I am writing an essay for a university assignment. On the essential characteristics of effective teaching.
And I’m arguing that one of the personal characteristics of an effective teacher is having a calling or vocation to teach. An old-fashioned term to some, but a description of the commitment, time, love, care that good teachers bring to their work. It invades every area of their life; they watch a movie and immediately see how they can share it with their students for example; they have joy and enthusiasm in their work. They couldn’t stop teaching any more than toddlers can stop learning. It’s about love.
While pondering this idea of vocation, I thought of Good Shepherd Sunday, celebrated recently. A time to focus on vocation in life and particularly on vocations to the priesthood and to religious life.
We could have heard this idea of calling during a homily.
Or we could have heard something like this:
“Vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life are born out of the experience of a personal encounter with Christ, out of sincere and confident dialogue with him, so as to enter into his will. It is necessary, therefore, to grow in the experience of faith, understood as a profound relationship with Jesus, as inner attentiveness to his voice which is heard deep within us. This process, which enables us to respond positively to God’s call, is possible in Christian communities where the faith is lived intensely, where generous witness is given of adherence to the Gospel, where there is a strong sense of mission which leads people to make the total gift of self for the Kingdom of God, nourished by recourse to the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and by a fervent life of prayer. This latter “must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand it must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints, by liturgical prayer, in which the Lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly.” (Spe Salvi, 34).” Pope Benedict XVI on the announcement of the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, 2013, full text here .
What we heard, however, went something like this:
” On Good Shepherd Sunday we look at who we are, and who we are in community with others.”
Which may have nothing wrong with it as a statement in, say, the book I am currently reading (Co-Dependent No More), but at mass, on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, on Good Shepherd Sunday? Really?
There’s no mention of commitment. None at all.
When homilies mirror self help books, we know we have come a long way from the idea of vocations and callings, and especially from the idea of vocations to the priesthood. This depletes every other area of life in relation to understanding vocation , be it parenthood or nursing or teaching. If the priesthood is not a vocation , if there is no mention of commitment or of God, then it seems , too, that nothing is a vocation; it’s all just a job or season of life.
And society is that much weaker without this notion of vocation, love and commitment.
Families are weaker.
Schools are weaker.