Pope Benedict XVI takes basically the same starting point as Pope John Paul II. God has a personal plan for each of us, and we must listen to him to learn what it is.
The Lord has his plan for each of us, he calls each one of us by name. Our task is to be listeners, capable of perceiving his call, to be courageous and faithful, so that we may follow him, and in the end, be found as trustworthy servants who have used well the gifts entrusted to us.1
The origin and goal of this plan is Godís love. God loves us, so that we can love him in return. ďHe loves us, he makes us see and experience his love, and from Godís loving us Ďfirst,í love can also arise as a response within us.Ē2 A vocation is always situated in the context of this love. ďBefore the creation of the world, before our coming into existence, the heavenly Father chose us personally, calling us to enter into a filial relationship with him, through Jesus, the Incarnate Word, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.Ē3
Godís voice inviting us to love him is heard in the people and events around us, but especially in prayer. In response to a question by a seminarian about how one can discern Godís voice calling one, the pope gives the following answer:
God speaks with us in many different ways. He speaks by means of others, through friends, parents, pastors, priests.... He speaks by means of the events of our life, in which we can discern Godís gesture; he speaks also through nature, creation, and he speaks, naturally and above all, in his Word, in Sacred Scripture, read in the communion of the Church and read personally in conversation with God. It is important to read Sacred Scripture, on the one hand in a very personal way... as Godís Word which is ever timely and speaks to me... to enter into prayer and thus read Sacred Scripture as a conversation with God.4
Again, Pope Benedict XVI sees love as an important, indeed the element in a vocation. It is at the origin of every vocation, and every vocation finds its fulfillment in love. Thus the pope describes marriage as a vocation insofar as it is to be formed by true love.
If you are engaged to be married, God has a project of love for your future as a couple and as a family.... The love of a man and woman is at the origin of the human family and the couple formed by a man and a woman has its foundation in Godís original plan (cf Gen 2:18Ė25).... In your prayer together, ask the Lord to watch over and increase your love and to purify it of all selfishness. Do not hesitate to respond generously to the Lordís call, for Christian matrimony is a true and proper vocation in the Church.5
The ways in which Godís love arouses a response of love, the forms a vocation takes, can be very diverse: a vocation may be experienced as a manifest external call, or it may simply be experienced as an inner desire to give oneself to God. Distinguishing the apostles from Mary Magdalene and others, Pope Benedict XVI says that the latter followed Christ ďon their own initiative.Ē
In the course of the centuries so many men and women, transformed by divine love, have consecrated their own existence to the cause of the Kingdom. Already on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, many let themselves be won by Jesus: they were in search of healing in body or spirit, and they were touched by the power of his grace. Others were chosen personally by him and became his apostles. We also find some, like Mary Magdalene and other women, who followed him on their own initiative, simply out of love. But like the disciple John, they too filled a special place in his heart. These men and women, who through Jesus knew the mystery of the Fatherís love, represent the variety of vocations which have always been present in the Church.6
In speaking of those who follow Jesus ďon their own initiative,Ē he differs from Pope John Paul II, who is always careful to avoid such language. But in this, Pope Benedict seems to follow more closely the actual diverse experiences that people have of vocations.
1Pope Benedict XVI, Homily for the Marian Vespers with the Religious and Seminarians of Bavaria, September 11, 2006.
2Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, n. 17.
3Pope Benedict XVI, Message for 43rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, May 7, 2006.
4Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Seminarians of the Roman Major Seminary, February 17, 2007.
5Pope Benedict XVI, Message for 22nd World Youth Day, 2007.
6Pope Benedict XVI, Message for 43rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, May 7, 2006.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Two Approaches to Vocation
Chapter 1: Principles of Christian Life
Chapter 2: Aquinas and Ignatius
Chapter 3: Comparison of Aquinas and Ignatius
Chapter 4: Pope John Paul II on Vocation
Chapter 4, Part II: Pope Benedict XVI on vocation
Chapter 5: Conclusions for Vocation Discernment