Why is the term vocation so misleading?

generally, most people say that vocations are marriage, religious life and priesthood.

obviously, I’ve now learned that it’s more complicated than that. what about priests who are married? and all the other forms of consecrated life? the permanent deaconate? secular tertiaries?

why are most of these things never even mentioned?

also, is being part of a secular third order part of consecrated life? I believe secular institutes are though, if I am not mistaken?

even if it isn’t, the church still seems to consider it a true vocation, does it not?

I have also contacted the vocations director, so we’ll see what comes of that

It’s not misleading.
It has many meanings.
Why is this troubling you? :confused:

Since ‘Vocare’ means ‘to call’ in Latin, vocation actually refers to whatever calling ultimately belongs to you. In the religious sense, sometimes it seems like only priests, nuns, and marriage… But it’s really not that limited a definition at all.

It also means:


–a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation.
–a person’s employment or main occupation, especially regarded as particularly worthy and worthy and requiring great dedication.
–a trade or profession.


Yes, you are right. I think it comes down to how we use the term generally. I think a lot of it is just sloppy language. In fact, I also think a lot of people leave out marriage as a “vocation” when they talk about vocations, but it certainly is! I’ve given a couple talks on vocational discernment and I always make sure I mention married life since so many people just associate “vocation” with priesthood and religious life. It’s especially important because the vast majority of people are called to married life than the others. I think another big part of it is ignorance; I don’t think we’ve done a great job of discussing vocations with youth, or even adults looking for more in their faith life.

You’re right though, it’s certainly more complicated. Like you mentioned, there are married priests. There are also consecrated hermits and virgins, and even those who decide their vocation is to virginity or hermetical life but are not consecrated as such. Religious life is probably the best known vocation outside of Holy Orders and Married life, so it’s mentioned more. And I also think a lot of people use it as a general term for all consecrated life, even though it’s not entirely accurate.

The permanent diaconate is also a vocation, absolutely! It’s usually a vocation within a vocation. There are deacons who are married, single, and religious brothers.

Another example of a vocation within a vocation is that a male religious has to choose between being a lay brother or an ordained brother if their community has both. Being a priest, secular or religious, you may then want to discern your vocation within a vocation even further. Not all priests are called to be parish priests, some are missionaries, some are military chaplains, some (usually religious) specialize in retreats or spiritual direction.

Membership with a third order is not joining a club, but making a commitment to living a certain charism in the world. It is also definitely a vocation, and requires careful discernment. There are married men and women who are members of third orders, but there are also secular deacons, priests, and bishops (including a couple Popes) who are or were part of third orders. So it is also a vocation within a vocation. The approach might also be reversed, for example, I know one person who discerned his call to a third order right out of high school, now, years later, he’s discerning if he wants to live that vocation out as a married man or as a priest.

Secular third orders are not consecrated life. Secular Institutes are, as you mentioned.

In the end, there are as many vocations as there are people on this planet. It’s really just trying to follow God’s call in your life the best you know how.

well, I would like to know all the available options for discernment purposes

so how come one is consecrated life and not the other?

and can you be in a third order and remain celibate without joining some other form of consecrated life?

and just out of curiosity, is the priesthood technically part of consecrated life or is it more of its own thing?

That’s the purpose of a Spiritual Director.
Did you get one?

I think it ultimately comes down to the “Evangelical Counsels” (types of vows). Also, the order needs to be recognized as such by a bishop or the Pope. Most third orders are affiliated with a consecrated community, but are not themselves consecrated. They live the charism of that community in out in the world, as secular people, working everyday jobs, often with families, etc. A secular institute would have its own charism to live out.

Yes. Just as you can choose to live a celibate life without affiliation with a secular third order at all.

No. It’s more of its own thing. A priest could be consecrated or not, depending on their individual vocational call. A diocesan priest is not part of consecrated life, for example, but a Jesuit priest is part of consecrated life.

yeah, but I will probably need a new one, the priest I asked is too far from me and very busy

I also contacted the vocations director, whom I also know, so still waiting on that

by the way, completely off topic but I really like your signature at the bottom of your posts. always meant to tell you that

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