By Amber Kinloch
“When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire
Vocation vs. Mission
One hears plenty of talk about vocations in the Catholic Church today. Often, it concerns the shortage of priests and religious. Sometimes there’s talk of marriage. Rarely, there’s some mention of the consecrated single life.
How about one’s mission, though?
To clarify, a vocation is a call to serve God in a certain state of life either as a priest, religious, married person, or single person.
One’s mission, however, is the specific way one serves God within the context and scope of one’s vocation. One’s mission might change over time without losing the essence of its character. Here are some examples.
Examples of Different Missions
1. I’m a writer and author. I self-publish books and write letters and articles. Through my writing, I strive to bring the Faith to others whether explicitly (as with articles like this) or implicitly (through my books and personal example).
2. In 2020, a couple of my friends felt the call to start a young adult group at our parish. They wanted a group centered on friendship that would help people grow in the faith while also doing fun activities together such as hikes, cookie exchanges, and bonfires. The group has exploded. People from all over have been drawn to it, including many Catholics who need their faith revitalized. It’s incredible.
Leading the group is my friends’ mission. Will it stay that way forever? No. They’re going to grow older, get married likely, and move on to other pastures. But their experience shows that even young people in the temporary single life have a mission to fulfill.
3. My dad (a non-Catholic) quit his job with the federal government 13 years ago to start his own computer repair business. He was sick of the corruption he saw in the government and didn’t want to compromise his morality for the sake of a stable job. It’s been tough but utterly worth it.
Over the years, he’s helped hundreds of clients with their ailing technology. He often helps out clients in small ways—attending to an emergency situation with a small business on the weekend; lingering to talk with a lonely elderly client; charging less when he sees that someone’s pressed for money. He’s a model of industry, justice, honesty, and perseverance.
He’s a good businessman amidst so much corruption in society, and he shows the value of work done with integrity.
4. There’s also an elderly friend of mine who was a nurse. Her working days are long past, but she still fulfills her mission by caring for others in practical ways. She gives us advice about difficult situations (medical matters, family members, and spiritual struggles). She prays for us. She offers us the gift of her company and a listening ear. She generously showers gifts on people. She calls them and sends cards. She motivates us to live the Faith in a deep way because we see how much she cares and want to imitate her. No one goes away from her empty-handed.
5. Similarly, I know an elderly man whose wife has passed away. He leads a Bible study and spends a lot of time praying in church. He once told me he wondered why he was still here on earth. Then he realized he’s here “to be a witness,” especially to his three sons who have fallen away from the Faith. His mission is to pray and set a good example, to show that one can finish the race.
How about You?
Do you know what your mission is? What are your talents and gifts, and how might you serve God and others through them? There’s a path for every person to tread. Find yours. It will transform your whole life.
Prayer of Cardinal Newman (an ideal source of inspiration)
God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught.
I shall do good. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place without intending it if I do but keep His Commandments.
Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me—still He knows what He is about.
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.