Other People’s Vocations

“I don’t love it!” 

That’s what our then-four-year-old used to say whenever she didn’t care for something.

Time to turn off the TV?  Clean-up?  Go to bed?  I don’t love it.

When I tell people I enjoy teaching religious education, I get the occasional “Me too!”  Usually, though, I get the adult-version of I don’t love it.

“Wow, I could never do that.”

“You must be a saint.”

“I did it one year, but it drove me crazy.”

I’m not too surprised, because this is how I feel about other people’s vocations.  Everywhere I turn, someone has a beloved profession or hobby that sounds, well, not so great.  Eminently worthwhile, but I wouldn’t want to do it myself.  I’d never have the patience.  I’d hate the environment.  The boredom / nuisance / effort would outweigh the joy.

It’s supposed to be this way.

In reading Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples, the chapter on spiritual gifts, or charisms, underscored this point.

We each have our things we are especially good at — supernaturally good, even.

Sure, I’m glad to help prepare for the big reception in the parish hall, but no, I really do not have the gift of hospitality the way some ladies do.   It would never occur to me put out vases of fresh flowers, for one thing – I have the gift of frugality, maybe, but prettiness?  Not so much.

Sherry suggests several dozen different common spiritual gifts, and by gifts what we mean is, “I like to do this, and I’m good at it.”

Left to my own devices, I just naturally ____________.

I could happily spend a day working at ________________.

When it’s time to volunteer, the job I want most is __________________.

In evangelizing, the goal is to plug each member of the Body of Christ into a role that draws on his or her God-given talents and interests.  

Consider the first stage in conversion, trust. By “trust” we mean some kind of connection with the Church – a person or a place where Christianity is not so scary after all.

How could different gifts be used? A good administrator builds trust by making sure the parish’s programs are safe and well-run, and operations are transparent and above-board. A good conversationalist builds trust by being a friendly person who makes others feel at ease.  A good basketball player builds trust by being the guy in the community league who’s the first serious Catholic the other players have ever met, and it turns out he’s not a jerk.

Is there merit in taking on the unwanted task?  Sure there is.  Can volunteering for a new and intimidating role be a way of uncovering hidden talents, or learning to rely on the grace of God? Absolutely.

But at the same time, we should be wary of worrying about answering other people’s vocations.

Very few of us would feel that just because so-and-so has a flourishing outreach to tennis players that we are bad Christians because we haven’t taken up the sport ourselves.  Many of us do worry that if we don’t love teaching CCD, or chaperoning teenagers, or delivering casseroles for the bereavement meal . . . that somehow we are letting Jesus down.

Newsflash: Jesus knows whether you can cook a decent casserole.  If you can, get yourself on the hot meals committee.  If not, please seek out your other gifts.

Evangelism isn’t about Burnt Cabbage for Jesus, Boring CCD Classes for Jesus, and I Can’t Keep a Houseplant Alive I’ll Teach Farming as a Missionary for Jesus.  It’s about discovering my own vocation, however weird or small, and using that to connect others to Christ. 

Or as a four-year-old would say, “I do love it.”

Jennifer Fitz

Jennifer Fitz

Jennifer Fitz is the author of Classroom Management for Catechists from Liguori Publications. She writes about the Catholic faith at her Patheos blog, Sticking the Corners.

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