Vocation comes from the Latin word calling which we as Christian’s believe is a calling from God to become followers of Jesus and make our pilgrimage her on earth. Throughout the old and new testament God has called to people and inspired them to begin their individual vocation through the use of the holy spirit which strengthens the individual’s mind and body since God is now with them to guide the on their journey.
Presumable of the most famous callings in the Old Testament was that of Moses where he was called by God when ‘the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush’ allowing him to received the Holy Spirit which enabled him to embark on his vocation to lead his people into freedom and salvation from their Egyptian rulers. Consequently many people now, in contemporary society are inspired and motivated by this same Holy Spirit giving them the spiritual strength to begin on their own vocation as God uses the Holy Spirit to speak with his people directly as in the burning bush or in directly as in through life experiences, natural events or historical events.
The Gospel indicate that a decisive moment for Jesus when he realised his calling was with his meeting with John the Baptist, where ‘upon coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the spirit, like a dove, descend on him and a voice come out from heaven saying you are my son the beloved; my favour rests at you’. Consequently it is at this point that Jesus realised his calling when receiving the Holy Spirit, leading him to begin his public ministry as is displayed in Matthew 4:1-2. Essentially Jesus’ baptism allowed him to foresee his vocation as well as strengthening his mind and body to continue with his vocation even though he known of the troubled times he will come across as God was there to guide and protect him. Furthermore due to Jesus’ vocation Simon and Andrew acknowledged there when they were recruited by Jesus to became his disciples as Jesus announces he will make the fishers, ‘fishers of men’ causing them to ‘leave their nets and follow him’ as they realised their vocation was to be a disciple for Jesus by learner for the wise man, as told in Mark 16:20.
Through his various teaching and parables, Jesus taught his disciples to ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ Matthew 5:44, outlining his teaching about loving your neighbours on the Sermon on the Mount in Mark 7:24-27. During which his expands on the Ten Commandments Moses had inscribed on the rock teaching that the most important commandment was to ‘love God with all your heart, mind and strength’ followed closely by the golden rule telling early Christians to ‘do onto others as you would like them to do onto you’.
After Jesus’ death many of these teachings were continued by the work of the apostles who were filled with the energy of God as ‘they saw tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there filling them with the holy spirit’ inspiring them to teach to people across the world as Jesus had done Acts 2:1-5. Consequently all the marks of a disciple of Jesus being love, compassion and service to the lord stayed with the disciple well after Jesus’ death as a result of his teaching prior to his death, such as in the last supper – John 13:14 – where Jesus washed the feet’s of his disciple ‘if I, your lord and teacher have washed your feet, you then should wash the feet of others’. Furthermore the fact that disciple comes from the Latin word learner proved to be the bases of which the disciples had to undergo before they were able to able apostles of the lord and spread the word of God.
Baptism, being a Greek work for being bathed or totally washed is the sacrament for the initiation of a person into the Christian community, helping us unshackle our souls from the original sin committed Adam and Eve from their failure to obey God. For Catholics baptism is the normal way by which a person becomes a Christian and is celebrated by a religious ceremony of initiation by a person into the Christian community. The origin of baptism began with the baptism of Jesus marking a new beginning in his life since he received the Holy Spirit and God declared him to be his son. Through this sacrament a person who is baptised becomes a child of God by receiving the Holy Spirit as well as their calling from God. They are many different types of paths a person can follow each with an individual vocation ranging from discipleship, being called a witness or being a member a community.
The laity can follow in Jesus example and lead a vocation of their own in several different ways all through the work they do. The call to religious life is the vocation undertaken by monks and nuns who believe that to be able to show complete and utter dedication to their religion means they must isolate themselves from the busyness of contemporary by spending most of their lives praying and reflecting. Furthermore the call to Priesthood is another vocation that some few select people in contemporary society embark on which involves them taking the three evangelical as those who chose the religious life. Although people recognise these vocations are important as they show dedication to God, the call to married life and parenthood also show the same devotion to God since 1 Corinthians tell us that “”. Consequently this vocation can only be undertaken by the laity whom have not had to take any of the three evangelical counsel preventing them from marring or having children. Additionally as well as these vocations there are many others which people do as a career although not to obtain money but to give service to others through their job e.g. doctor, nurse, teacher or social worker.
In conclusion there are many ways in which to show love towards God such as praying, attending mass and showing compassion towards others which Jeusu taught us to do, during his time here on earth.
aii) explain why some Christians join communities and take vows of poverty chastity and obedience
For the many Christian that choose to dedicate there lives to God and live their life in a religious order, the fundamental reason they that believe that this type of life will be better suited to them is that they deem that the new change in life will help them come closer to Jesus in many new ways as they will be encouraged in that pursuit by the examples of other sincere Christian who want to do the same. Additionally it is easier for them to achieve their purpose without the distractions and busy-ness of modern living with its emphasis on materialism. This life new type of life relieves them of the demands of partners, children or work and thus giving them more time to spend in prayer, meditation and worship.
The roots of monasteries can be traced back to the time of Jesus when Christians were being persecuted for their belief, because of this to be a faithful Christian meant being willing to be a martyr, which required a high level of dedication to the gospel. However as Christianity came into favour and the persecution stopped some Christians desired to restore the high level of dedication as they had experience during the persecution.
They did this by living as hermit in isolated places such as deserts and eventually joined together in communities setting the beginning of a monastic life. At this present time these communities of Christian who have separated themselves from their worldly possessions to commit to become as perfect Christians as possible are called monasteries. These days the people living this kind of life are called monks and nuns and abide by arrangement which they must live under called a rule, the best known monastic rule being that of Saint Benedict. Religious communities are now more diverse in nature but all share the same desire for dedication to the Gospel.
The three evangelical counsels which monks and nuns take when they join a religious order are the vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. The vow of poverty is taken by monks and nuns to allow them to experience the life of the poor as they’re more sensitive to the needs of the poor when poor themselves than being blinded by wealth. Consequently to do this shows complete trust in God as it enable them to live in the service of others as Jesus did, founding the origins of Christians poverty. Furthermore for someone to be a true follower of God the must give up all their earthly possession to inherit the treasures of heaven as Jesus said to the rich young man (Mark 10:17-22) ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me’.
Furthermore monks and nuns take the vow of chastity as living a celibate life allows them to dedicate their life to the Gospels without the distraction of family life or working life. Living a celibate life mean that both monks and nuns have to give up their sexual relations like Jesus and not have a husband, wife or children because Christians husbands and wives have the duties of loving each other and share in the responsibility of looking after the children, limiting what they can do to promote the gospel and live in service to others like Jesus disciples.
The third of the three evangelical counsels, which monks and nuns take, is the vow of obedience. They vow to be obedient to God and follow in Jesus’ example as the bible depicts Jesus as being in perfect obedience to God since Christians believe that he died not because he wanted to, but in accordance with God’s will (Mark 14:32-36) ‘Take this cup away from me. But let it be as you, not I, would have it’. For the dedicated Christians who want to be as obedient as Jesus they must all obey human authority that in included in obedience to God because all authority comes from God, although many people find it difficult to submit authority because of their pride. Consequently the vow of obedience enables a religious community to be united in the service of God and others with an abbot if chosen by monks or mother superior if chosen by nuns leading them.
There are many religious orders in contemporary society all whom follow the examples set by Jesus although in different ways. Apostolic order or those who lead active lives try to show their love for God by helping their neighbours directly. For example Benedictine monks provide education in their schools and by doing this show their love towards their neighbours which in turn shows love for God.
However there are orders whom unlike the Benedictine monks follow the contemplative life by being totally focused on God. This requires them to be separated from the everyday world and be committed to God as a contemplative person, mainly monks and nuns, is one who seeks to live with a permanent awareness of Gods presence. Consequently orders such as these show their devotion to God by reading and meditating on scriptures in order to understand Gods purpose and to experience his love in their lives. Additionally they spend most of the time in prayer to God to be able to listen to what he has to say to them.
aiii) explain the purpose and practice of ONE particular religious community
An example of a religious order that exits in contemporary society and leads both active and contemplative lives is that of the Friars of the Order of Preachers, known as Dominicans after they founder St Dominic. They are a religious order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church.
The Order was founded in the south of France in the early thirteenth century where St Dominic realised that some of the central truths of the gospel were being denied, and saw the need to establish a preaching community. Consequently Dominic and his brothers showed by their lives and in their preaching that it was possible to live a radical form of life without abandoning the truth of the gospel. This message soon spread quickly throughout Europe, being especially strong in the centres of learning. The Order was “known from the beginning to have been instituted especially for preaching and the salvation of souls” and is “appointed entirely for the complete evangelisation of the Word of God”.
Dominican friars live in priories, usually with at least six brothers under an elected prior. The Divine Office and Mass are sung daily by the community, and form the heart of the common life. Sharing meals and recreation together is also an important part of community life. Any works of the brothers are seen as works they do as a member of the priory. They profess obedience directly to the Master of the Order, and so can be moved to another priory, as the needs of the Church and if the Order requires.
As part of their profession of obedience they also bind themselves to the celibate life and the life of personal poverty, so as to be free for the common apostolate. Their life is not only a witness to the gospel in itself, but prepares them to preach that gospel. So that they can minister the word and the sacraments of faith, most of the brothers are ordained priests; however there are also non-ordained brothers who contribute in various ways to the preaching community and thus share fully in the work of the order.
As they are required to be men of prayer, in times of quiet contemplation as well as in the liturgy and in all that they do, they must never lose touch with the God whom they study and preach. Dominican friars are both apostolic and contemplative. Contemplation means both prayer and study, so all the brothers are called upon to devote time to study, whatever their other work might be. In a number of cases this means full-time academic research and teaching, but for every friar it means a continual enrichment of their preaching. The first eight years of a friar’s life in the Order are set aside for full-time initial formation, principally the study of theology and philosophy, according to the needs and abilities of the brothers.
The purpose of their regular and contemplative life is to prepare them to preach the gospel, not only in the homilies given at Mass, but also by lecturing, writing books and pamphlets, appearing on radio or television and producing material for the Internet. They preach their gospel to the people they meet in their work in parishes, schools, hospitals, prisons, universities and all the other places where Dominican friars are found. Wherever their work takes them, they try to emulate their founder St Dominic, who, it was said, spoke always either to God or about God.
Dominican priories in particular areas are grouped into provinces. It is the province, which is responsible for admitting, training and nurturing friars, and so a province builds up over time its own character and traditions. The English province covers the whole of Great Britain, and is also given the care of three islands in the West Indies. In Britain there are 75 friars in seven houses, at Oxford, London, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Newcastle, Leicester and Glasgow. Apart from prayer and study there is a wide range of work that is done in these houses: parishes, chaplaincies to universities, schools, hospitals and prisons. A number of brothers are writers or lecturers, many of who teach in Blackfriars, a Hall of the University of Oxford run by the Order.
There are nearly forty provinces of friars in the Order of Preachers, from all parts of the world, all united by obedience to the Master of the Order. Sharing in the charism of the order there are also enclosed nuns, apostolic sisters and members of Dominican lay fraternities, priestly fraternities and secular institutes. Their order has a world-wide mission, and so they work to spread the gospel not only by preaching in their own lands but also in those places around the world where the Christian message of hope has not been heard.
b) Give response to the view that:
“Christians should lead active rather than contemplative lives.”
In the argument concerning whether Christians should lead an active rather than a contemplative life my beliefs would strongly support the argument for many reasons. The fundamental reason being that Jesus led an active life during his time here on earth by helping others and preaching the Word of God. Nevertheless many people believe that leading a contemplative life shows greater devotion to God as Jesus himself said that the first and greatest commandment is to love God and this should come above all other in his teaching on the Sermon on the Mount.
Consequently because of this many people may misinterpret the message given since not only can show the same devotion and love by leading a contemplative life but you can also show the same devotion and love by leading an active life. This is supported by the parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46)
‘come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me’,
indicating that both active and contemplative lives show love to God as Jesus taught us that love must be more than mere words but we are charged to act on our love and this can only be done by living an active life since you go out and help people rather than pray all day.
Furthermore Jesus sent his disciples as apostles with specific tasks (Mark 6:7-13) ‘he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits’ tells us that we should follow the apostles’ example and lead an active life since Jesus told his own disciples to lead an active life making sure that Christianity exists in contemporary society as the apostles spread the word of God to all parts of the world ‘they went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them’.
Despite this clear example of why people should lead an active life some still disagree and say that Jesus praised the example of Mary over Martha (Luke 10:38-42) ‘Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’ telling them that showing devotion to God through prayer and contemplation is more worthy of praise. However even though Jesus may have said this, the fact that Christians should be Christ like means we should therefore do the kind of work he did and he led an active life himself.
The Gospel offers us numerous examples of the compassion shown by Jesus to the sick, the lame, the lepers and those who were considered to be outcastes of his society. Jesus prayed over them but he also cured them. Consequently many Christians use this as their inspiration to act on their love of other through giving active service in their communities e.g. St Vincent De Paul, CAFOD, Missionaries of Charity all whom work to help the outcastes of our society. Those who lead contemplative lives, on the other hand say that Jesus himself went off to pray on different occasions such as his 40 days in the desert meaning he did sometimes lead a contemplative life therefore being alone to pray and mediate in order to communicate with God is a very important part of Christian Vocation.
Nevertheless all Christians have a vocation to evangelise and this can only be done by leading an active life since in a contemplative monks and nuns usually live in enclosed orders cut off from the outside world to focus on their relationship with God. They defend their way of life by saying Jesus warned us against the possibility of becoming tangled up in material possessions in the Parable of the Rich Young Man (Mark 10:17-22) as ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.’ Leading a contemplative life prevents this materialistic temptations encroach on life as they take vows of chastity, obedience and poverty to join their orders and do not mix with society.
In conclusion I consider that leading an active life would be better than leading a contemplative life because it gives you the opportunity to help others which is what Jesus himself did and told others to do during his time here on earth. However, we should also combine this with times set aside in our day for prayer and contemplation. Sundays should be set aside for attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion. Many religious orders show us how it is possible to combine the active and contemplative life and Mother Teresa’s order. The Missionaries of Charity is an example. These sisters have special times during their day, which they set aside for prayer, meditation and contemplation. They also go to work in the Homes for the dying, the orphans or in the communities. For other monks and nuns who join contemplative orders, this is their choice and their belief that this is their vocation, a different route to heaven but no less important.