How to recognize vocations

By Fr. Mark Mleziva | Special to The Compass | November 2, 2021


What traits indicate that someone might have a vocation? And how do I mention that to them? — Oshkosh


When we hear the word “vocation,” our minds often go to priests and nuns. While those certainly are examples of vocations, the term itself encompasses much more than that. The sad thing is that many of the faithful don’t fully understand the depth and beauty of what the church teaches regarding vocations.

To begin, the word itself — “vocation” — comes from the Latin verb “vocare,” which means “to call.” So, broadly speaking, vocation is your calling from God. This short definition can seem rather broad, but it’s meant to be so because we can talk about vocations in a larger or more specific context.

When it comes to the larger context, all of us have the same calling from God, namely, to be holy.

This was one of the most fundamental teachings from the Second Vatican Council. All of us, from Bishop David Ricken to the elderly couple present for daily Mass to our Catholic school kids to all the priests, all of us are called to be holy. I know this is easier said than done, but we all probably could use the reminder from time to time.

Within this larger context, however, the path that each of us takes to holiness will look different. The church has identified four possible paths, and the Lord is calling each of us to one of these paths. The most common, of course, is the call to married life. The path of holiness for the couple is to love and sacrifice for the other and their children in imitation of Jesus helping them get to heaven. 

Of course, there are the religious vocations to the religious life and holy orders where the man or woman leaves aside some aspects of the world to serve the faithful, again helping them get to heaven. 

Least known is the vocation to the single life. Here, the freedom that comes with being single allows for the person to serve the church in a particular way, again, helping others get to heaven. 

The Lord is calling us to one of these vocations, but we do have to pray to know which one it is.

It’s also important, however, to encourage anyone we see if we have a feeling that they might have a vocation to one of the religious vocations. 

I’m often asked, “How do I know if they have one?” The answer is, we don’t know for sure, but we can identify certain traits that would lend itself to a religious vocation. For instance, is the person prayerful, generous, friendly, joyful? These don’t automatically mean that they are destined to be priests or women religious, but it doesn’t hurt to let them know that, because of those traits, they should certainly think about a religious vocation.

It never hurts to plant the seed!


Fr. Mleziva is vocation director for the Diocese of Green Bay.

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