I always find it providentially suitable that Vocations Awareness is during the first week after the Christmas season. Not because it begins with the feast of the Baptism of our Lord but because the day following the Baptism we are all busy doing the simple tasks of "un-decorating" the monastery and chapel. Decorating may be exhausting but it's fun.Un-decorating is not so fun but it is just as important and perhaps the little, ordinary tasks of sweeping up pine needles, rolling up ribbons and carefully putting them away, shaking out the dirt from poinsettia plants and stooping down just one more time to pick up a fallen poinsettia leaf are even more important spiritually. They are all means of the goal of the gift of our Baptism—charity, union with God!
The basic, fundamental vocation of every baptized person it to become a saint! The gift of baptism makes each of us a child of God and He pours into us a participation in His very life through grace. The theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are planted in our souls like tiny seeds waiting to be watered, which is the part God gives us because He so respects and values the freedom He has given to us.
The different vocations: marriage, religious life, priesthood and consecrated single life are "just" the means toward that single goal of holiness. Not only are they the way we come back to God but they are also the means we bring OTHERS to God as well! Every christian is called to evangelize, to be other Andrew's who bring other Peter's to Jesus. The different vocations are ways we do this.
It's commonly said today that the universal call to holiness found it's "place" through the teachings of Vatican II. In some ways this is true but the fact is that this has been one of the main messages of the life of monks and nuns throughout the centuries. Living very simple, ordinary lives, monastic men and women remind the Church that it is not in what we do that is important but it is the simple, every day things of life that can be a powerful means of growing in virtue for ourselves and for others.
It's really only when we know and appreciate the gift of our baptismal grace that we can respond generously to living that grace more intensely and in a new way through religious consecration. St Thomas Aquinas believed that through religious profession one receives what he called a "second baptism". Through religious profession one is entirely and exclusively given over to the worship and service of God.
We all have days when the grass seems to be greener on the other side of the fence and we look on the vocations other people are living as "the better" or "surer" or apparently a "less arduous" way. We miss the opportunities of the present moment to unite ourselves to God. We can be so busy looking at we want that we forget that God is dwelling within us and here and now we can grow in faith, hope and charity by pausing and making simple acts of love, of faith, of hope.
Vocations Awareness Week has as its goal to help promote vocations to the priesthood and religious and consecrated life but it is also a good time to reflect on the gift of our baptism and our call to holiness.
For more information on Vocations Awareness Week.