What practices support a sense of vocation? What are the communal Christian traditions—actions, attitudes or habits—that can shape our callings?
Listen to Sherice’s story for a unique perspective on a spiritual practice that supports her sense of call. Sherice is one of the storytellers featured in our Lives Explored video narrative project, where we capture the variety of ways that Christians understand vocation in their lives.
Sherice speaks about singing in her workplace as an important practice that shapes her sense of calling and responding. Certainly a deep prayer life and regular participation in worship are other practices she describes as being central to her sense of vocation. But the simple act of singing—as a way to connect with God and to recenter herself amidst the stresses of her work—plays a unique and powerful role in Sherice’s understanding of herself as a person called by God to her neighbor.
What other practices can support our callings? Consider these four possibilities:
Prayer: Prayer springs to mind as an obvious practice, deeply related to a sense of calling: communicating with God whom Christians believe to be the caller of vocation. For this reason, the prayer practice of lectio divina has become the backbone of our Called to Life and Called to Work programs. In the monastic tradition lectio divina offers an encounter with God’s Word through a slow, meditative reading of Scripture. Lectio can also be adapted for use with poetry or images. We have used videos from our Lives Explored project as well as illuminations from the Saint John’s Bible as “texts” for lectio with groups from congregations.
Discernment: From the Ignatian examen to Quaker clearness committees, there are a variety of discernment practices in the Christian tradition. Discernment involves sorting through the many competing voices we hear each day—God’s, society’s, our own ego’s—to determine which offer truth and which blind or distract us. Learning to listen to God is a lifelong practice that requires patience, openness, and careful cultivation of time and space set aside to sit with the restless questions of our hearts.
Mentoring: Ongoing relationships with elders or other experienced leaders in the community can help to guide people through their evolving sense of God’s call. Through formal or informal opportunities for mentoring, faith communities can call forth gifts the wisdom of older adults for new generations while also welcoming the questions and concerns of youth and young adults seeking their way in the world.
Storytelling: Congregations tell us over and over that storytelling is one of the most powerful practices they have discovered to help people deepen their understanding of God’s call in their life. Our Seminars, as well as our Called to Life and Called to Work programs, have drawn from the Collegeville Institute’s first-person method of sharing personal stories as the basis for ecumenical efforts. We find that whenever people are invited to share about their experience of how God works in their lives, we discover resonances of the theological concepts surrounding vocation. Personal narratives can often carry the depth and breadth of vocation more powerfully than conceptual or theological language alone.
Practices are particular patterns of behavior or thought that can create a vocational way of life. A congregation might choose to bless the professions of its members at different points throughout the church calendar. Or an individual might decide to take up Centering Prayer to seek clarity during a time of personal or professional transition.
These are deliberate, concrete practices that work over time to bring individuals and communities closer to an understanding of God’s evolving, dynamic invitation to relationship—the heart of vocation.
What other spiritual or religious practices have you discovered to shape or support your sense of vocation?
To learn more about the theological understanding of “practices,” please visit The Valparaiso Project’s “Practicing Our Faith” website.