The Meaning of Vocation

Do you know that you have a vocation? Often when we hear that we think of the priesthood, religious life, or married life. And while those are vocations, the term includes much more than that. The word vocation comes from the word vocare, which means a calling. It is your mission from God. So while the priesthood, religious life, marriage, or the single life may be a vocation, that doesn’t mean your mission is complete once you make your vows.

This week on Go Ask Your Father™ Monsignor Stuart Swetland discussed vocations, and the impact that knowing and living your vocation can have on the world.

“It’s always good to be reminded that God loved us so much that He not only brought us into existence out of nothing, loved us into existence, He made us for Himself,” he said. “And while we’re all called to be holy, we’re all called to be saints, we’re also given a mission, a share in God’s plan. Each of us are called by name, by God to do Him some definite service. That’s our mission that we’re called to do.”

Many people in our society today are looking for their purpose, the reason they were put on earth, And especially in times of confusion, difficulty, or despair, it can be easy to lose sight of the meaning and purpose of life. Msgr. Swetland referenced the writing of John Henry Cardinal Newman, who showed that the key to finding our meaning and purpose is to listen and respond to the Lord’s call, to our own unique vocation. Newman wrote:

God knows me and calls me by my name. God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission–I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his–if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me–still He knows what He is about.

After reading this quotation from Newman, Msgr. Swetland explained, “When he wrote that [he] was in great perplexity. He became Catholic, he gave up almost everything to become Catholic, including the loss of many friendships and a very illustrious professional career as an Oxford don.”

Pointing out that Newman suffered many difficulties in living his vocation, Msgr. Swetland explained that it was his faith and perseverance in his vocation that led Newman to make an impact on the Church, the world, and even the lives of people living more than 100 years after his death.

“We see that Newman knew that despite all the difficulties, at every moment, he was called by God to do some definite service,”Msgr. Swetland said. “He had his mission. He was a link in a chain.”

“Part of my conversion to the faith had to do with what Newman did, and the groundwork he laid. Because I became Catholic while studying at Oxford, and I don’t think that the apostolate at Oxford would have been what it was if it hadn’t been for predecessors like Monsignor Ronald Knox and Cardinal Newman, who paved the way for other Catholics to follow in their footsteps.”

Listen to the full reflection below:

Go Ask Your Father airs weekdays at Noon Central on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.