Vocation Roundup

Vocation is one of the core ideas that guides our writing at Spiritual Friendship. Indeed, to be spiritual friends means to help each other respond to God’s call to love Him and to love our neighbor.

God gives each person gifts, and along with the gifts, a calling to build up the Body of Christ in some particular way. At the same time, our calling is connected with our way of life: are we called to marry or to remain celibate? What kind of community are we called into?

This post provides a roundup of some of the ideas writers at Spiritual Friendship have shared as we have reflected on God’s calling.

Eve Tushnet talks about how, when she first became Catholic, she thought of her calling as basically negative (don’t have gay sex) and intellectual (figure out why Church teaching is the way it is). Now, however, she thinks of it “much more as the positive task of discerning vocation: discerning how God is calling me to pour out love to others.” She has also written, “you can’t have a vocation of not-gay-marrying and not-having-sex. You can’t have a vocation of No.”

In a letter to Sheldon Vanauken, C. S. Lewis recognizes the importance of asking what the “positive life” of a homosexual Christian should be and elaborates: “in homosexuality, as in every other tribulation, those works can be made manifest: i.e. that every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will ‘turn the necessity to glorious gain.’”

Along the same lines, Chris Damian writes, “A vocation is not simply a condemning of the evil, the untrue, the ugly; it is an unveiling of the good, the true, and the beautiful. A vocation to celibacy is a calling into something, not just a calling away from something. Celibacy is much less about giving up and much more about opening up.”

At the same time, obedience to the Church’s teaching involves renunciation. Ron Belgau has written about how Jesus words about eunuchs are relevant to those who are celibate not by choice but by circumstance. Aaron Taylor has explored the same question in light of the words of Pope Pius XII. In 1945, Pius spoke to women who knew they would never be able to marry because the Second World War had claimed the lives of too many of their country’s men:

When one thinks of the women who voluntarily renounce matrimony in order to consecrate themselves to a life of contemplation, sacrifice, and charity, immediately there comes to one’s lips a luminous word: vocation!

[But] this vocation, this call of love, makes itself felt in very diverse ways . . . The young Christian woman who remains unmarried in spite of her own desires may—if she firmly believes in the providence of the heavenly Father—recognize in life’s vicissitudes the voice of the master: Magister adest et vocat te—the Master is at hand, and is calling you. . . . In the impossibility of matrimony, she discerns her vocation.

Thomas Sundaram has offered some thoughts on whether some vocations are “higher” than others, and the importance of embracing whatever vocation God has given you.

How can lesbian and gay Christians make a positive contribution to the Church’s witness? Aaron Taylor has also written about Why the Church and the World Need Celibate Gay Saints. And Jordan Monge, a straight woman, has written about Why I Need Celibate Gay Christians.

I am convinced that a community which feels called to do a most difficult task, which asks for great sacrifices and great self-denial in order to do the work of God which is obvious and self-evident, will have no problems at all in finding people who want to join in the challenging enterprise. He who promises hard work, long hours, and much sacrifice will attract the strong and generous, but he who promises protection, success and all the facilities of an affluent society will have to settle for the weak, the lazy and the spoiled.

— Henri Nouwen, Intimacy

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16 thoughts on “Vocation Roundup

  1. I’m have not seen this topic discussed here at all so I’ll throw it out there: homosexual men in the priesthood. Considering the higher than usual percentage of same-sex attracted men in the priesthood I’d love to read some thoughts on this subject.

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  3. I have just finished reading “Essay on the Myestery of History” by cardinal Jean Daniélou. I have found two well developed reflections about how to be christian witnesses in liminar areas: the cardinal was speaking about the workers who were called to two faithfulnesses: “the christian worker is taken and must be taken between two faithfulnesses, and ought not to deny none of them. On the first part, he ought to be faithful to his class, even if this social class is presently linked, in the world, to an antichristian action. On the other side, in the workers’ movement, he must avoid every kind of complicity with the idolatries that are present in that class. He is obliged to an absolute intransigence: without it, his behavior has no meaning. These two elements put together, render the situation of the christian worker contradictory, incomprehensible, impossible. Notwithstanding, it is the one he is called to live in.
    Why are we marvelling at that? Is it not, perhaps, the christian condition taken to the extreme? […]This makes the christian worker as the witness par excellence. All reject him. Christian people do not admit that he could be solidal to a movement that aims at destroying them…and they reject him for an excess of defense. But the marxists cannot accept for a long time the rejection of their idols…tHE CHRISTIAN WORKER IS REALLY THAT “RUBBISH OF THE WORLD”…He is a sign of contraddiction because his situation does not correspond to any extant reality. This situation has a merely PROPHETICAL MEANING. But it is precisely – in this resides its importance – the pre-figuration of the future, the adfirmation of the impossible…the first sketch of a christian worker civilization. The cardinal continues expressing the fact that the two signs of these liminar conditions are poverty expressed as “tragic uncertainty of a worker’s life”, and fraternity against the barriers erected by a bourgeoise society that are an hindrance both to the unification of the world on a social plan, but, above all, to the unification of the world on a spiritual plan. Then the cardinal goes on saying that what is a prefiguration of a christian-worker society, could be, in the present, an hindrance because Marx said that the protest of the proletariate must trascend into a protest against every kind of transcendence…and concludes reaffirning that the christian worker lives in a state of laceration, but this and other kinds of lacerations were the basic condition of the first christians before Constantine, immersed as they were in a pagan world….I have found in this reasoning a perfect pattern to “transcend” the worker problems and to face the christian homosexual’s one.

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  8. Sorry, Wesley, but I cannot get there with you. Being Gay is just not a calling from God.

    Colossians 3 (and other passages) provide a pretty definitive starting point for of what it is to be in Christ.

    Col. 3 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

    5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

    9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

    12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

    15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
    Whatever background we are from, this applies. We’re new creations and we’re free from with those former identities.

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