How Not to Miss God's Call



by Germain Grisez

and Russell Shaw

OSV, 2003

169 pages, $12.95

To order: (800) 348-2440

Answering machines, voice messaging, call waiting, call forwarding. Human ingenuity continues to put the latest technology at our disposal so we won't miss a single call. Are we anywhere near as diligent about making sure we will hear the message when God calls? Does it even occur to us that the Almighty could have something to say to each one of his human creatures individually?

Personal Vocation is an extended reflection on these questions from a Catholic point of view, co-authored by a professor of Christian ethics (Grisez) and a veteran Catholic journalist (Shaw).

The fundamental meaning of “catholic” is universal, and we believe that “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). To counteract the impression that sanctity is for those few souls who have vocations to the priesthood or religious life, the Second Vatican Council emphasized the “universal call to holiness.”

To be baptized is to be a child of God. I accept this as a general statement of my Catholic faith. But what practical effects come with having Christ as my brother?

Roughly speaking, “personal vocation” is where Divine Providence meets individual free will, where God's plan intersects my plans. The situation is delicate. In their introduction, the authors describe it as follows:

“Not all good possibilities are equally good. As a loving Father, God prefers that we choose the best. If we always did that, we would make the best use of our abilities, take advantage of the greatest opportunities, and benefit others and ourselves as richly as possible. …

“But while commanding everyone to choose what is good rather than what is bad, [God] commands no one to choose what is better rather than what is good. Instead, he extends an invitation. He calls each of us by name. … Personal vocation is that divine calling and guidance.”

God calls, and we can respond. Personally.

Written in lecture style, the first half of the book challenges the reader to be more objective about the assumptions and pressures of modern Western culture and to gain a better perspective on what it means to live in Christ. The latter half examines the idea of personal vocation in greater depth and describes ways of putting the book's ideas to work. Inspiring examples are presented from the lives of, for example, St. Augustine and Flannery O'Connor.

I found the latter part of the book not quite “spiritual reading” but rather like listening to a wise Catholic professor in a theology class. What is said is solid, but the corollaries are left to the reader to figure out as an individual assignment.

Christ decided to build his Church out of “living stones” who can wander around the quarry with a mind of their own. Personal Vocation offers a blueprint for a Catholic worldview that welcomes God's input.

Michael J. Miller writes from Glenside, Pennsylvania.