What is a vocation? The word comes from the Latin: vocatio, a calling, summoning; from vocare, to call. One’s vocation, then, is one’s calling from God—His purpose for you in this life, in order to reach holiness and enter into the blessed life of union with God for all eternity in Heaven! Each of us has, indeed, a very high calling.
Each Christian has a vocation to holiness. This is our primary vocation in life. But how do we get there? There are three states of life which the Church distinguishes, to which a person may be called by God. When we use the word “vocation,” in every day speech, we usually are talking about one of these three states of life. These are the lay state, the clerical state, and the religious state.
The Lay State
According to the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The lay faithful have as their own vocation to seek the Kingdom of God by illuminating and ordering temporal affairs according to the plan of God. They carry out in this way their call to holiness and to the apostolate, a call given to all the baptized” (#188; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) #897-900, 940). The vast majority of Christians are in the lay state, that is, they are laity.
For more resources on how to grow in holiness as a lay person, visit the Spiritual Growth [put in hyperlink here to Spiritual Growth] section of our website.
The Clerical State (via the Sacrament of Holy Orders)
The clerical state, on the other hand, consists of deacons, priests, and bishops. Together these make up the hierarchy of the Church (from the Latin, hierarchia, which means holy authority). One enters this state through reception of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
The Compendium tells us: “Christ instituted an ecclesiastical hierarchy with the mission of feeding the people of God in his name and for this purpose gave it authority. The hierarchy is formed of sacred ministers; bishops, priests, and deacons. hanks to the sacrament of Orders, bishops and priests act in the exercise of their ministry in the name and person of Christ the Head. Deacons minister to the people of God in the diakonia (service) of word, liturgy, and charity” (#179; cf. CCC 874-876, 935).
If you are an unmarried man, consider becoming a priest or deacon! Start here by going to the clerical vocations website of the Archdiocese! Then, make a phone call or send an email, and make contact. Above all, pray and trust in God. Do not be afraid—He will lead you.
The Religious State
The religious state is made up of those who become brothers or sisters, that is, monks or nuns. The Compendium continues, “In both the hierarchy and the laity there are certain of the faithful who are consecrated in a special manner to God by the profession of the evangelical counsels: chastity or celibacy, poverty, and obedience” (#178).
The consecrated life is a state of life recognized by the Church. It is a free response to a special call from Christ by which those consecrated give themselves completely to God and strive for the perfection of charity moved by the Holy Spirit. This consecration is characterized by the practice of the evangelical counsels” (#192; cf. CCC 914-916).
“The consecrated life participates in the mission of the Church by means of a complete dedication to Christ and to one’s brothers and sisters witnessing to the hope of the heavenly Kingdom” (#193; cf. CCC 931-933, 945).
Interested in the religious state, that is, a life consecrated to God? Then check out the website for the Institute for Religious Life. This is a great place to start!