts together can reveal the whole body of the Lord. In the building every stone needs the other (1 Pet 2, 5); in the body every member needs the other in order to allow the entire organism to grow and for the common good (1 Cor 12, 7).

This requires that the life of each one is planned around God who is its only source and provides everything needed for the good of all; it demands that life be rediscovered as truly significant only if open to following Jesus.

However it is also important that there be an ecclesial community which will help each person called to discover his own vocation. The climate of faith, prayer, communion in love, spiritual maturity, courage in proclaiming, of intensity in the spiritual life all contribute to making the believing community into terrain that is appropriate not only for the flowering of particular vocations, but also for the creation of a vocational culture and a readiness in individuals to receive their personal call. When a young person recognises the call and decides in his heart the holy journey for realising it, there is normally a community there that has created the premises for this openness and obedience.(41)

So, we note that: the vocational fidelity of a believing community is the first and fundamental condition for the flowering of a vocation in the individual believer, especially in the youngest.

c) Sign, ministry, mission

Accordingly, every vocation, as a stable and definitive choice of life, opens up in three directions: in relation to Christ every call is a "sign"; in relation to the Church it is a "ministry"; in relation to the world it is "mission" and witness to the Kingdom.

If "the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of a sacrament", then every vocation reveals the profound dynamic of the Trinitarian communion, the action of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as the event that makes those called be in Christ as new creatures modelled on Him.

Every vocation then is a sign, is a particular way of revealing the face of the Lord Jesus. "The love of Christ urges us on" (2 Cor 5, 14). In this way Jesus becomes the moving force and the decisive model of every response to God's appeals.

In relation to the Church every vocation is ministry, rooted in the pure gratuity of the gift. The call of God is a gift for the community, for the common good, in the dynamism of many ministerial services. This is possible in docility to the Spirit who makes the Church a "community of gifts"(42) and generates love in the heart of the Christian, not only as an ethic of love but also as profound structure of the person, called and enabled to live in relation with others, in an attitude of service, according to the freedom of the Spirit.

In the end, every vocation, in relation to the world, is mission. It is life lived to the full because it is lived for others, like Jesus did, and therefore it is life-giving: "life generates life".(43) Hence the intrinsic participation of every vocation in the apostolate and mission of the Church is a seed of the Kingdom. Vocation and mission constitute two faces of the same prism. They define the gift and contribution of each person to God's plan, in the image and likeness of Jesus.

d) The Church, mother of vocations

The Church is the mother of vocations because she gives birth to them, with the power of the Spirit, she protects them, nurtures them and sustains them. She is mother, particularly, because she exercises a precious mediating and pedagogical function.

"The Church, called by God, established in the world as a community of those called, is in her turn an instrument of God's call. The Church is a living call, through the Father's will, through the merits of the Lord Jesus, through the strength of the Holy Spirit (...) The community, which is aware of being called, is aware that at the same time it must continually call".(44) By means of this call, in its various forms, and at the same time as it, there also runs the appeal that comes from God.

The Church exercises this mediating function when she helps and stimulates each believer to be aware of the gift received and of the responsibility that the gift brings with it.

She also exercises it when she acts as the authoritative interpreter of the explicit vocational appeal and herself calls, presenting her needs for the mission and the demands of the People of God, and inviting them to respond generously.

She also exercises it when she asks the Father for the gift of the Spirit who raises up an assent in the hearts of those called, and when she welcomes them and recognises in them the same call, explicitly giving and entrusting with faith and trepidation a concrete and always difficult mission among men and women.

We can add, finally, that the Church manifests her motherhood when, in addition to calling and recognising the suitability of those called, she also provides them with an appropriate initial and ongoing formation and ensures that they are accompanied along the path of an ever more faithful and radical response. Certainly the Church's motherhood can not be exhausted in the moment of the initial appeal. Neither can that community of believers be called mother that simply "waits", entrusting totally to the divine action the responsibility of calling, as if she were afraid of making the appeal; or that takes for granted that children and young people, in particular, will know how to welcome immediately the vocational appeal; or that does not offer considered pathways for the proposal of a vocation and the welcoming of it.

The vocational crisis of those called is also a crisis, today, of those calling. At times they are reticent and lacking in courage. If no-one calls, how can anyone respond?




40) Lumen gentium, 1.



41) Cf Propositions, 21.



42) The Epiclesis.



43) DC, 18.



44) DC, 13.






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