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