Being a teenager or a young adult can be awkward. It’s easy to go through life constantly anticipating the next big life event. As a teenager, I remember eagerly longing for the time when I would graduate from high school and move on to college. Once I got to college, my next big life goal was to graduate college and move on to a career. Now that I’ve got a stable job, I’ve been pressuring myself to focus on getting married. Those longings for the next milestone never seem to stop.
There is a huge temptation to view life as a series of goals and checkpoints on our road to success, happiness, achievement, and ultimate fulfillment which we tell ourselves can be achieved only once we hit a certain milestone. Many single young people believe that once they marry the right person, or find the right religious or consecrated vocation, they can start living their true, God given vocation and get out of the awkwardness of “vocation limbo.”
We tell ourselves things like “Life might stink now, but once I get married, everything will be awesome.” Or “High school is hard, but once I get to college I’m going to be having so much more fun!” Or “Right now life is really challenging, but that’s only because God hasn’t revealed to me if I should be a priest or a husband. Once he finally answers all my prayers, life will be perfect.” Some even focus all of their extra energy on finding a great husband or wife at the expense of other aspects of their lives.
We need to stop viewing the “next step” in life, whether that is graduating, finding our dream job, or beginning marriage or religious life, as our ultimate goal and the point where we will become significantly happier and instead recognize that each of these are only checkpoints on our path to our true “God given vocation”: Heaven.
Focusing exclusively on “finding your vocation” would be just like if Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” focused only on getting to the Emerald City without remembering that what she was really trying to do was get home to Kansas. We have to remember that our ultimate destination is not to get to the wedding altar or to finish seminary, but to get to heaven.
God has given us different experiences in our lives, and we can use every one of them as an opportunity to grow in holiness. There’s no need for me to wait until I’m married or until I start a family to serve God, to grow in my prayer life, to help those in need through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and to be involved in life at my parish. When we start to focus on getting to heaven rather than getting to our “vocation,” we can become much more patient with God’s plan for our lives and more open to where he is actually leading us.
Whether your eventual (or current) vocation is to be a husband or wife, a priest or bishop, a religious or consecrated sister or brother, you can be sure of one of your other vocations which is even more important than all of those others: To be a saint.
Every single person reading this is called to be a saint. Think it’s too hard and that you’ll never be able to do it? There wasn’t anything extraordinary about the upbringings of most of the canonized saints who we recognize. They’re just like you and me in a lot of ways. But they viewed every choice they made as an opportunity to serve God rather than to serve themselves. They constantly sought out ways to love their neighbors. Authentic humility wasn’t just present in how they acted but it was a spirit that consumed their thoughts as well. Many were priests or religious, and some were married, but a lot of them were very young. St. Maria Goretti was 11 when she died. St. Agnes was 12. St. Philomena was 13. Some others were in their 20’s, like St. Gerard Majella who died when he was 29, and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati who died at 24. None of them needed to wait until they “found their vocation” to fully follow their call to live a holy life focused on Christ.
If you’re spending your life focused on the next milestone or “finding your vocation” to marriage or religious life, thinking that only then will your life truly begin, you may be missing out on the chance to pursue your vocation to be a saint focused on the milestone of “becoming a citizen of God’s heavenly kingdom” right now.