Personal Vocation    

Even before beginning to write Christian Moral Principles, Grisez had taken note of Vatican II’s few but important teachings on personal vocation. Then, as Grisez worked on that volume, Pope John Paul II began teaching about personal vocation, and Grisez more fully realized the great importance of this principle of Christian moral life. Thus, he mentioned it whenever appropriate in Christian Moral Principles, and treated it especially in chapter 23, question E; chapter 27, question B; chapter 28, question E; and chapter 31, question C. After the volume was published, Grisez tried in various ways to call personal vocation to the attention of the Catholic bishops of the United States, who seemed to have entirely overlooked it.

Throughout the 1980s, John Paul II continued developing the idea of personal vocation. Grisez urged the U.S. bishops who participated in the Synod on the Laity in October 1987 to call attention to personal vocation, and the post-synodal exhortation, Christifidelis laici, includes a fine treatment of it beginning with section 58. In Living a Christian Life, chapter 2, question E, Grisez mined the growing vein of papal teachings for a sixteen-page treatment of the specific responsibilities that every Christian ought to fulfill with respect to his or her personal vocation.

In dealing with questions in his Difficult Moral Questions, Grisez often found it necessary to advise discernment of elements of personal vocation that mark out the way by which a disciple can follow Christ. Finally, in the introductory chapter Grisez drafted for Clerical and Consecrated Life and Service, the final section (pp. 185–221) is a mature summary of personal vocation as the way for every Christian to respond to the universal call to holiness.



“Personal Vocation: A Key to Authentic Renewal of the Church”    

Only a few of the relevant passages in Scripture and in the teachings of Vatican II and John Paul II are quoted or cited in this article, which was published within two years after Christian Moral Principles. Still, the article offers an easily understood summary of most of the aspects of personal vocation treated in that volume and makes a strong case for the importance of personal vocation.

The article is copyright © Catholic Polls, Inc. 1985; all rights reserved.

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“Vocation in Family Catechesis”    

Focusing on personal vocation in the catechesis both of couples preparing for marriage and of children during the years between First Communion and puberty, this brief paper omits mention of most of the aspects of personal vocation that were treated in the preceding item. However, many relevant papal teachings are quoted or cited in this paper.

The paper is copyright © 1992 Franciscan University; Steubenville, Ohio; all rights reserved.

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“Health Care as Part of a Christian’s Vocation”    

In this presentation, the notion of personal vocation is articulated very briefly. Then the place in every Christian's vocation of caring for one’s own and others’ health is sketched out in a way likely to be helpful in deciding whether to pursue health care more or less energetically, or perhaps to limit or even to decline it. Finally, a fairly detailed and glowing description is offered of how professional health care will be provided by those who do so as part of their personal vocations and holy lives.

The presentation is copyright © The Linacre Centre 1992; all rights reserved.

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“Conditions for Rightly Assuming the Obligation of Celibacy”    
“Le condizioni per assumere rettamente Pimpegno del celibato”

During two or three years, as the twentieth century was drawing to a close, Grisez often informally discussed aspects of formation for the priesthood with some of the priests at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary. Many things led to these conversations, not only but not least the flood of information then coming to light about clerical sexual wrongdoing.

Eventually Grisez drafted a treatment of sound seminary formation from the point of view of the man whose personal vocation includes a genuine call by God to celibate priesthood in a particular diocese. Under what conditions can a man be morally certain of that calling, so that he can rightly undertake celibacy? (The structure of the treatise could serve as a model for discerning other callings, for example, to marriage with a particular person.)

The Congregation for Catholic Education oversees seminaries, and publishes Seminarium, a journal devoted exclusively to these key institutions. Though somewhat diffident about his treatise, Grisez decided to submit it for publication, and was surprised when it not only was accepted without revision but published in full both in the original English and in an Italian translation. The treatise is copyright © 2002 Libreria Editrice Vaticana; all rights reserved.

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Personal Vocation: God Calls Everyone by Name    

In the mid-1990s, the Catechism of the Catholic Church was published. Despite the teaching of Vatican II and John Paul II about personal vocation, that volume, which often uses the word “vocation” to refer to something other than personal vocation, seldom refers to it and nowhere focuses upon it. Most Catholics seem to remain ignorant of the important difference between one’s state of life, which ought to be undertaken as a central element of one's personal vocation, and one’s personal vocation itself—the entire life of good deeds that God prepares for each Christian as his or her unique way of both becoming holy and becoming who he or she is to be forever in the kingdom.

Between 1979 and 1993, as Grisez prepared and published the first two volumes of The Way of the Lord Jesus, Russell Shaw not only greatly helped with redrafting and polishing both volumes but also drafted the summary of the first, Fulfillment in Christ, which appeared in 1993. Working with passages about personal vocation, Shaw deeply appreciated its importance, took it to heart, and treated it in several of his own works, including To Hunt, To Shoot, To Entertain: Clericalism and the Catholic Laity (1993) and Ministry Or Apostolate: What Should the Catholic Laity Be Doing? (2002).

Grisez proposed to Shaw that they work together on a popular book devoted entirely to personal vocation, and Shaw accepted that proposal. Grisez provided the theological materials and helped plan the book. Shaw created the concrete examples, including the biographies, and did first drafts of all the chapters. Grisez worked on revisions and seeing the book through the press.

The book, Personal Vocation, is copyright © 2003 Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.; 200 Noll Plaza; Huntington, Indiana; which has reserved all other rights while granting permission for the volume’s electronic publication on this website.

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“The Call to Holiness and Personal Vocation”    

When the book on personal vocation appeared in 2003, Daniel Cere, then Director of the Newman Centre at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, so well understood the great importance of personal vocation that he organized a conference on it held in October 2004. Cere initially invited Shaw and Grisez, as well as some local persons who bore witness to their own extraordinary vocations.

In his lecture, Grisez tried to show how Jesus and Paul taught about personal vocation without using that expression. The lecture then focused on the close relationship between personal vocation and holiness: every Christian is called to the holiness of freely conforming in everything to the plan and will of God—that is, of cooperating with God by discerning, undertaking, and fulfilling his or her unique personal vocation. While the calling to celibate chastity for the kingdom’s sake is in some important respects better than the calling to marriage, no vocation is holier than any other and none is an easier way to grow in holiness than any other.

Grisez makes this lecture available here copyright © 2004 and reserves the right to make and distribute copies for sale. But he hereby grants everyone the right to print out and distribute without charge copies of the work provided the source is identified and both the preceding account of the nature of this work and this copyright information are included.

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“How to Discern the Elements of Your Personal Vocation”    

While the book Personal Vocation deals with discernment in several passages (pp. 53–56, 69–70, 83–86, 101–5, 137–38, and 145–46), none of them offers systematic guidance to help people discern the elements of the unique role God is offering them in his grand design for bringing about the everlasting kingdom. Neither was Grisez satisfied with any of the brief treatments of discernment in The Way of the Lord Jesus. However, Rev. Peter F. Ryan, S.J., a close friend and at that time a colleague of Grisez at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary, frequently engaged in spiritual direction and often helped people learn how to discern. Grisez told Cere that Father Ryan speaking on discernment would be a great addition to his program. Cere invited him; Grisez helped Ryan plan the paper; and Ryan produced the clearest and most helpful treatment of discernment Grisez had ever seen.

The paper is copyright © 2004, Peter F. Ryan, S.J., made available here by permission; all other rights reserved. It is copied here from The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, 30:2 (Summer 2007): 11–18; copyright © Fellowship of Catholic Scholars 2007, all rights reserved.

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