Callings, consequences, and vocational crises

The notion of “vocation,” says Dr. Christopher J. Lane, author of a book on vocational culture in early modern France, has changed a great deal over the centuries, especially during the 17th century, and that history has much to offer to Catholics today.

Dr. Christopher J. Lane, associate professor of history at Christendom College, is the author of "Callings and Consequences: The Making of Catholic Vocational Culture in Early Modern France". (Image: Christendom College and McGill-Queen's University Press)

Spend time with any group of devout young Catholics, and you will inevitably hear some talk of vocational discernment. Religious life, priesthood, or marriage?

The decision comes easily to some, but others spend years discovering their callings by trial and error, prayer and pondering. Many young adults deeply desire whatever is God’s will for them; the trouble is knowing what is God’s will. Advice on how to discern one’s vocation is plentiful, but often contradictory and confusing.

A study of the history of vocational discernment helps to shed light on this complex subject. Recently, Catholic World Report caught up with Dr. Christopher J. Lane, associate professor and chair of the Department of History at Christendom College, to discuss his book Callings and Consequences: The Making of Catholic Vocational Culture in Early Modern France (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2021).

Despite his book’s highly specific subtitle, Lane provided background on the history of Catholic thought on vocation, as well as how certain early modern notions of vocational discernment impact Catholics today. Those early modern notions can teach us something, but so can other sources that are gentler and less prescriptive. Perhaps there’s a better way to do discernment.

Catholic World Report: What got you interested in writing about the history of vocational discernment?

Dr. Christopher Lane: The first graduate course I took at the Dominican House of Studies was on medieval sermons. I wrote a small research paper about sermons on marriage in the Middle Ages.

In doing so, I ran across some work that had been done comparing and contrasting medieval and early modern sermons on marriage. A couple of scholars have pointed out that the idea of a vocation to marriage was present in the later sermons from the 17th century, and from France particularly, but not in the medieval sermons on marriage.

That evolved over time into this wider question about the development of the idea of vocational discernment, because that’s the background of the idea that one can be called to marriage. One focus of the book is this inclusive notion of vocation: that, in order to enter into any state of life, including marriage, one had to be called. The difference between the medieval and the early modern sermons was that there had been a change in what “vocation” means, when it is required, and who should be discerning.

CWR: A lot of young people today might be surprised to hear that there is a history of vocational discernment—that it hasn’t always been the way it is now, and the theology is not as set in stone as we tend to think. Can you summarize a little more of what that history looks like?

Lane: The short answer is that it’s complicated.

The vocational language in the New Testament is predominantly not about a particular state of life; it’s about being called to salvation. It’s part of soteriology—the theology of how we are brought into God’s family and saved.

The idea of being called to a particular state of life is hinted at in the New Testament, especially with respect to the clergy: St. Paul says things like, “I was called to be an apostle.” But there’s not really a lot of wider vocation talk for other states of life. And even that calling to be an apostle is a very special case, because it’s a very direct call, explicitly from Our Lord.

In the early Church, with the rise of monasticism (roughly 4th century), you start getting the idea that someone was particularly called to enter monastic life. In particular, I would highlight St. John Cassian’s commentary on the three modes of vocation: he is often talking simultaneously about the calling of salvation and the calling of monastic life, but not always.

So, the kinks haven’t been worked out in the idea of being called: he’s not saying that everyone who’s called to salvation is called to the monastic life! But the idea that God leads people to a particular state, as connected with their salvation—you’ll find that in the monastic literature from the early Church. Over time, that idea becomes applied to the clerical state too, but that’s a long time coming.

Another piece of this is the history of magisterial clarification on the liberty to make a choice to enter a state of life or not. The notion that every person chooses a path in life for him- or herself is a very modern notion: in the past, parents, other important family members, and the social world around you tended to choose what you did. But particularly in the High Middle Ages, the Church emphasized the liberty to take vows, both for marriage and for monastic life.

This need for liberty was reaffirmed, both in law and in doctrine at the Council of Trent. New mechanisms were put in place at Trent, and remain in place, to make sure vows were taken freely—force and fear can’t be the things which drive you to enter a state of life. With that emphasis on liberty, you start to roll into a notion of choice.

Then, there are a lot of things that happened in the 16th century with vocation. One is St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Spiritual Exercises. He’s an important influence on the idea that there’s something interior about perceiving a call from God. Not that he’s the first one to think about that, but he moves the needle toward a stronger emphasis on some sort of interior calling that can be perceived or discerned. It’s connected with his idea of discernment of spirits.

So, you get the liberty stream from canon law, you get the interior discernment stream from Ignatius of Loyola, and then you get at the same time in the 17th century, a rigorist mentality. There’s a big history of ups and downs in rigorism in Catholicism, and the mid-to-late 17th century is kind of a rigorist moment. (One sign of that is the Jansenist movement, but it goes beyond Jansenism, because the general tone of a lot of talk in the 17th century tends to be rigorist.)

The ingredient you get from rigorism is what I call urgency. There’s this sense that getting the right answer to the vocation question is urgent, because it’s moved from the idea of, “God might be leading you somewhere,” to the idea that, “There’s one choice God has made for you; you have to figure out what it is. And if you get it wrong, there are bad consequences.”

My story really sees the nexus of these various threads—liberty, interior discernment, and urgency—in the 17th century. That’s when you start to get a much more detailed, how-to manual approach to vocational discernment, and the notion that really everyone should be discerning their vocations.

CWR: It’s ironic that there’s an emphasis on liberty in canon law—that you must have freedom to choose to take vows—but on the other hand, the sense of urgency almost seems to negate that freedom: you’re coerced, in a sense, by the idea that there’s only one right choice. Am I understanding that correctly?

Lane: Yes, that’s certainly an irony, because it’s supposed to be a liberty to do what God is calling to do, and especially liberty from familial coercion.

That’s delicate, because this was still a world in which social realities were very important. You could not enter a state of life very easily, in the vast majority of cases, without a great deal of assistance from family members; even entering a convent required a dowry because that was an essential means to sustaining the members of a convent.

So no one really thought that you should just ignore your parents—the writers who are talking about this ask how parents can be involved while maintaining that Church-prescribed liberty. Some of them say, “Parents, you are responsible for helping vocational discernment happen for your children, but you don’t get to determine the answer.”

Because fundamentally, these writers are working on the premise that there’s only one right answer, which goes back to that question: is there liberty? Again, the liberty the Church prescribes is primarily liberty from human coercion. It’s liberty to accept what God has set aside for you.

But another aspect of this, connected with rigorism, is the question of how grace works. Some of these vocational writers say that God set aside graces to help you deal with the particular challenges and temptations and duties of your state of life, but if you don’t accept His call and you just choose your state of life for worldly reasons, then you won’t get all those graces He set aside for you. And some of them say something like, “Well, yes, you technically could be saved, but you’ll probably fall deep into sin, because you rejected the gifts He wanted to give you.”

CWR: So the writers’ context had a big influence, because there was risk of that social and parental involvement going too far. But we’re in a different context now, aren’t we? Let’s get to the most exciting part for a lot of the readers, which is how all this impacts us today. Do you think these 17th-century ideas about vocation still influence us today?

Lane: Yes, I think so. It goes back to what you said—that many people would find it surprising that vocation has a history and that it isn’t set in stone. Again, there’s very little magisterial guidance on most of these questions, except insofar as the Church still affirms the necessity of liberty in taking vows. Liberty had the earliest magisterial pedigree, as it were, and the most lasting technical importance.

But all these other things have entered into the repertoire of Catholic thinking and Catholic spirituality that are not defined by the Church. They are not necessarily against Church teaching either, but not every question is answered by the magisterium. So when people today think that one particular way of dealing with vocational discernment is official Church teaching, things get dicey.

Sometimes, I believe, orthodox, well-meaning young Catholics have picked up something here or there from sermons or something they’ve read, for instance, “X percentage of people are supposed to enter religious life,” or things of that sort. And this produces an anxiety about getting their vocations wrong, and there being negative consequences.

Most wouldn’t go so far as to say, “Well, I’m going to be damned if I don’t get this right.” But they fear, above all, unhappiness. You’ll sometimes hear, in the way discernment is preached about, that you’ll be unhappy or unfulfilled in the wrong state of life. Even the 17th century, writers talk about both the eternal consequences and the temporal consequences—that you’ll be like a bone out of joint because you’re in the wrong place; you’ll be unhappy in your state of life if you’ve ignored what God set aside for you.

That language of unhappiness is what most continues today in an ironic, therapeutic form of rigorism: choosing your state in life poorly won’t lead to your damnation, but you’ll “go away sad,” like the rich young man in the parable. It doesn’t say that the rich young man went away damned, but he went away sad, because (according to a lot of vocation talks you’ll hear) he rejected the particular call.

I don’t want to dismiss that entirely. But I think, admixed with what’s right there, there’s still a remnant of rigorism. Even the notion that there is one right answer for each person depends on a whole set of premises which are not necessarily undebatable theological truths. You get into some very complicated questions of divine providence and grace if you’re going to assert, “Our Lord has set aside one particular state of life for every individual, but He’s made it hidden and hard to figure out, so you have to get the right methods of discernment. And have I mentioned, you’re going to be really unhappy if you get it wrong?”

On the other hand, if you try to get rid of the remnants of rigorism, you lose something. For example, if you say, “There’s no such thing as one right answer,” then are you really saying that Our Lord doesn’t draw people to any state of life through some sort of act of calling? I’d be hesitant to say that, but then, if you say, “Our Lord does call people to a state of life,” are there any consequences of not accepting the invitation? There’s no easy answer to this.

In the documents from the Synod on Young people, Faith and Vocational Discernment a few years ago, the Holy See said that there are many traditions of how to deal with discernment: there isn’t just one right way. So we might learn something from some of these writers in this more rigorist tradition, as well as from Thomas Merton or Balthasar and others.

Another critique that’s been made is that maybe all of this is too abstract and overly interiorized: you need to get to the concrete. One great example of this that I highlight in the book is the affair of a certain Canon Joseph Lahitton, which was one of the few times there was doctrinal intervention about vocation. One of Lahitton’s points was that the call to the priesthood is primarily the external call that the bishop makes, the act of choosing a seminarian to be ordained. That’s an ecclesial action, an external thing, more important than any notion of an interior call that the candidate for the priesthood might or might not feel. And the Holy Office stated that Lahitton’s ideas were laudable.

Plus, that accords in some ways with what was going on in the very early Church, where there are examples that don’t fit quite well even with liberty in the call to the clerical state. Take St. Augustine: he was kind of hiding out, hoping not to be chosen to be a priest, and then staying away from any cities that had a vacant episcopacy, hoping no one would try to make him a bishop. You have St. Ambrose being called to the episcopal see because some kid yells out, “Ambrose for Bishop!” and everyone cheers it on.

Anyway, maybe one solution is to be a little more external in our notion of vocation: that no one’s called to marriage when there isn’t a person to make vows to in the moment; no one is called to a religious state—and this actually comes out of the medieval canon law—without the concrete acceptance of the vow by someone who has the authority to receive that vow, the abbott or superior.

So, putting some of these things together: there are questions to be asked about the over-interiorizing of vocation, and the high-stakes notion of vocation—even if it won’t impact salvation, there’s an idea that there’s only one way to happiness. There’s a history of us getting to that idea, so the idea may need to be questioned.

There might be more circuitous paths that don’t fit into nice boxes. And there might also be shifts in the state of life over the life course. And maybe someone could take different routes at a fork in the road, and it’s not going to be terrible, either way; it’s a choice among goods, and it really is a choice. And God will provide the graces needed for whatever concrete choice is made.

CWR: We’re in what seems to be an urgent vocational crisis with marriage rates being down and vocations to priesthood and religious life being much lower than they need to be to keep things running. Do you think this anxiety and thinking there’s only one right answer could be contributing to the lack of vocations overall?

Lane: More study of concrete, present-day experience would definitely be needed, but I have some instincts here.

On one hand, when vocation is reduced to a recruitment mentality, that produces some concrete goods, because there are some people who would not pull the trigger and enter a state of life without a person in front of them saying, “Have you ever considered this, for these reasons?” But that recruitment mentality can also, when done in a certain way, contribute to a decision paralysis: “What if I get this wrong?”

On the other hand I think there are much bigger trends at play. There’s no real panacea for delayed making of commitments, and there can sometimes be very good reasons to delay making a commitment.

But, all that said: if we are willing to entertain the idea that there could be more than one right path for a particular individual, then we might reduce the fear of missing out. We acknowledge the reality that there are tradeoffs—that the person who chooses to enter a stable, permanent commitment of one kind has chosen to give up the ability to make a commitment of another kind. Maybe we need to be okay with the idea that the person could have gone the other way and didn’t, so now the path is set. Sometimes providence intervenes and moves someone in a different direction, but that comes when it comes.

This is where I think someone like Francis de Sales is informative, because he comes just before the rise of the really rigorist approach, and he is known for his gentleness. Maybe we should go back to something more like what he says when he talks about the choice of a state of life: “Don’t break your head over it. Make a choice and stick to it, and it’s going to be alright.”

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Related at CWR:
“Why aren’t young Catholics marrying?” (January 13, 2023) by Rachel Hoover
“How to help Catholics get married” (January 19, 2023) by Rachel Hoover


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About Rachel Hoover 18 Articles
Rachel Hoover lives and writes in Nashville, Tennessee.

18 Comments

  1. The vocational call by God for marriage and the clerical state are not to be considered mutually exclusive. I, for one, believe God has called me to the married state as well as the clerical state in the Order of Deacon. God should not be seen as necessarily boxing Himself into “forced choices” when it comes to His plan for working out our salvation and the needs of the Church. I believe I have seen called to serve my wife in marriage and to serve the Church as Deacon. And, just as in marriage I pledged myself until death to my wife, so too in Holy Orders I pledged myself in obedience to my bishop and his successors. The same dual vocational call applies to priests in the Ordinariate who are married, Roman Catholic priests who were already married when they entered the Church from the CofE who were ordained priest upon converting to the Catholic Church and Eastern Rite Catholic priests who are married.

  2. My difficult discernment. My mother destroyed my relationship with my high school sweetheart, whom I wanted to marry. I almost committed suicide over this and was unable to fall in love again. With the UN Vietnam war on as well as the draft, and all my priests taking a secular pacifist stand, and me coming from a family of great American hero veterans, trying to decipher Jesus’ Will on when to kill for the protection of the innocent became a tremendously heavy Spiritual burden for me. I asked my priest about my dilemma. He told me, “It is your civil duty to serve and when you get back, come to the Church and She will help you with all the evil you have done.” I Love Jesus! I do not want to do evil! Then, from behind the protection of Swiss Guard snipers, St. Pope John Paul II stated, “Violence is Never the Answer!”

    At age 26 I was rejected from 2 seminaries. So I decided to focus on seeking out Jesus Will on when to kill for the protection of the innocent. I worked only enough to frugally get by, while I spent my years in deep prayer, scriptural study, contemplation and writing. After four years I self published my ‘I Love You, God’. Then I applied again at a third seminary. I offered my ‘I Love You, God’ as a way for them to get to spiritually know me. They rejected my offer for them to read my book, stating that they wanted virgin soil to plant the priesthood in. I was always amazed at my rejections. I was a devout, Mass going every Sunday all my life, Cradle Catholic. Later in life a fellow Catholic told me that the St. Francis seminary had, had a problem. The straight Catholic seminarians were complaining about the headboard banging, from homosexual sex, in the next dorm room over while they were trying to pray and study. Archbishop Rembrandt Weekland decided to stop taking straight seminarians to solve the problem. But of course they did not tell me this and simply left it at giving me no reason for the rejection.

    At age 63 my deacon asked me to think of becoming a deacon. I told him, no, God had made His calling for me not to be a priest or deacon quite clear. I am happy and content with simply going to daily Mass, praying the rosary, contemplating scriptures, and writing online comments at Catholic News media outlets. I see this as my calling from God.

    • I wanted to share my ‘17 Minutes as a Protestant’

      I was born a cradle Catholic. I went to Mass every Sunday and loved the Church. At age 26 I decided to become a priest. I was heading out to work when I received the letter from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee rejecting me into the seminary. I loved my 79 Kawasaki 650 SR and had always babied it; NOT TODAY! I stomped her down into gear and let the ponies roar! Gravel flew in the driveway. When she hit the pavement the throttle was wide open; four of Japan’s finest carburetors dumping raw gas into the 650cc raging inferno below. I left the throttle wide open as I smashed through the gears, the clutch had to absorb the difference as the rpms soared way into the red zone. Within seconds we were well beyond 100mph.

      I was screaming in my helmet. WHAT ON EARTH ARE THEY THINKING! The Church is dying for priests and they reject me!; The perfect Catholic! I will just become a Protestant minister! Then I can marry anyway! I was angry! On and on I went with my screams of pain. What usually took 35 minutes to get to work, had now only taken about 17 minutes. I screeched to almost a halt and turned off onto the final straightway to work. Within seconds I was back up to 100 mph plus. All of a sudden, for no reason at all, the bike was kicked out from under me. It was a sunny summer day with no water or gravel on the road, just straight smooth blacktop. I had over 100,000 miles of experience on street bikes. As she went down I simply pulled my leg out from under the falling side, and sat on the motorcycle as it slid down the road, on its side. Sparks were flying and metal was grinding. Through all of this, I was still screaming in my helmet of the great injustice the Church had inflicted on me, and how I was now a Protestant. Suddenly, for no reason at all, the tires caught the pavement and the bike went vertical. You do the physics. 80 mph and you are suddenly pole-vaulted into the air. I was flying through the air like superman.

      It still amazes me at just how many prayers of repentance one can say in the seventeen or twenty four seconds that you are flying through the air toward your impending death. It seemed like I prayed a hundred Our Fathers and a hundred Hail Mary’s. God and I had a long talk over the beauty of remaining Catholic over leaving for Protestantism, during these seventeen or twenty four seconds of my doomed flight. Turn’s out I was wrong and God was right. Catholicism is where God wants me, and all people, to be. I desperately begged God to catch me on the other end of the tragic situation I was in. Please Heavenly Father, forgive me of my sin. I will serve, You, the Lord my God, with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my strength and with all my soul, with, and through, Your Church, the Catholic Church, if you will only spare my life.

      When I hit the pavement, my full face helmet transferred the blow to my shoulders rather than neck. I flipped and hit hard on my back. I was wearing my backpack, which in my backpack was my 1970 edition, St. Joseph’s, NAB bible. There I was, sliding down the road, on my back, in the Hands of God, praising and thanking God for granting me mercy.

      In the thirty seven years since that time, me and God have never had to have the Protestant vs. Catholic conversation, ever again. Since then, I have always thanked God for His Mercy. I thank God for His tremendous gift, in that He took the time to come down here to earth and Personally kick me in the butt, twice. In the decades since, for God’s Blessing of my Catholic parishioner life, I am forever grateful!

  3. “Lane: The short answer is that it’s complicated”. Repeat that again and again. After Rachel asks about the writers’ influence, and the difference of our present day Lane’s lengthy response makes that clear. Apparently enlightened, he hits the right mark at the end, Francis de Sales “Don’t break your head over it. Make a choice and stick to it, and it’s going to be alright”.
    When I struggled with an answer an American Carthusian in Lucca Italy said exactly the same thing. Although even with that good advice it wasn’t until Africa a layman lecturing philosophy at a seminary experiencing the same hardships of my confrere missionary priests did I finally after years of struggling with the desire and simultaneous uncertainty did I decide on the priesthood. It seemed the thought of marriage was wonderful, that of the priesthood moreso, perhaps an Ignatian discernment.
    Even after ordination doubts persisted, especially when difficulties seemed overwhelming, that i wasn’t up to the task. Through it all both Saint Francis de Sales’ admonition and the advice of my Carthusian friend prevailed, have faith, whatever your choice [here referring to having chosen the priesthood] Christ will give you the grace. After many years I can say with conviction I would not prefer to be in any other place. God is infinitely good, knows our weakness, which makes Him more compassionate, finding our admission of weakness endearing. Drawing from within us.

  4. They say “Don’t judge” and “Don’t be judgmental.”

    Judging from my own dispositions, failings and sloppinesses, I believe Merton doesn’t pass muster and doesn’t add up; and he too much gets an easy press and ready reference. Saints have to do struggles. When you read them this is what you find. Some of them, in the midst of the struggle had to bear with calumny, the malicious pessimism vicariously invited in and freely edified.

    Similarly, there are times when “rigorist” gets exaggerated; however, saints with the “rigorist” bent give off helpful lights what can serve and how God works with it. A good heart can be led and this holds true for a good “rigorist” heart. One the other hand, some external situations require a stern intervention where requiring “softness” to win the day, would miss – ruin – the point.

    I don’t mean to exhaust the discussion of “rigorism”, the topic is much more than just this and I only mean to show that, as a type of limitation, it is not strictly negative.

  5. This interview misses all the major reasons for the vocations crisis today. First, this generation’s addiction to social media. Today’s youth constantly look at themselves in relationship to others, envious of what seems to be another’s greater happiness and more exciting life, unwilling to make any decisions that would result in fewer options in the future. In the case of more “grounded” and serious young people, the problem is much more severe: a Church led by men who no longer believe. Who wants to sacrifice his life – and risk his faith and his sanity – in pledging obedience to the likes of Bergoglio and McElroy? I know my son does not. After discerning a vocation from the age of eight until he was at least eighteen, the last few years seem to have convinced him that it is now futile. And as his father, I concur. I do not want to see him persecuted within the palaces of this sodomitical pornocracy.

    • I could not really encourage anyone, man or women, to go into the ranks of clergy/nun/brother/etc. Why? The Church (well, hierarchy in the Church) has proven she will mandate medical treatments (even experimental ones with no long term side effects/safety data) on their clergy, nuns, lay employees, etc. Also refuse to help secure certain exemptions. Some corners even briefly mandated them to attend Mass.
      .
      The “obdience to the Bishop” concept needs a serious rethink.

    • What I thought of Hoover’s interview, they weren’t being exacting, merely exploring how vocation/calling had been seen and figured on through different periods. Lane is brave here, if he is looking for feedback on his book. In the book he has a similar discursive and informative style, bringing out aspects of vocational culture of the period he studied for it. I read/re-read the book for insights; it wouldn’t be fair to say that one MUST find one’s vocation OUT OF the culture and that is not his point either. In general, the saints are our lights and maybe they could have been featured more? Their stories have a way of resolving the conundrums of their times. Lane’s mention of Borromeo was too slight. In same theme I had mentioned elsewhere if Lane might have worked his material into the subsequent era with St. Vincent de Paul. The Jansenist influence had mounted up and de Paul’s vocational fulfilment and life experience – it seems to me – are like shield and antidote to the Jansenist poisoned arrows.

      The opposite side to Jansenism would be, being “too flouting” and “too excusing” with “self-assured neglecting”; and from some of the things de Paul had said, he has been a prophet of the modern era as to such excesses.

      VATICAN II takes up the position about vocation with the universal call to holiness. If you reflect on it carefully, you can see how it settles the difficulties posed/introduced by Gobinet, Dangles, etc. Of course, Lane’s thesis is not structured to reach to VATICAN II. Still, however, I wonder if it shouldn’t have been addressed in overview. I am not talking about “Church development” here. I am pointing to the fact that the specific identification of the universal call to holiness shows the providentiality of VATICAN II: foundational legitimacy in very deep insight recapitulating and engaging Tradition. This is one demonstration of “presciences” in VATICAN II that impart its own keys and helps in understanding it and living it.

    • I tend to agree with your sentiments, and still think this is a good interview. I points to the idea that we shouldn’t have to knock ourselveslves out over a lifetime trying to determine God’s perfect will for us. Also the idea that it’s a biota a fantasy trying to harmonize everything into a perfect ‘Look What God Did’ narrative like many evangelicals do.

  6. This article dwells on men only. Why not women, who have been “dragged” through much of history with little or no say on which direction to take? On most occasions, women were dominated by men. What little direction they might take was dictated by men, not God. Eg, Irish, “washer woman”. Having large families. “No one else would want to be with you”. “My little Wallflower”, etc. Then, in 1917, came “Women’s Suffrage”. “Suddenly, women’s rights leader Lillie Devereux Blake and 200 other women sailed by the Statue of Liberty on a boat. They’re holding a sign that reads, “American women have no liberty.” That declaration may have faded in the ensuing 18th century until today. From the fifties until the 90s I worked at IBM. During the 20th century when women, especially black women, were overlooked for management and higher jobs of import, a history that I find hard to sleep on!

    God save our women from further disgrace.

    • Uhm… this article mostly concerns the priesthood, and not at all the development of modern washing machines and women’s suffrage.

    • My father worked for IBM for 35 years. For several of those years, his supervisor was a Black woman who was placed in her position for considerations other than providing the best possible service for her division’s clients. Significantly more capable men were passed over for that responsibility in the furtherance of other goals. More recently, we’re seeing IBM recovering from a nearly disastrous period under the leadership of a White woman by a much more capable man of color. This is not to denigrate women’s capabilities in the workplace. There are many examples of highly successful women who have led Fortune 500 companies with professionalism, dignity and success. Indra Nooyi and Carly Florian are just two among many examples. Many other examples abound in government and the Church: Margaret Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, Benazir Bhutto, St. Catherine of Siena, Joan of Arc, St. Theresa of Calcutta and Mother Angelica are only a few of the most obvious examples.

      The overall point is, it is the goal, and the individual’s suitability to achieve the goal, that should drive selection of individuals for vocation and leadership. Problems will invariably arise when poorly-suited individuals are selected, or when poorly-designed goals are pursued.

  7. As I carefully reread this article I saw no specific mention of a Convent or detailed language of women in the church. you avoid the mention of the historical value of this piece.

    Please, specific excerpts needed.

  8. I’m not pointing fingers at you but you’re putting too much pressure on the interview and the format of the article. The interview has its parameters like a carousel, you can add or decorate horses but you can’t make it a bumper-car crash-up ride.

  9. I suppose people who marry don’t concern themselves with discernment of that state in life as being their vocation but with choice of a particular man or woman as a spouse.The opposite sex is a great help in this regard in knowing if you have a vocation to marry this particular person, or not. They’ll let you know.

    • Generalizations mixed with unspecified theory and unidentified subjectivities?

      Surely the call to holiness is a simple one that builds with simple insights and the grace of the Almighty.

  10. In his book Lane is going over vocation in the 16th Century. Notably absent from consideration are the English Martyrs and the North American Martyrs. Two interesting points come out of their stories. They reflect an active “putting out to sea” that exemplified love for God and neighbour, through what required, in reality, rigorous self-denial. They were formed in France where the more sedentary “land-lubber” debates about vocation didn’t suppress their zeal. Because they belong to the period of Lane’s review they would have provided an instructive contrast to the more sterile aspects he addresses. They are also good examples for our own times where there is the tendency to equate and limit Christian joy with happy existential conditioning.

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