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Chapter 31: Confirmation, the Apostolate, and Personal Vocation

Question C: How are confirmation, apostolate, and personal vocation related to one another?

1. Confirmation consecrates a Christian to share in the apostolate. But an individual’s specific apostolic responsibility is determined by his or her personal vocation. Confirmation therefore organizes the Christian’s life to the extent personal vocation does. But personal vocation integrates all aspects of a mature Christian’s life, and so the act of receiving and living in the sacrament of confirmation organizes every morally good act of the life of such a person.

2. In other words, confirmation includes a commitment to bear witness to Jesus—to give glory to God—by the whole of one’s life. Thus it organizes everything else one does out of living faith into the unity of one’s life. Personal vocation is the personal specification of faith to one’s own life (28‑E). Thus, personal vocation is the medium by which confirmation shapes the whole of one’s life as apostolate.

3. Nothing in a Christian’s life is exempt from integration by living faith. St. Paul teaches: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10.31). Again: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3.17). There is a place in a Christian’s life for every human good, provided it is pursued in a morally upright manner (see Phil 4.8). Hence, every act of Christian life should be done in Jesus’ name, should give God glory, and so should carry out the apostolic commitment proper to confirmation.

4. Vatican II makes it clear that the Church’s apostolate requires both that personal vocations be differentiated and that the members of the Church cooperate in carrying out their complementary vocations (see AA 3). In explaining this, the Council lays out the great principle of personal vocation. Each Catholic receives his or her own gift from the Spirit, and each gift is to be used to the fullest in making one’s personal contribution to the whole, coordinated life and work of the Church.

Citing Scripture (Col 3.17), Vatican II points out explicitly that family concerns and secular affairs must be included within one’s religious, apostolic program of life (see AA 4). “By its very nature the Christian vocation is also a vocation to the apostolate” (AA 2). Therefore, the whole of each person’s life also is to be lived apostolically.

5. Personal vocation already has been discussed at length (23‑E, 27‑B, 28‑E). Yet here it bears emphasis that both the very specific commitments of the mature and the rather general commitments of children, the largest commitments to a state of life consecrated by a sacrament or vows and the many smaller commitments concerning work and leisure—all these choices concerning one’s style of Christian life should form a harmonious whole and organize one’s day-to-day activities. To the extent that this is not just a lovely ideal but a living reality, the whole of one’s life will make Jesus’ light shine before humankind and give glory to God. Then all one is and does will flow from God’s self-gift in the Lord Jesus and one’s baptismal faith in him.

6. Because the whole of life should be lived in dedication to Jesus and as a contribution to the Church’s apostolate, a mature Christian should not reserve any area or type of activity merely for self-indulgence. This does not mean the Christian is to be a workaholic or a fanatic. Christians are committed to fulfillment in respect to the full range of human goods. But there is no room in a mature Christian life for doing just as one pleases, except insofar as one is pleased to fulfill one’s commitments. Every act for every good ought to contribute positively to the fulfillment of one’s total personal vocation.

Charity extends not only to God and to one’s neighbor but to oneself. But it does not follow that one’s life should be divided into compartments—one for religious activities, one for service to others, and one for self-gratification. Rather, all of one’s life should be consecrated to God as a living sacrifice of praise; all of it should be dedicated to Jesus-like service of others. In this way all of it will be fruitful in genuine self-fulfillment in this world and the next.

Christians need to make some use of their every part and ability in loving service, precisely so that they can love God with their whole reality. But a dedicated life cannot be well-rounded; no individual can aspire to be the whole Mystical Body. Does it follow that there is no room in life for spontaneity—that no time should be devoted to recreation? By no means. A well-integrated person with deep commitments fulfills them with considerable spontaneity. One who slavishly follows rules in a laborious way is perhaps less deeply committed, and certainly is less integrated with the goods to which such burdensome actions are directed. Moreover, everyone needs recreation, and a Christian makes commitments with this need in mind.