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It’s not about you: on discerning vocation in modern Western culture

It’s not about you: on discerning vocation in modern Western culture

A central task of living in Christian community, and considering the process of one’s being and becoming in God, is discerning the work we may be called to do in our lives together with Christ. In modern Western culture, however, particularly given the effects of consumerism and illusions of choice, discerning a vocation is difficult. In a piece by Benjamin Mann on the Catholic Exchange, Mann explores the countercultural nature of life in Christ for discerning a vocation in Western modernity:

The problem is not with the traditional concepts and language, but with us and our mindset. Shaped by the modern sensibility of intense self-consciousness, and by the consumer culture’s obsession with options and the “pursuit of happiness,” we think too much about ourselves and our preferences. Often, we are looking for the wrong things in a vocation. And we approach the discernment of our calling in a correspondingly wrong way…

But that is the only escape there is. You cannot take a shortcut simply by getting married, or becoming a missionary, or changing careers, or joining a monastery. Such choices must be made, and such responsibilities embraced; but they will not, in themselves, provide any escape from ourselves. These external situations are only necessary means, the circumstances in which our liberation becomes possible.

The central question in discernment is: How shall I die with Christ, to rise with him? How will I lose my life to find it? What will bring me to the point where I can say, with St. Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”?

Such thinking is more than countercultural; it goes beyond our natural inclinations. But this is the perspective of the Gospel, the self-emptying attitude of Christ that should also be in us.

For the full article from Mann, please visit the Catholic Exchange here.

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