Paths of Love: The Discernment of Vocation

Texts of Pope John Paul II cited in the book

Here you will find a compilation of the texts of Pope John Paul II cited or mentioned in the book Paths of Love.

  • The commandments are ordered to love

    • Jesus shows that the commandments cannot be understood as a minimum limit not to be gone beyond, but rather as a path that opens up to a moral and spiritual journey towards perfection, the heart of which is love. (Veritatis Splendor, n. 15)
  • The counsels aim at increasing love

    • If, in accordance with Tradition, the profession of the evangelical counsels is centered on the three points of chastity, poverty and obedience, this usage seems to emphasize sufficiently clearly their importance as key elements and in a certain sense as a “summing up” of the entire economy of salvation.... “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” are present deep within man as the inheritance of original sin, as a result of which the relationship with the world, created by God and given to man to be ruled by him (cf. Gen 1:28), was disfigured in man’s heart in many ways. In the economy of the Redemption the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience constitute the most efficacious means for transforming in man’s heart this relationship with “the world.”...
         In the context of these words taken from the first letter of St. John, it is easy to see the extreme importance of the three evangelical counsels in the whole economy of Redemption. For evangelical chastity helps us to transform in our interior life everything that arises from the lust of the flesh; evangelical poverty, everything that is born from the lust of the eyes; and evangelical obedience enables us wholly to reform that which in the human heart proceeds from the pride of life (Redemptionis Donum, Chapter IV, n. 9).

    A vocation is the principal direction of a person's love

    • The word “vocation” indicates that there exists for every person a proper direction of his development through the commitment of his entire life in the service of certain values... And therefore a vocation always means some principal direction of love of a particular man.... The process of self-giving remains most intimately united with spousal love. A person then gives himself to the other person. Therefore, both virginity and marriage understood in a deep personalistic way, are vocations. (Love and Responsibility)
    • The spousal relationship that unites the spouses, husband and wife, must—according to the author of Ephesians—help us to understand the love that unites the Christ with the Church, the reciprocal love of Christ and the Church in which the eternal divine plan of man’s salvation is realized. Nevertheless, the meaning of the analogy is not exhausted here. While the analogy used in Ephesians clarifies the mystery of the relationship between the Christ and the Church, at the same time it reveals the essential truth about marriage, namely, that marriage corresponds to the vocation of Christians only when it mirrors the love that Christ, the Bridegroom, gives to the Church, his Bride, and which the Church (in likeness to the wife who is “subject,” and thus completely given) seeks to give back to Christ in return. This is the redeeming, saving love, the love with which man has been loved by God from eternity in Christ, “In him he chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and immaculate before him” (Eph 1:4). (General Audience of August 18, 1982).
    • When I think of you, dear young people, I realize that each of you is preparing not only to complete your studies, but to found your own family. A man and a woman leave their father and mother and cleave to their own husband or wife to begin a new family (cf. Gn 2:24). The Book of Genesis presents this vocation of the human creature in the simplest but very indicative words. At a certain moment in life, the young person, male or female, be-comes conscious of this call and takes account of it. Of course, it is a different call from a priestly or religious vocation, for which a special invitation by Christ, a personal call to follow him is decisive: "Follow me" (Mt 4:19). Nevertheless, awareness of the way that leads to founding a family is a vocation which requires clear discernment. It must be accepted knowingly, and to this end, it should be the subject of deep prayer.
          All this emphasizes an expectation which is above all awaiting someone: him or her; but also it anticipates love. indeed, only love can truly make two young people understand that they are called to walk through life together. (Homily of December 15, 1994).

    • Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. (Familiaris Consortio, n. 11).

    • According to God’s will, the family has been established as “an intimate partnership of life and love” (Vatican Council II, Gaudium et spes, n. 48). It has been sent to become more and more what it is, that is, a partnership of life and love. Thus, a person’s life decision for marriage and the family is a response to a personal call from God. It is a genuine vocation, which includes a mission. (Address to the members of the Schönstatt Family Association, April 17, 1998).
    • It is a characteristic feature of the human heart to accept even difficult demands in the name of love, for an ideal, and above all in the name of love for a person (love is, in fact, oriented by its very nature toward the person). And so, in this call to continence “for the kingdom of heaven,” first the disciples and then the whole living tradition of the Church quickly discovered the love for Christ himself as the Bridegroom of the Church, Bridegroom of souls, to whom he has given himself to the end (cf. Jn 13:1; 19:30) in the mystery of his Passover and of the Eucharist.
         In this way, continence “for the kingdom of heaven,” the choice of virginity or celibacy for one’s whole life, has become in the experience of the disciples and followers of Christ the act of a particular response to the love of the Divine Bridegroom, and therefore acquired the meaning of an act of spousal love, that is, of a spousal gift of self with the purpose of answering in a particular way the Redeemer’s spousal love; a gift of self understood as a renunciation, but realized above all out of love. (General Audience, April 21, 1982).

  • Importance of following a vocation

    • This, in fact, is a vocation: a proposal, an invitation, or rather a concern to bring the Savior to the world of today, which needs him so much. A refusal would mean not only rejecting the Lord’s word, but also abandoning many of our brothers and sisters in horror, in meaninglessness, or in the frustration of their most secret and noble aspirations, to which they neither know how to nor are able to respond alone. (Homily, December 20, 1981).
    • "He called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him" (Mk. 3:13). This "coming," which is the same as "following" Jesus, expresses the free response of the Twelve to the Master's call. We see it in the case of Peter and Andrew: "And he said to them, 'Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed him" (Mt. 4:19-20). The experience of James and John was exactly the same (cf. Mt. 4:21-22). And so it is always: In vocation there shine out at the same time God's gracious love and the highest possible exaltation of human freedom -- the freedom of following God's call and entrusting oneself to him.

    • In effect, grace and freedom are not opposed. On the contrary, grace enlivens and sustains human freedom, setting it free from the slavery of sin (cf. Jn. 8:34-36), healing it and elevating it in its ability to be open to receiving God's gift. And if we cannot in any way minimize the absolutely gratuitous initiative of God who calls, neither can we in any way minimize the serious responsibility which persons face in the challenge of their freedom. And so when he hears Jesus' invitation to "Come, follow me" the rich young man refuses, a sign -- albeit only a negative sign -- of his freedom: "At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions" (Mk. 10:22).

    • Freedom, therefore, is essential to vocation -- a freedom which, when it gives a positive response, appears as a deep personal adherence, as a loving gift -- or rather as a gift given back to the giver who is God who calls, an oblation: "The call" -- Paul VI once said -- "is as extensive as the response. There cannot be vocations unless they be free; that is, unless they be spontaneous offerings of oneself, conscious, generous, total....Oblations, we call them: Here lies in practice the heart of the matter.... It is the humble and penetrating voice of Christ who says, today as yesterday, and even more than yesterday: Come. Freedom reaches its supreme foundation: precisely that of oblation, of generosity, of sacrifice." (Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 16).
  • The universal vocation to holiness is the focus of Vatican II

    • Homily on May 9, 1988

      • "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good tidings to the afflicted" (Is 61:1).
            1. These words of the prophet Isaiah we have just heard were written several centuries before the coming of Christ.
            On the very day on which he began his messianic activity, as the evangelist Saint Luke tells us, Jesus, taking the book of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth, read these very same words. Before the people of his home town, with whom he had lived for thirty years, he declared: "Today the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21).
        The Lord presents himself openly as he whom the Father "has anointed" (Is 61:1) and "has sent" (ibid.) into the world; he who comes with the power of the Spirit of God to announce the Good News, the Good News of the Gospel.
            The words of the prophet Isaiah which Jesus applied to himself in the synagogue at Nazareth mark the beginning of the proclamation of the Gospel: the beginning of evangelization.
            Jesus Christ is the first evangelizer; thus, wherever the Good News is preached in the name of Christ, he himself acts there as the messenger of salvation. It is this salvation which the whole assembly sought, turning to God, saying, "Show us thy steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation!" (Ps 84 [85]:8).
            The Gospel is the revelation of God, who so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that man should have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:16). And it is also the revelation of the truth about man, about his dignity, and about his supreme and definitive vocation.
            We call it Good News or "Good Tidings", because it brings consolation to all those who are afflicted (cf. Is 61:1); because it announces freedom to those who find themselves in the slavery of sin and death (cf. ibid.); because it heals the wounds of the brokenhearted (cf. ibid.) and proclaims "the year of the Lord's favor" (Is 61:2), that is, the life of God in human hearts.
            2. Jesus Christ, at the same time as he gave the Gospel to the Church, told his Apostles-he commanded them in the first place-but all of us were also included with them: "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to the whole creation" (Mk 16:15); "to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
            My brothers and sisters the year is approaching when the American Continent, and particularly Latin America, will give thanks to the Blessed Trinity for five hundred years of evangelization, that is, for the five hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the "Good News" to what was at that time "the end of the earth". Disciples of Christ proclaimed the Gospel in the lands recently discovered. Then, as now, the words which the Master spoke still applied: "he who believes and is baptized will be saved: but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk 16:16). The first evangelizers, conscious of that precept and moved by faith in those words of Christ and by the love of souls, worked in an admirable way to bring Christ to the recently discovered peoples. At the same time, they carried out a prodigious work of social and cultural advancement, which today is the pride and patrimony of the entire Continent, and forms part of the national identity of all these countries. Some of the fruits of this work of civilization include outstanding examples of artistic and literary work, grammars and catechisms in the main. indigenous languages, the ordinances and laws of the Indies. The Good News was spread, in many instances, before European settlers organized themselves in a permanent and it was always a harmonizing factor and a defense of the rights of the weakest.

        Justifiable pride

            3. This process, with its local variations, also took place in Uruguay. Indeed, in your country, the Guarani settlements of the Jesuits Fathers in the north, and the. foundations of the Franciscan Fathers at the mouths of the rivers Negro and Uruguay, preceded the new urban settlements. Indians and missionaries from those historic institutions were actively involved in the establishment, construction and defense of the subsequent townships. The Church was also present in Montevideo from its birth as a city under the patronage of Saints Philip and James. It was founded by families who, accompanied by some ecclesiastics, came from the Canary Islands in the ship Nuestra de la Encina. With justifiable p ride, Uruguayans acknowledge constant presence of Nuestra Senora de los Treinta y Tres in the establishing of this country as a nation.
            The resolute work of so many priests, religious and lay people, and the flame of the faith which is always alive in Christian families, true domestic churches, have made possible the continuity of that first evangelization and the joyful reality of Christian life which I have experienced during my stay among you. Your presence here is a clear sign of this "fruit" (Ps 84 [85]:13), which the "earth" (ibid.), watered by the rain of the Lord, has yielded.
            All of you who join me in this Eucharist are part of that garland and those jewels (cf. Is 61:10), with which God adorns those who are faithful, those who do not cease in their effort to maintain the faith in this country. This is why it is a great joy for me to be among you in Salto. I greet you all with deepest affection: the Bishop of this diocese, the authorities, the priests, men and women religious, and all the faithful. I also greet all my brothers in the episcopate who are here present, and in particular the Bishop and faithful of Tacuarembo, those who have come from other parts of Uruguay and also those who have traveled from neighboring parts of Argentina and Brazil.
            4. We have heard from the prophet Isaiah: "For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as the garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all nations" (Is 61:1 1).
            In 1992, will give thanks to God in a special way, for the continual "springing forth" and the continual "seeds" which the evangelization begun five centuries ago has produced. We will also remember with gratitude those who tirelessly, generation after generation, have proclaimed the "Good News" here. Finally, we recall with joy those "first Christians" of Latin America who were like good soil, in which the seed took root and gave "fruit, one a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (cf. Mt 13:8).
            Let us prepare ourselves now for the celebration of this Fifth Centenary, by carrying out, in the entire American Continent, and in Uruguay in particular, "a new evangelization", "new in its fervor, in its methods, in its expressions" (Address to CELAM, 9 March 1983).
            It will be "new in its fervor" if, in your work, you seek more and more union with Christ, the first evangelizer.
            "For God will speak peace to his people, to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts" (Ps 84 [85]:9).
            "God announces peace ( - ) to those who turn to him in their hearts". The new phase of evangelization begins with the conversion of heart. "God will speak peace ( - ) to his saints". To understand this announcement of peace we have to be his friends, we have to discover once again that the Christian vocation is a vocation to holiness (cf. Lumen Gentium,11), since Christ has said to I: "You, therefore, must be perfect. as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). As my revered predecessor, Pope Paul VI, has already pointed out, the Second Vatican Council "has, with urgent insistence, exhorted all the faithful of whatever condition or level, to reach for the fullness of Christian life and the perfection of charity. This strong invitation can be considered as the most characteristic element of all the Magisterium of the Council, and thus, its final end" (Sanctitatis Clarior, 19 March 1969). This is the key to renewing the zeal needed for this new evangelization.
    • Christifideles Laici (On the Christian Faithful)

      • 16. We come to a full sense of the dignity of the lay faithful if we consider the prime and fundamental vocation that the Father assigns to each of them in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit: the vocation to holiness, that is, the perfection of charity. Holiness is the greatest testimony of the dignity conferred on a disciple of Christ.

        The Second Vatican Council has significantly spoken on the universal call to holiness. It is possible to say that this call to holiness is precisely the basic charge entrusted to all the sons and daughters of the Church by a Council which intended to bring a renewal of Christian life based on the gospel(41). This charge is not a simple moral exhortation, but an undeniable requirement arising from the mystery of the Church: she is the choice vine, whose branches live and grow with the same holy and life-giving energies that come from Christ; she is the Mystical Body, whose members share in the same life of holiness of the Head who is Christ; she is the Beloved Spouse of the Lord Jesus, who delivered himself up for her sanctification (cf. Eph 5:25 ff.). The Spirit that sanctified the human nature of Jesus in Mary's virginal womb (cf. Lk 1:35) is the same Spirit that is abiding and working in the Church to communicate to her the holiness of the Son of God made man.

        It is ever more urgent that today all Christians take up again the way of gospel renewal, welcoming in a spirit of generosity the invitation expressed by the apostle Peter "to be holy in all conduct" (1 Pt 1:15). The 1985 Extraordinary Synod, twenty years after the Council, opportunely insisted on this urgency: "Since the Church in Christ is a mystery, she ought to be considered the sign and instrument of holiness... Men and women saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult circumstances in the Church's history. Today we have the greatest need of saints whom we must assiduously beg God to raise up"(42).

        Everyone in the Church, precisely because they are members, receive and thereby share in the common vocation to holiness. In the fullness of this title and on equal par with all other members of the Church, the lay faithful are called to holiness: "All the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity"(43). "All of Christ's followers are invited and bound to pursue holiness and the perfect fulfillment of their own state of life"(44).

        The call to holiness is rooted in Baptism and proposed anew in the other Sacraments, principally in the Eucharist. Since Christians are reclothed in Christ Jesus and refreshed by his Spirit, they are "holy". They therefore have the ability to manifest this holiness and the responsibility to bear witness to it in all that they do. The apostle Paul never tires of admonishing all Christians to live "as is fitting among saints" (Eph 5:3).

        Life according to the Spirit, whose fruit is holiness (cf. Rom 6:22;Gal 5:22), stirs up every baptized person and requires each to follow and imitate Jesus Christ, in embracing the Beatitudes, in listening and meditating on the Word of God, in conscious and active participation in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, in personal prayer, in family or in community, in the hunger and thirst for justice, in the practice of the commandment of love in all circumstances of life and service to the brethren, especially the least, the poor and the suffering.
  • Unique value of Religious Life

    • The Church has always seen in the profession of the evangelical counsels a special path to holiness. The very expressions with which it describes it—the school of the Lord’s service, the school of love and holiness, the way or state of perfection—indicate the effectiveness and the wealth of means which are proper to this form of evangelical life, and the particular commitment made by those who embrace it. It is not by chance that there have been so many consecrated persons down the centuries who have left behind eloquent testimonies of holiness and have undertaken particularly generous and demanding works of evangelization and service. (Vita Consecrata, n. 35).
    • A man and a woman leave their father and mother and join themselves to their own husband or wife to begin a new family (cf. Gn 2:24). The Book of Genesis presents this vocation of the human creature in the simplest but very significant words. At a certain moment in life, the young person, male or female, perceives this call and becomes aware of it. Of course, it is a different call from a priestly or religious vocation, for which a special invitation on Christ’s part, a personal call to follow him is decisive: “Follow me!” (Mt 4:19; Homily of December 15, 1994).
    • Your reflections on vocations to the priesthood and religious life are being linked with reflections on the need for all the members of the Church to be conscious of their common calling to live the Gospel message and to build up the Body of Christ.
    • It is indeed fitting to emphasize over and over again the universal vocation to holiness of the whole People of God. It is truly opportune to proclaim with insistence the need for all the faithful to be aware of the precise responsibilities that derive from their Baptism and Confirmation. In this regard the Second Vatican Council says explicitly that the laity "are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord himself" (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 3).
    •     A keen realization of their Christian dignity is a great incentive to all the People of God to fulfill their sacred role in worship, Christian living, evangelization and human advancement. As pastors of the flock it is our responsibility to encourage all our brothers and sisters in the faith to live a life worthy of the calling which they have received (cf. Eph 4:1). It is our task to assure them of their shared responsibility for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and at the same time to encourage them in their individual contributions to the Church and to the whole of society. These individual contributions are expressive of the rich variety characteristic of the Body of Christ.
          One of the great tasks of all Catholics is to help foster those conditions in the community that will facilitate individual and social Christian living. Only if the faithful are responding to their personal Christian vocation will the community be sustained in its respect and love for Christian marriage and for the priesthood and religious life.
          An integral part of Christian family life is the inculcation in its members of an appreciation of the priesthood and religious life in relation to the whole Body of the Church. Our common pastoral experience confirms the fact that there is a very special need in the Church today to promote vocations to the priesthood and to religious life. It also confirms the fact that generous and persevering efforts made in inviting young people to respond to these vocations have been rewarded. I know that in your deliberations you will discuss appropriate ways that this can be ever more effectively accomplished.
    •     On my part I would like to emphasize above all the general attitude towards vocations to be cultivated within ourselves and to be shared with the clergy and faithful. In this regard it is necessary to foster a profound trust in the power of the Paschal Mystery as the perennial source of vocations to. the priesthood and religious life. In every age the Church not only reiterates her esteem for these vocations but she acknowledges their unique and irreplaceable character. She likewise expresses the profound conviction that the Lord who, wills them for his Church is ever active in calling young people to fulfill his will.
          The Church's earnestness in promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life is explained by her desire to be faithful to God's will to maintain both the hierarchical structure of his Church and the state of religious life. The Church extols and promotes the special consecration proper to both of these vocations even if a certain number of functions exercised by priests and religious are increasingly shared by the laity.
          Dear Brothers: in union with the whole Church let us face the vocations challenge with that equanimity and realism which take into account the effectiveness of prayer, and which are never devoid of supernatural hope. Let us force-fully proclaim the power of the Risen Christ to continue to draw young people to himself in every age of the Church and therefore ill our own. Let us look to the Paschal Mystery as the inexhaustible source of strength for young people to follow Christ with generosity and sacrifice, in chastity, poverty and obedience, and in perfect charity.
          The Church cannot exempt herself from utilizing every worthy means to attract vocations, including proper publicity and personal example; yet, she unhesitatingly pro-claims that her strength comes only from the Lord. It is he alone who gives vocations and the grace to accept them and to overcome obstacles opposed to them. (Letter to the Bishops of the Unites States of America, May 14, 1986).
    • The reference to the nuptial union of Christ and the Church gives marriage itself its highest dignity: in particular, the sacrament of matrimony makes the spouses enter into the mystery of Christ’s union with the Church. However, the profession of virginity or celibacy enables consecrated persons to share more directly in the mystery of this marriage. While conjugal love goes to Christ the Bridegroom through a human union, virginal love goes directly to the person of Christ through an immediate union with him, without intermediaries: a truly complete and decisive spiritual espousal. Thus in the person of those who profess and live consecrated chastity, the Church expresses her union as Bride with Christ the Bridegroom to the greatest extent. For this reason it must be said that the virginal life is found at the heart of the Church. (General Audience of November 23, 1994).
  • Religious life is founded by Christ

      • When Jesus called disciples to follow him, he taught them the need for an obedience devoted to his person. This was not only a question of the common observance of the divine law and the dictates of a true and upright human conscience but of a much greater commitment. Following Christ meant being willing to do all that he personally commanded and putting oneself under his direction in serving the Gospel for the coming of God's kingdom (cf. Lk 9:60, 62).
            Therefore, in addition to the commitment to celibacy and poverty, with his "Follow me" Jesus also asked for one of obedience, which extended to the disciples his own obedience to the Father in the condition of the Incarnate Word who became the "Servant of Yahweh" (cf. Is 42:1; 52:13-53; 12; Phil2:7). Like poverty and chastity, obedience thus marked the fulfillment of Jesus' mission and indeed was its basic principle, expressed in the very intense feeling that led him to say: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work" (Jn 4:34, cf. Redemptionis donum, n. 13). We know from the Gospel that in virtue of this attitude, Jesus went so far as the sacrifice of the Cross with total self dedication, when-as St. Paul wrote- he who was divine in nature "humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8). The Letter to the Hebrews stresses that Jesus Christ "although he was Son, learned obedience through what he suffered" (Heb 5:8).
            Jesus himself revealed that his heart's desire was to sacrifice himself totally, as it were through a mysterious pondus Crucis, a sort of law of gravity of immolated life, which would find its greatest expression in the prayer of Gethsemane: "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mk 14:36).

        Redemption came through obedience of one man

            2. Heirs of the disciples directly called by Jesus to follow him in his messianic mission religious - the Council says - "by their profession of obedience, offer the full dedication of their own wills as a sacrifice of themselves to God, and by this means they are united more permanently and securely with God's saving will" (Perfectae caritatis, n. 14). Their response to God's saving will justifies the renunciation of their own freedom. As openness to God's saving plan against the limitless horizon in which the Father embraces all creation, evangelical obedience goes far beyond the disciple's personal destiny: it is a sharing in the work of universal Redemption.
            This salvific value was underscored by St. Paul in regard to Christ's obedience. If sin came into the world through an act of disobedience, universal salvation was obtained by the Redeemer's obedience: "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous" (Rom 5:19). In the patristic literature of the early centuries the parallel St. Paul made between Adam and Christ was taken up and developed, as was the reference to Mary in relation to Eve, from the aspect of obedience. St. Irenaeus wrote: "The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by Mary's obedience" (Adversus haereses, III, 22, 4). "As the former was seduced into disobeying God, so the latter was convinced to obey God" (ibid.). For this reason Mary became the cooperator of salvation: Causa salutis (ibid.). By their obedience religious are also deeply involved in the work of salvation.
            3. St. Thomas sees in religious obedience the most perfect form of imitating Christ, who St. Paul says "became obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8). Obedience thus holds the chief place in the holocaust of religious profession (cf. Summa Theol., II-II,-q. 186, ea. 5, 7, 8).
            Following this strong, beautiful Christian tradition, the Council states: "After the example of Jesus Christ . . .  religious moved by the Holy Spirit subject themselves in faith to those who hold God's place, their superiors. Through them they are led to serve all their brothers in Christ, just as Christ ministered to his brothers in submission to the Father and laid down his life for the redemption of many" (Perfectae caritatis n. 14). Obedience to the Father was lived by Jesus without excluding human intermediaries. As a child Jesus obeyed Joseph and Mary: St. Luke says that he "was obedient to them" (Lk 2:51).
            Thus Jesus is the model for those who obey human authority by perceiving in this authority a sign of God's will. By the evangelical counsel of obedience religious are called to obey their superiors as God's representatives. For this reason, in explaining a text (ch. 68 of St. Benedict's Rule) St. Thomas asserts that religious must abide by the judgment of the superior (cf. Summa Theol., I-II, q. 13, a. 5, ad 3).
            4. It is easy to understand that the difficulty of obedience often lies in perceiving this divine representation in a human creature. But if the mystery of the Cross appears here, it should be kept in view. It should always be remembered that religious obedience is not simply a human submission to a human authority. Whoever obeys, submits himself to God, to the divine will expressed in the will of the superiors. It is a matter of faith. Religious must believe in God who communicates his will to them through their superiors. Even when the superiors' faults are apparent, their will, if not contrary to the law of God or to the Rule, expresses the divine will. Even when from the standpoint of human judgment the decision does not seem wise, a faith judgment accepts the mystery of God's will: mysterium Crucis.
            Moreover, human mediation, though imperfect, bears a stamp of authenticity: that of the Church, which by her authority approves religious institutes and their laws as sure ways of Christian perfection. In addition to this reason of an ecclesial nature there is another stemming from the purpose of religious institutes: "to contribute towards the building up of the Body of Christ according to God's plan" (Perfectae caritatis, n. 14). For the religious who regards and practices obedience in this way, it becomes the secret of true happiness given by the Christian certitude of having followed God's will instead of his own, with an intense love for Christ and the Church.
            In addition, the Council urges superiors first to be docile to God's will, to be aware of their responsibility, to foster a spirit of service, to show charity to their brethren, to respect their subjects as human persons, to create an atmosphere of cooperation, to listen to their brethren willingly, while retaining their authority to make decisions (cf. Perfectae caritatis, n. 14).
  • Religious life (or virginity or celibacy) should be chosen for the right reasons

    • Speaking of continence for the kingdom of heaven and founding it on the example of his own life, Christ undoubtedly wanted his disciples to understand it above all in relation to the “kingdom” that he had come to announce and for which he indicated the right ways. The continence about which he spoke is precisely one of these ways and, as is clear from the context of Matthew, it is a particularly valid and privileged way. In fact, that preference given to celibacy and virginity “for the kingdom” was an absolute novelty in comparison with the tradition of the Old Covenant and had a decisive importance both for the ethos and the theology of the body.

      2. In his statement, Christ stressed above all the finality of continence. He says that the way of continence, to which he himself gives testimony with his own life, not only exists and is not only possible, but is particularly valid and important “for the kingdom of heaven.” It must be so, given that Christ himself chose it for himself. And if this way is so valid and important, a particular value must belong to continence for the kingdom of heaven. As we already pointed out, Christ does not face the problem on the same level and in the same line of reasoning in which the disciples had placed it when they said, “If this is the is not advantageous to marry” (Mt 19:10). Their words implied at root a certain utilitarianism. In his response, by contrast, Christ indirectly indicated that if marriage possesses its full fittingness and value for the kingdom of heaven, a fundamental, universal, and ordinary value, faithful to its original institution by the Creator (recall that precisely in this context the Teacher appealed to the “beginning”), then continence on its part possesses a particular and “exceptional” value for this kingdom. It is obvious that we are dealing here with continence chosen consciously for supernatural reasons.

      3. In his statement, when Christ emphasizes before all else the supernatural finality of this continence, he does so not only in an objective, but also in an explicitly subjective sense, that is, he indicates the need for a motivation corresponding in an adequate and full way to the objective finality declared in the expression “for the kingdom of heaven.” To realize the end in question—that is, to discover in continence that particular spiritual fruitfulness that comes from the Holy Spirit—one must will it and choose it in the power of a deep faith that not only shows us the kingdom of God in its future fulfillment, but also allows and enables us in a particular way to identify ourselves with the truth and the reality of this kingdom, precisely as it is revealed by Christ in his evangelical message and above all by the personal example of his life and actions. This is why it was said above that continence “for the kingdom of heaven”—inasmuch as it is an indubitable sign of the “other world”—bears within itself above all the inner dynamism of the mystery of the redemption of the body (see Lk 20:35), and in this meaning it also possesses the characteristic of a particular likeness with Christ. The one who consciously chooses such continence chooses in some sense a particular participation in the mystery of the redemption (of the body); he wishes to complete it in a particular way in his own flesh (see Col 1:24), finding thereby also the imprint of a likeness with Christ.

      4. All of this refers to the motivation of the choice (or to its end in the subjective sense): in choosing continence for the kingdom of heaven, man “should” let himself be guided exactly by such motivation. In the case in question, Christ does not say that man has an obligation to it (in any case, it is certainly not a question of a duty that springs from a commandment); still, without any doubt, his concise words about continence “for the kingdom of heaven” strongly highlight precisely its motivation. They highlight the motive (that is, they indicate the finality of which the subject is aware) both in the first part of the whole statement and in the second, by indicating that what is at stake is a particular choice, a choice proper to a rather exceptional vocation that is not universal and ordinary. At the beginning of the first part of his statement, Christ speaks about understanding (“Not all can understand it, but only those to whom it has been granted,” Mt 19:11); and it is not a question of an “understanding” in the abstract, but an understanding that influences the decision, the personal choice in which the “gift,” that is, the grace, must find an adequate resonance in the human will. Such an “understanding” thus involves motivation. Motivation then influences the choice of continence, which is accepted after one has understood its meaning “for the kingdom of heaven.” In the second part of his statement, Christ declares that man “makes himself” a eunuch when he chooses continence for the kingdom of heaven and makes it the fundamental situation or state of his whole earthly life. In a decision that is consolidated in this way, the supernatural motive, from which the decision itself took its origin, subsists. It subsists by renewing itself, I would say, continually.

      We have already turned our attention to the particular meaning of the final statement. When Christ speaks in this case about “making oneself” a eunuch, he not only highlights the specific weight of this decision, which is explained by the motivation born from a deep faith, but he does not even attempt to hide the travail that such a decision and its long-lasting consequences can have for man, for the normal (and also noble) inclinations of his nature. (General Audience, March 31, 1982).

    • If someone chooses marriage, he must choose it exactly as it was instituted by the Creator “from the beginning”; he must seek in it those values that correspond to the plan of God. If on the other hand someone decides to follow continence for the kingdom of heaven, he must seek in it the values proper to such a vocation. In other words, he must act in conformity with his chosen vocation (General Audience, April 21, 1982).
    • Paul observes that the man who is bound by the marriage bond “finds himself divided” (1 Cor 7:34) because of his family duties (see 1 Cor 7:34). From this observation, it seems thus to follow that the unmarried person should be characterized by an inner integration, by a unification that would allow him to devote himself completely to the service of the kingdom of God in all its dimensions. This attitude presupposes abstention from marriage, exclusively “for the kingdom of God,” and a life directed uniquely to this goal. Otherwise “division” can secretly enter also the life of an unmarried person, who, being deprived, on the one hand, of married life and, on the other hand, of a clear goal for which he should renounce marriage, could find himself faced with a certain emptiness. (General Audience, July 7, 1982).
    • Outstanding among the evangelical counsels, according to the Second Vatican Council, is the precious gift of "perfect continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven": a gift of divine grace, "granted to some by the Father (cf. Mt 19:11; 1 Cor 7:7), so that in the state of virginity or celibacy they may more easily devote themselves to God alone with an undivided heart (cf. 1 Cor 7:32-34) . . . [It is] a sign and stimulus of charity and a singular source of fruitfulness in the world" (Constitution Lumen Gentium, n. 42). Traditionally, "three vows" are usually spoken of - poverty, chastity and obedience - beginning with the discussion of poverty as detachment from external goods, ranked on a lower level with regard to the goods of body and soul (cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theol., II-II, q. 186, a. 3). The Council, instead, expressly mentions "consecrated chastity" before the other two vows (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 43; Decree Perfectae caritatis, un. 12, 13, 14), because it considers chastity as the determining commitment of the state of consecrated life. It is also the evangelical counsel that most obviously shows the power of grace, which raises love beyond the human being's natural inclinations.
    • ... Jesus calls attention to the gift of divine light necessary to “understand” the way of voluntary celibacy. Not all can understand it, in the sense that not all are “able” to grasp its meaning, to accept it, to put it into practice. This gift of light and decision is only granted to some. It is a privilege granted them for the sake of a greater love. We should not be surprised then if many, not understanding the value of consecrated celibacy, are not attracted to it, and often are not even able to appreciate it. This means that there is a diversity of ways, charisms, and functions, as Saint Paul recognized, who spontaneously wished to share his ideal of virginal life with all. Indeed he wrote: “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each,” he adds, “has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1 Cor 7:7). 
    • ... On man’s part an act of deliberate will is required, aware of the duty and of the privilege of consecrated celibacy. It is not a question of simply abstaining from marriage, nor an unmotivated and almost passive observance of the norms imposed by chastity. The act of renunciation has a positive aspect in the total dedication to the kingdom, which implies absolute devotion to God “who is supremely loved” and to the service of his kingdom. Therefore, the choice must be well-thought out and stem from a firm, conscious decision that has matured deep within the individual. (General Audience, November 16, 1994).
  • This right motivation depends upon a right understanding, which is a gift of God
    • St. Augustine does not see in this resolution the fulfillment of a divine precept, but a vow freely taken. In this way it was possible to present Mary as an example to “holy virgins” throughout the Church’s history....
      The Angel does not ask Mary to remain a virgin, it is Mary who freely reveals her intention of virginity. In this commitment is found her choice of love that leads her to dedicate herself totally to the Lord by a life of virginity.
      In stressing the spontaneity of Mary’s decision, we should not forget that God’s initiative is at the origin of every vocation. In directing herself to the life of virginity, the maiden of Nazareth was responding to an interior vocation, that is, to an inspiration of the Holy Spirit that enlightened her about the meaning and value of the virginal gift of herself. (General Audience, August 7, 1996).
    • Christ speaks about an understanding (“Not all can understand it, but only those to whom it has been granted,” Mt 19:11); and it is not a question of an “understanding” in the abstract, but an understanding that influences the decision, the personal choice in which the “gift,” that is, the grace, must find an adequate resonance in the human will. (General Audience of March 31, 1982).
  • Everyone has a vocation

    • Jesus has a specific task in life for each and every one of us. Each one of us is hand-picked, called by name by Jesus! There is no one among us who does not have a divine vocation! (Homily of June 1, 1982).
    • I wish to embrace everyone with my cordial greeting, both you who have gathered here and those who have been unable to come, thinking of each one precisely in the light of these two principal themes of today's liturgy.
          I think, in fact, that everyone finds himself in a moment of conversion, which is known only to himself and to God. Is someone perhaps still very far from God because of his sins? Or perhaps is it the "world" which dims his view of God?. . . Perhaps the first conversion can not yet be seen in him?. . . Then I think too that each one here has a vocation, even if some people are perhaps not aware of having it. They do not know that every. thing that fills their lives, if it is lawful in itself, can be, in fact is, precisely the task assigned to him by God. (Homily, January 24, 1982).
    • In presenting the complete picture of the People of God and recalling the place among that people held not only by priests but also by the laity, not only by the representatives of the Hierarchy but also by those of the Institutes of Consecrated Life, the Second Vatican Council did not deduce this picture merely from a sociological premise. The Church as a human society can of course be examined and described according to the categories used by the sciences with regard to any human society. But these categories are not enough. For the whole of the community of the People of God and for each member of it what is in question is not just a specific "social membership"; rather, for each and every one what is essential is a particular "vocation". Indeed, the Church as the People of God is also-according to the teaching of Saint Paul mentioned above, of which Pius XII reminded us in wonderful terms-"Christ's Mystical Body". Membership in that body has for its source a particular call, united with the saving action of grace. Therefore, if we wish to keep in mind this community of the People of God, which is so vast and so extremely differentiated, we must see first and foremost Christ saying in a way to each member of the community: "Follow me". It is the community of the disciples, each of whom in a different way -at times very consciously and consistently, at other times not very consciously and very inconsistently-is following Christ. This shows also the deeply "personal" aspect and dimension of this society, which, in spite of all the deficiencies of its community life-in the human meaning of this word-is a community precisely because all its members form it together with Christ himself, at least because they bear in their souls the indelible mark of a Christian. (Redemptor Hominis, n. 21).
  • What is a vocation? How is it recognized?

    • What is a vocation? It is an interior call of grace, which falls into the soul like a seed, to mature within it. (Angelus, December 14, 1980).
    • Apart from the universal elements that are found in every vocation, each call takes place concretely in ways that are always new and always different—and let us add, always beautiful and wonderful, because God is always wonderful in all that he does. (Homily of September 7, 1986).
  • Vocation is a Dialogue

    • Do not be slow to answer the Lord’s call! From the passage of the Book of Exodus read to us in this Mass we can learn how the Lord acts in every vocation (cf. Ex 3:1–6, 9–12). First, he provokes a new awareness of his presence—the burning bush. When we begin to show an interest he calls us by name. When our answer becomes more specific and like Moses we say: “Here I am” (cf. v. 4), then he reveals more clearly both himself and his compassionate love for his people in need. Gradually he leads us to discover the practical way in which we should serve him: “I will send you.” And usually it is then that fears and doubts come to disturb us and make it more difficult to decide. It is then that we need to hear the Lord’s assurance: “I am with you” (Ex 3:12). Every vocation is a deep personal experience of the truth of these words: “I am with you.” (Homily, January 13, 1995).
    • In the hidden recesses of the human heart the grace of a vocation takes the form of a dialogue. It is a dialogue between Christ and an individual, in which a personal invitation is given. Christ calls the person by name and says: “Come, follow me.” This call, this mysterious inner voice of Christ, is heard most clearly in silence and prayer. Its acceptance is an act of faith. (Homily, February 10, 1986)
    • The Lord tells the Prophet Jeremiah that his vocation was part of God’s eternal plan even before he was born... These words remind us that each person has a place in God’s plan and that each of us should carefully listen to God’s voice in prayer in order to discover the special calling we have received in Christ. In many other ways too we learn to know God’s will: through important events in our lives, through the example and wisdom of others, and through the prayerful judgment of his Church. Among all these channels of God's grace, the family has a special role in fostering the Christian vocation of its members. In a very real way, each Christian family is a "school of Christ ", a place where children first learn to know and love God, to obey His word and to respond to His call. In families "which are alive with the spirit of faith, love and reverence" (Optatam Totius, 2), the light of faith can shine forth in the lives of children, and the seed of a vocation can receive the nourishment it needs to blossom and grow strong. (Homily of September 2, 1990).

    • The history of every priestly vocation, as indeed of every Christian vocation, is the history of an inexpressible dialogue between and human beings, between the love of God who calls and the freedom of individuals who respond lovingly to him. These two indivisible aspects of vocation, God's gratuitous gift and the responsible freedom of human beings, are reflected in a splendid and very effective way in the brief words with which the evangelist Mark presents the calling of the Twelve: Jesus "went up into the hills, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him" (Mk. 3:13). On the one hand, we have the completely free decision of Jesus; on the other, the "coming" of the Twelve, their "following" Jesus.

      This is the constant paradigm, the fundamental datum of every vocation: whether of prophets, apostles, priests, religious, the lay faithful -- of everyone.

      First of all, indeed in a prevenient and decisive way, comes the free and gracious intervention of God who calls. It is God who takes the initiative in the call. This was, for example, the experience of the prophet Jeremiah: "Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ' Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you prophet to the nations"' (Jer. 1:4-5). The same truth is presented by the apostle Paul, who roots every vocation in the eternal election in Christ, made "before the foundation of the world" and "according to the purpose of his will" (Eph. 1:4-5). The absolute primacy of grace in vocation is most perfectly proclaimed in the words of Jesus: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (Jn. 15:16).

      If the priestly vocation bears unequivocal witness to the primacy of grace, God's free and sovereign decision to call man calls for total respect. It cannot be forced in the slightest by any human ambition, and it cannot be replaced by any human decision. Vocation is a gift of God's grace and never a human right, such that "one can never consider priestly life as a simply human affair, nor the mission of the minister as a simply personal project." Every claim or presumption on the part of those called is thus radically excluded (cf Heb 5:4ff ). Their entire heart and spirit should be filled with an amazed and deeply felt gratitude. an unshakable trust and hope, because those who have been called know that they are rooted not in their own strength but in the unconditional faithfulness of God who calls.

      "He called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him" (Mk. 3:13). This "coming," which is the same as "following" Jesus, expresses the free response of the Twelve to the Master's call. We see it in the case of Peter and Andrew: "And he said to them, 'Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed him" (Mt. 4:19-20). The experience of James and John was exactly the same (cf. Mt. 4:21-22). And so it is always: In vocation there shine out at the same time God's gracious love and the highest possible exaltation of human freedom -- the freedom of following God's call and entrusting oneself to him.

      In effect, grace and freedom are not opposed. On the contrary, grace enlivens and sustains human freedom, setting it free from the slavery of sin (cf. Jn. 8:34-36), healing it and elevating it in its ability to be open to receiving God's gift. And if we cannot in any way minimize the absolutely gratuitous initiative of God who calls, neither can we in any way minimize the serious responsibility which persons face in the challenge of their freedom. And so when he hears Jesus' invitation to "Come, follow me" the rich young man refuses, a sign -- albeit only a negative sign -- of his freedom: "At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions" (Mk. 10:22).

      Freedom, therefore, is essential to vocation -- a freedom which, when it gives a positive response, appears as a deep personal adherence, as a loving gift -- or rather as a gift given back to the giver who is God who calls, an oblation: "The call" -- Paul VI once said -- "is as extensive as the response. There cannot be vocations unless they be free; that is, unless they be spontaneous offerings of oneself, conscious, generous, total....Oblations, we call them: Here lies in practice the heart of the matter.... It is the humble and penetrating voice of Christ who says, today as yesterday, and even more than yesterday: Come. Freedom reaches its supreme foundation: precisely that of oblation, of generosity, of sacrifice."

      The free oblation, which constitutes the intimate and most precious core of a person's response to God who calls, finds its incomparable model, indeed its living root, in the most free oblation which Jesus Christ, the first of those called, made to the Father's will: "Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ' Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me.... Then I said, lo, I have come to do your will, O God"' (Heb. 10:5, 7).

      The creature who more than any other has lived the full truth of vocation is Mary the virgin mother, and she did so in intimate communion with Christ: No one has responded with a love greater than hers to the immense love of God (Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 36).
  • Factors of discernment are both internal and external

    • We could speak here of the “life” vocation, which in a way is identical with that plan of life which each of you draws up in the period of your youth... This “plan” is a “vocation” inasmuch as in it there make themselves felt the various factors which call. These factors usually make up a particular order of values (also called a “hierarchy of values”), from which emerges an ideal to be realized, an ideal which is attractive to a young heart. In this process the “vocation” becomes a “plan,” and the plan begins to be also a vocation.
           ...During youth a person puts the question, “What must I do?” not only to himself and to other people from whom he can expect an answer, especially his parents and teachers, but he puts it also to God, as his Creator and Father. He puts it in the context of this particular interior sphere in which he has learned to be in a close relationship with God, above all in prayer. He therefore asks God: “What must I do?”, what is your plan for my life? Your creative, fatherly plan? What is your will? I wish to do it.
           In this context the “plan” takes on the meaning of a “life vocation,” as something which is entrusted by God to an individual as a task. Young people, entering into themselves and at the same time entering into conversation with Christ in prayer, desire as it were to read the eternal thought which God the Creator and Father has in their regard. They then become convinced that the task assigned to them by God is left completely to their own freedom, and at the same time is determined by various circumstances of an interior and exterior nature. Examining these circumstances, the young person, boy or girl, constructs his or her plan of life and at the same time recognizes this plan as the vocation to which God is calling him or her. (Pope John Paul II to the Youth of the World, n. 9). Read more from this document.

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Summary of Pope John Paul II on vocation