May 18, 2012

Catholic Evangelization Outreach / Fr. Eric Johnson

Our vocation gives flesh to the faith

When we hear the word “vocation,” we often think of particular states in life, such as marriage, single life or priesthood and religious life. While this is true, each of these vocations can also be thought of as particular ways of living out our common, baptismal call to holiness.

If these vocations are a way of living out our common call to love and service, then the idea of vocation begins to run much deeper. We can hear God call at every moment, constantly speaking his word of life to us, if our hearts are open to listening.

It is through listening and responding to the ways in which God calls me to love and serve in this moment, with the person in front of me, in this place, in the ordinary and routine circumstances of life, that I truly begin to live out my vocation, to give it flesh and to make it concrete.

This work of discernment is one of the places where vocation and evangelization come together. Without a doubt, evangelization is part of our vocational call to love and service.

Christ commands us to proclaim the Good News to all people. Yet, one of the ways that we accomplish this is through our own fidelity to a life of holiness, to hearing and responding to God’s call in our day-to-day lives.

The more that you and I are faithful to opening our hearts to God’s word in prayer, the more we bear witness to the importance of listening. The more that you and I strive to generously respond to God’s call in our day-to-day lives, the more we invite others to discover the joy found in a life of love and service.

Part of the work of evangelization is to be ever more faithful in living out our vocational calls. Such fidelity to the word of God is attractive. It draws others to contemplate the ways in which Christ might be calling them.

Evangelization, however, also involves the more active encouragement of vocations in the Church. In our culture, there is a tendency to look upon our vocation and the vocations of others as a purely private matter, reserved to the realm of the encounter between God and the individual.

But while any vocation is a deeply personal thing, it is never truly private. All vocations are oriented toward the service of God and neighbor, and to the building up of the Body of Christ, the Church. Because of this, the health and well-being of all vocations in the Church is a concern for all of us.

Evangelization is never really an abstract or purely general thing. It is a work that always seeks to reach out to real persons in concrete circumstances and to share God’s word of life. It also calls people to a concrete response.

Part of the work of evangelization involves helping others to recognize their gifts, to nurture those gifts, and to offer those gifts in the service of Christ and his Church. It involves direct invitation. We need to encourage married couples to the generous self-giving of Christian marriage. We need to witness to all the faithful the importance of conforming our own wills to God’s.

We need to directly ask people to consider offering their lives as priests and religious brothers and sisters because the Church needs truly good, holy, healthy and happy priests and religious.

Such an invitation helps us all to more faithfully listen to God’s word, and to bear better witness to Christ’s salvation, life and hope in the world.

(Father Eric Johnson is director of the archdiocesan Office of Priestly and Religious Vocations. He can be reached at For more information about vocations, log on to

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