May 17 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Strong in Faith: How can we encourage young Catholics to consider their vocation?

— A fortnightly discussion chaired by our Catholic university chaplaincies

GERALD BONNER, Strathclyde University: We need a ‘culture of vocation.’ It should be seen as a completely normal part of life for all young Catholics to seriously consider whether God is calling them to marriage or single lay life or one of the many forms of religious life or priesthood or diaconate… in other words conscious discernment should be viewed as an expected stage of life for everyone.

When Bishop Anthony Fisher OP was master of students for the Dominicans in Australia, he used to ask the new students each year: “Do you want to be a Dominican saint?” Then, usually after an awkward silence, he would say: “If you don’t want to be a Dominican saint, I suggest you leave now and find some other place to be a saint.” I think that’s the attitude we need: recognising both the universality of the call to holiness—there is no mediocre way—and also the distinctness of the particular path to sainthood that God calls a particular person to take.


CHRISTINE GLEN, Strathclyde University: As a priest said at Mass one day, we all have a vocation and that is following Christ and the building up of His Kingdom here on earth. But most importantly any vocation, like Faith itself, is a gift from God, and as Gerald states we need to be aware of all forms of vocation.

We need to give young people more information in order to discern for themselves how any vocation works. To quote the Jesuit Theologian Bernard Lonergan, ‘experience, understanding, judgement, decision and then action.’

If we give young Catholics a chance to experience and understand; through retreats and prayer, then they can discern if they feel that God is calling them to whatever path in life He has chosen for them.

We must not be afraid to try, as saints are people who let God’s light shine through them. And we are all called to be saints through our Baptism.


STRONG IN FAITH: Listening to young people and creating and preserving safe spaces where discussion on vocations can thrive is a step in the right direction. Catholic schools, Church youth clubs, university chaplaincies… While Faith is a glorious wonder, making religious vocations less of a mystery could open hearts and minds. Parishes twith active youth ministries, creating ways for altar servers to progress to new roles in Church life for example, pave the way, as do schools and colleges that open career days to religious orders. Many struggle to find their way in life. We must dispel the idea of the shame of failure and encourage young people to try.


AIDAN MICHAEL COOK, Glasgow University: I think Gerald is entirely right about a ‘culture of vocation’ but I think this also goes beyond the mere choice of a state of life and touches on every aspect of what it means to be a Christian. It requires a lot of trust, but ultimately it is about placing ourselves entirely in God’s hands. And so I think the main message we need to understand is that it is only by following our vocation —God’s will for us—that we can find fulfilment and true happiness.


FRASER DAVIDSON, Glasgow University: The most encouraging thing for me would be seeing someone live their vocation joyfully in Holiness.  Happiness is very infectious and if someone shows the joys of their vocation naturally young people will want to follow. Its the same vice-versa, if someone is thoroughly miserable and does not live the Christian faith then I cannot imagine it would be encouraging for young faithful people to consider following in their footsteps.



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Follow God’s will and it may lead to a vocation


We can often fall into the trap of thinking that vocation is simply a question of choosing a state of life: priesthood, marriage, consecrated life. But vocation is about far more than that. At its heart, it is about following God’s will for us, and so we can distinguish different aspects. Firstly, the universal call to holiness by which God calls us all to be saints. Secondly, there is the particular calling by which each one of us is to fulfil God’s will for us.

We are all called to love and serve God our Creator, and through this love and service to grow in holiness and attain the joys of everlasting life: God calls us all to be saints and to be a part of His Heavenly Kingdom. This is something we must all understand if we are to encourage others, and indeed ourselves, to consider vocation. The more precise forms of vocation (above) all flow from this general call to sanctity.

When it comes to encouraging young Catholics to consider which state of life they are called to, the most fundamental need is for them to be aware of the different vocations. In these days when priests often have more than one parish in their care, when religious are scarce, and when views of marriage are distorted by divorce rates and the push for same-sex ‘marriage,’ most young people have a very limited understanding of the different states of life. It is often through personal experience of holy priest, religious or married couples that the first movements of a vocation are stirred up.

If we do not consider our vocation, we will not be living to our full potential. If we do not spend any time working out the purpose for which God made us, we will be unable to live out that purpose and will lead an unfulfilled life. It is no surprise that there is so much depression and sadness in the world when so few people even attempt to live out God’s will for them. Children spend more time learning how to cross the road than they do learning how to discern their vocation.

The best soil for a vocation to grow in is a prayerful home, where the parents attempt to live out their vocation in holiness and love, and where close relations are priests and religious. Of course, some part of this ideal is lacking for most young people today, so we need the next best thing: a solid community where prayerful, intentional discernment is the norm, and young people can get to know priests, religious and lay people living out their vocation in holiness.

Ultimately, we need to encourage an openness to following God’s will for us, as a Church and individually. We need to promote a respect for each and every state of life as a way of coming to love and serve God and our neighbour ever more closely, and to reach Heaven.

And perhaps more than anything else, we need to support each other in strength and courage so as to be able to turn away from what the world tells us is important and to look instead only to our Lord and Creator. This is precisely what Pope Francis encouraged young people to do on Good Shepherd Sunday: “Ask Jesus what he wants from you and be brave! Be brave, ask Him!”




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