We hope you enjoy this, the second post in our Living Vocations Series. James’ reflection on our primary vocation is beautiful and I hope it touches you as much as it did me! -B
The Primary Vocation
Saint John Bosco was quoted with saying, “To know the will of God, three things are required: prayer, waiting, and taking counsel.” The journey of vocation requires the same three. For many of us, the vocation is our main spiritual focus. But in my journey, I learned of the necessity of the vocation of holiness before discerning God’s desire for my state in life.
Although I was blessed with a great family, I spent much of my youth living a double life. Faith always took the backseat when I was at school, among friends, or participating in music or sports that I love. My strong desire to fit with my peers dominated any Christian zeal of sharing Christ and His Church with others. God, though, was persistent in our relationship and never saw me leave the Sunday obligation of mass. He continued to bring me to my knees in the confessional as well, which I found is one of his most abundant outlets of grace. Through these sacraments in particular I held onto the faith, however weak that connection was at times.
My course changed when God blessed me by allowing me to participate in a choral pilgrimage to Rome in my senior year of high school. By no means was I expecting this trip to change my life, but that is just what it did. God speaks through that which is true, good, and beautiful. In Rome, the beauty spoke volumes to me. And the beauty of Rome is not only the aesthetic nature of the grand churches and priceless art but the true universality of the Church. Being able to experience the Church like this all but gave this ignorant teen a brand new life mission. And as a result, I began to open myself up to God’s will.
I knew in theory what vocation was. God calls and you answer. I thought I had mine figured out but I realized that I had never asked God what his desire was for me. I was living for nobody but myself. I began to pray regularly and little by little, God showed me the beauty of following Him in the seminary. I paid a visit to the college seminary which my diocese uses for the formation of its priests. I was immediately struck by the joy and authenticity of these young men who were following God and doing it with real joy. It was like a breath of fresh air! After my whole childhood of shoving my religion to the backseat, I felt like this was a place where I could bring it forward let God truly inhabit my heart. Not to mention, this is the best place to discern what God’s will is for me. So the decision to become a seminarian came not long afterwards.
As I mentioned earlier, God has a vocation for each of His children. It is a perfect plan for your life, one which only you can do. I take great consolation in this fact. But not long after joining seminary, I learned something very important. It is true that we all have a call to a particular state in life from God, priesthood, marriage, single life, or religious life, but that state is a secondary vocation. The primary vocation for each of us is simple: holiness. Our human nature is fallen and weak. Before we are ready to start on the path to a state in life, it is often necessary to take time to root out sinfulness and grow in the most important relationship, the one with Jesus Christ. This is time to draw closer to our mother Mary as well because through her example of trust and humility, she brings us directly to her son.
I know that my year and a half of seminary have been another one of God’s tremendous gifts to me. He brought me to realize my primary vocation. Saint John Bosco’s 3 things are certainly present in the seminary. Prayer is lived out because we are given a daily holy hour and mass. A life of prayer is the staple of a seminarian’s life. Waiting is lived out because there is no hurry to get on or get out. We work at God’s speed in what he wants with our lives. Taking counsel is lived out because we are given frequent spiritual direction to discern the movements of our hearts. The accountability and brotherhood with fellow seminarians is an additional blessing of wisdom.
In His time, God will show me what He desires for my life. This is what I know beyond any doubt: our relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important one, all others can wait. Never be afraid of taking time to work on it. In our hurry to get on with life, it is easy to get caught up with discerning before growing in holiness. There is no hurry to get married, to join a religious order, or pursue any vocational state in life. Allow God to inhabit your heart. Establish that relationship with Him. The time you give to that will only help you become a better spouse, priest, sister or single person.
James Smyth was born in Fort McMurray, Alberta and moved to central Wisconsin at a young age. There he was raised with 2 older and 2 younger brothers. He is in his 2nd year at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota, studying for the Diocese of La Crosse. He enjoys all sports, particularly hockey and soccer, as well as music, particularly singing choral sacred music and playing the pipe organ.