Thoughts on Vocations

“Vocation” is a ridiculously vague word.

An originally religious term, vocation has been increasingly secularized over the years to mean everything from your calling to your 9-5 to joining your local priesthood. What a word.

Two of those definitions are (theoretically, at least) easy enough to understand. Your job is, well, your job. It’s the thing that lets you keep writing those checks every month, the thing that write on your resume and post on your LinkedIn account as “currently doing.” Your job may, even, be that of a clergy, otherwise known as the third – and most traditional – definition of the word vocation. Your profession and the priesthood – those definitions aren’t too hard to understand.

It’s the first definition that gives people trouble.

What exactly is a calling? Google defines it as “a strong urge towards a particular life or career.” Miriam-Webster defines it as “a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action, especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.” says it’s your “trade, profession, or vocation,” which is a little too circular for my tastes.

So what is a vocation? There’s some consensus in the answers – a vocation is, in some way, related to your calling (which appears to be an emotional or spiritual pull towards a collection of actions) and it is, in some way, related to your profession (which may or may not contain these actions). And it probably doesn’t have to be the priesthood to count.

There’s many more questions that come with vocations – how do you find one? Is it religious? Is it not? What if your job is secular? Do they change? Stay the same? Can one vocation lead to many jobs? Is it ever ok to not practice your vocation? What about jobs where you “just need the money?” – but before we can even get to those, I have one that I think is a little more pressing:

What exactly is a vocation?


One thought on “Thoughts on Vocations

  1. This question of “what is a vocation” confuses me too! I think it does everyone. Everyone sees vocation a little bit differently. Is it our career? Is it whatever job we wind up doing? Does everyone have a vocation? If so, then is your vocation related to your calling in that you enjoy it? Or do you not need to enjoy it or feel fulfilled while doing it?

    These questions are confusing. I wish we had the answers, but at least we can all puzzle through them together!


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