The art of vocation demands witnessBy: Nick Lund-Molfese
This is the 11th “Art of Vocation” column and it marks a shift in focus. Before explaining that change, a review of the past 10 articles may be useful.
In the first article, I stated that I was writing for the “maladjusted” (those who may be out of step with the call of the world because they are following the call of God), and that it was my hope to “offer reflections on living one’s entire life in cooperation with God. In the second column, I focused on the universal nature of “personal vocation,” explaining that, “vocation,” as Catholics understand it, refers to the call of Christ to all humans to follow him. All who say “yes” to that call are “disciples.”
The next five columns addressed how we come to know God’s will. The most recent three columns discussed the relationship of living our personal vocation in this life to what we can expect in the next life.
As the above summary makes clear, the previous 10 articles primarily concerned themselves with the “science” of personal vocation rather than the lived “art.” For the sake of truth in labeling, we either need to retitle this column, “Speculative Philosophical and Theological Reflections on the Concept of ‘Personal Vocation’ in the Post-Conciliar Era,” (catchy, no?) or move on to highlighting some of the “artists”—persons living and doing the Art of Vocation.
David: A true artist
I recently interviewed a very prominent attorney in Chicago (let’s call him David), someone internationally-recognized as a expert, but also someone very intentional about discerning God’s will in his life.
I asked David for examples of how he has practiced the “art” of vocation as a Catholic husband, father, and attorney. In particular, I was interested in any episodes where he needed to resolve a conflict between doing his job and following his conscience. He noted two situations.
At one point a managing partner assigned him to work on the account of an international, Internet-based, pornography production company. David told the partner that he didn’t want to work on the account, but was somewhat nervous as to how the partner would react. As it turns out, the partner was totally fine with his stance and said, “no worries.” The issue was never raised again.
A second example David shared was in regard to an international professional association, of which he is a member. Articles supporting a legal right to abortion had began to be printed with some regularity. He contacted them, argued that abortion was a highly-controversial issue that was not related to the focus of the association and, as a result, the organization dropped all advocacy on the issue. With one phone call he managed to change the nature of the organization’s newsletter.
What I found most interesting is that David did not think either of these episodes were very important from the perspective of his personal vocation; they were merely events that came and went. Rather, he emphasized the whole of his work life as a consistent witness. As he explained, many of his colleagues simply did not know any practicing Catholics and what they did know they saw on television.
“When you let people know that you’re a Catholic-Christian you start two steps back in professional credibility and respect,” David said. “Some people will not take you seriously and others may not be inclined to socialize with you.” However, “Christians in the secular world can reflect the light of Christ into places where it otherwise might not fall. Just by being competent, and taking a personal interest in the needs of those around you, can break down negative assumptions.”
For instance, David worked closely and effectively, with a colleague who was homosexual. Once, at the end of a long day, his coworker said, “I enjoy working with you, but I know that you must hate me because I am gay and you are Catholic.” This gave David the opportunity to explain, to witness, that he harbored no hatred toward his co-worker. Just this small step, this small conversation, was a moment of healing for this person who experienced rejection in the past. David was sufficiently proficient in the “art of vocation” to know that this was not the time for a full explanation of Catholic teaching on sexuality; but rather a chance to simply clarify that being Catholic did not require hating others. As elemental as that may sound, that may well be the first, and most important, step in evangelizing.
Lund-Molfese serves the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau as Director of Social Ministry, Evangelization, and Formation, as well as the director at Trinity Hills.