What do you mean by vocation, what is a "vocation"?


Yesterday I started a novena for finding my vocation in life, but I keep thinking about the meaning of “vocation”? Is it only related to priesthood, religious life or married/ single life? What I have in mind is more like a career path (or even life path), something that could give me satisfaction in working, instead of making me feel burdened.

Thanks for any clarification.


I’ve heard that Vocation means priesthood, religious life, married life and single life; and vocation means your career and other things you dedicate your life too.


Vocation comes from the Latin “vocare” (to call). I think of vocation as an affirmed call from God to live out one’s Baptism in a specific state in life and role in The Church and this includes the secular laity: - married life, single celibate life ('single 'state).

Undoubtedly perhaps, pre V2, “vocation” in Catholic cultural terms was thought of as either religious life and/or the priesthood. The Sacrament of Marriage arrived a little later on the scene as a vocation per se. Nowadays, and especially since the various documents out of Rome on the laity, the lay celibate state is finding it’s feet as a vocation per se in Catholic cultural and theological thought. This is both that transitional lay celibate state where one is or is soon to discern their life vocation as well as those in the single celibate state as their actual life’s call and vocation and some of this latter group may be called to vow privately the evangelical counsels (not advisable without sound spiritual direction). This latter group (private vows to the egangelical counsels in the lay secular state) is mentioned in the document “Vita Consecrata” (The Consecrated Life) under the sub heading “Thanksgiving for the Consecrated Life”.

As St John Paul II said “Every life has a vocation” (see quotation box below).

**Catholic Culture **(sound Catholic resource site)

Excerpt only :

"In religious talk, the word vocation refers to three different things:

First is the common Christian vocation, which comes with baptism and is shared by all members of the Church. It consists in the commitment of faith and what follows from it: loving and serving God above all else, loving and serving neighbor as oneself, and collaborating in continuing the redemptive work of Christ, which is the mission of the Church.

The second meaning is state in life. A “state” puts some flesh on the bones of the common Christian vocation. It’s a broad, overarching commitment to a particular Christian lifestyle. As such, a state in life sets someone choosing it on a path that will shape his character through the countless choices and actions required to follow it to the end. **The clerical life, the consecrated life, the state of marriage, and the single lay state in the world are states in life. **

Third is personal vocation. It’s the unique combination of commitments, relationships, obligations, opportunities, strengths, and weaknesses — understood as representing God’s will — in and through which the common Christian vocation and a state in life are expressed by someone (priest, religious, layperson) trying to know and live the life God has in mind for him. It is the singular, unrepeatable role in his redemptive plan that God intends for each of us.

“Every life is a vocation,” Pope John Paul II says. And so it is — a unique, personal vocation."


Another blending of definitions.

Vocation – what you’re called to do in life

Vocation – God calling you to Service.

My ASD son works with Vocational Rehabilitation, but it has nothing to do with the priesthood. VR has to do with the remunerative work of our hands.

Vocation – in this forum’s parlance – means God’s means of bringing you to Himself, how you will be Jesus’ hands and feet in the world. Are you called to father or mother everybody through priesthood or religious life (or both), or are you going to have the challenge of bringing forth those little hands and feet, and seeing what gifts God has given them?

Often, there will be the sense of a call to the convent. We need to establish interior silence and the chapel within so we may have a place to go when the outside becomes too much to handle. The “interior silence & convent” was taught to religious before Vatican II. Such still stands, but the fact that so many convents ditched those particular books and some now engage in non-Catholic spiritual activities gives one cause to pause.

Once we have that interiority established, and “Thy Will be done” is our constant prayer to the point of adoring the Will of God, then we will find peace. When we find the physical house and possible community which causes our heart to expand, then we will know we have found our vocation. We have reached a new plateau, and another mountain presents itself.



The ones you referred to are what I would call the foundation vocations- Priesthood, religious life, married life, and single life. From there you can branch out into exactly what God is intending to use you for. Example: You may be called to marry and be a doctor. You may be called to the priesthood to be a teacher at a Catholic school. You may be called to be single and be an artist.

So yes, we have those big four vocation categories we talk about, but that’s definitely not the end of the puzzle. God has blessed us all with talents and it’s up to us to discern and find out the best way to use them. :thumbsup:


As long as what we are called to do helps us to become holier in His sight, and spread His Love and Truth…


Great answer.

To clarify that more, a man with a calling to married life may still find a secondary calling to Holy Orders in the way of the deaconate. Either gender in a marriage might later devote themselves to a religious order as an oblate. In the reverse, some men who have received Holy Orders and become priests went on to complete collegiate work and gain their PhDs and other titles.

I feel that hearing and answering that “foundational” vocation, as you called it, helps guide you better in later uses of your personal gifts.


Thank you and God bless you all!

I’ve carefully read your responses and explanations and I think I understand now. Perhaps it’s also a case of semantics, the way we use the word, which has many meanings.


Your vocation is your way to sainthood. God prepared graces for us according to the state of life he is calling as to. For the ones who are called to marriage, he prepared graces to sanctify them within marriage and if you are called to religious life, you will find the necessary graces to become a saint in the convent. If you want to persuade a life God doesn’t call you to, the cross could become too heavy.


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