MCMULLIN: What do lay people have to do with vocations?

September 27, 2022

(Photo by James Ramos/Herald)

I remember waking up and making my way to the living room at a young age. My dad would always be sitting in his chair with only the lamp above him lit, just enough so he could see the Bible in his lap.

While I was just getting up, he had been up for at least an hour praying in silence with Scripture. Although this ritual was not spoken about that often, we all knew of it, and personally, I was inspired by it.

Dad was not part of a special lay apostolate; he was just a man knowing that he needed to be filled up before he went about the day to be a dad, husband and businessman. This time guided the rest of the day.

Without specifically speaking about it, my dad profoundly taught me how to fulfill the call to holiness and how to be a lay person in a secular world. He visibly lived out his vocation.

In Lumen Gentium chapter IV, we read about the common vocation all lay people have to “make the Church present and fruitful.” Furthermore, this is done through a “witness of life.”

Our lives should witness the Love of Christ and make the Church present. This Witness of Life is possible only through a life of regular prayer and reception of the Sacraments.

This working towards holiness is the foundation for us to draw close to the Lord and hear what he is calling us to, whether that vocation is our state of life or what he is calling us to today.

Lay people are essential to the Church growing in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. How is this so? The Body of Christ striving for holiness paves the way for a culture of vocations because we are already working to do His will by fulfilling the call of holiness.

There’s a spiritual domino effect of sorts. If we live our call correctly and act as “leaven” to our world, then the Church becomes tangible, real; the varied callings associated with serving the Church become realized. Holy families provide the space for children to desire and strive for holiness. Holy teachers sharing their love of vocation fosters the environment for their students to want to do the same. A holy female engineer working to sanctify her work sets the tone for the workplace environment. This also makes her life work contagious to other young women seeking to be engineers.

If we, as the Church, are not answering the call to holiness, then it makes it almost impossible for our fellow members to hear the call to priesthood and religious life.

All priests and religious were lay people at one point in their lives. Their journey towards hearing and answering this call began before they said yes. It began with their families, and if not with their families, with someone showing them Christ’s love in their life.
We all need someone to model what holiness looks like in our lives. 

Claire McMullin directs Ministry Collaboration and Formation for the Office of Vocations of the Archdiocese.