The mission of the ordained has been addressed since the time of Christ, and has been clearly articulated by John Paul II in the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (1992) and summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The ordained are commissioned to carry on the apostolic ministry until the end of time. As such they have a particular service to build up the Church, and to preserve its unity. Preparation for this mission comes through the foundational sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and holy orders.
Three degrees of holy orders stem from this branch: episcopate (bishops), presbyterate (priests) and diaconate (deacons).
The mission of the laity has been addressed with great care in the documents of Vatican II and specifically in the apostolic exhortation of John Paul II, Christofideles Laici (1988). “The laity is commissioned to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs [the affairs of this world] and ordering them according to the plan of God.” (CCC 898) “The initiative of lay Christians is necessary especially when the matter involves discovering or inventing the means for permeating social, political, and economic realities with the demands of Christian doctrine and life.” (CCC 899) Preparation for this mission comes through the foundational sacraments of baptism, confirmation and, for some, matrimony. The laity, given this comprehensive responsibility to help realize God's plan for the world, are depicted as the central and largest branch of the tree.
There are many branches of the laity entrusted with the task of bearing fruit - but only the two distinct lay vocations which are both discerned and chosen are depicted in the Vocation Tree: the married vocation, shown by the continuation of the broadest branch of the tree, and the dedicated single vocation.
The mission of the consecrated stems from the words of Jesus in Matthew 19, in which he acknowledges that some will choose not to marry for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, and encourages anyone who can to accept this particular gift of God. (Mt. 19:10-12; vc 30 2,3) The apostolic exhortation of John Paul II, Vita Consecrata (1996), addresses the consecrated, those whose very mission is special conformity to Christ, chaste, poor and obedient. The invitation to consecrated life is an invitation to accept the grace to leave behind ordinary lives and to enter into a closer relationship of intimacy with Jesus. (CF. VC 16 1) Those comprising this branch of the tree, with its many offshoots, support the life of the Church by making their own the way of life personally practiced by Jesus. Preparation for this mission comes through the foundational sacraments of baptism and confirmation, and a non-sacramental consecration.
Those living the consecrated life are often addressed by the title “sister” or “brother” they often take a new religious name at the time of their profession of vows; and those in particular religious families indicate the identity of that family by adding initials after their names, such as “S.J.” for “Society of Jesus.” It comes as a surprise to many Catholics to learn that these characteristics - title, new religious name, initials - while proper to forms of religious consecrated life, are not proper to all forms of consecrated life. Those forms properly lived in the world (secular forms), such as consecrated virgins and members of secular institutes, do not use the title “sister” or “brother” and do not take new religious names. And forms not identified with a particular religious family, such as consecrated virgins, do not use initials after their names. We'll take a closer look at these distinct vocations within the family of consecrated life.
The distinct vocations of consecrated life are also depicted in the Vocation Tree. So varied are these forms in appearance, and yet each radiates, in its distinctive form, a witness to the resurrected life to come. In the Gospel of Mark (12:25), Jesus observes: “When they rise from the dead they neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Based on these words of Jesus, the Church explains that those who choose virginity or celibacy now for the sake of the kingdom of heaven begin to live on earth the life that will be lived by all in the future resurrection. These men and women stand as a sign of and a witness to the resurrected life to come, the union with God that is the telos (intended end) of all souls.
And yet the distinctions among the various forms are important, especially for one discerning a call to consecrated life. A form might be characterized by its relation to the world: a form lived apart from the world is known as religious consecrated life; the form lived in the world and yet not of the world is known as secular consecrated life. Most forms are lived in community, but two are lived individually under the direction of the bishop. Some forms are characterized by a more contemplative life and others by a more active life. Such a variety of witnesses to the love of Christ as Bridegroom!
A Tree Planted Beside Flowing Waters...
The family is the fundamental unit of the Church and society, and to Christian parents is entrusted the duty of raising up children in the way of the Lord: to ensure baptism; to provide fertile ground for cultivation of the distinct call of God to each child as s/he follows Him on the path towards ordination, Christian marriage, or consecrated life; and to provide education and counsel to foster the natural gifts of each child - gifts such as art, music, teaching, medicine or discovery. Likewise, the family of the Church has the duty to build up one another in love, to "not quench the smoldering wick," and to encourage one another to take the distinct part each of us has to play in the Body of Christ (cf. Is 42:3). "God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as He intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I do not need you,' nor again the head to the foot, 'I do not need you'" (1 Cor 12:18-21).
The word "vocation" is derived from the Latin word vocaré (to call). Baptism is the fundamental vocation from which every other particular vocation is derived. "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." With these words and immersion in the baptismal waters, a person is born anew - as a Christian - to follow Christ in a life of holiness, to follow the Lamb wherever he goes. The baptized person is called to the perfection of charity, to pour out himself or herself in love for God and others, remembering that it is the Creator who has first loved them.
Love is always expressed in relationship, for God is Love and He is Trinity - relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit (cf. 1 Jn 4:8). How a person will love God and others is shaped, given context, by his or her state in life vocation. Represented by the internal branch structure of the tree, the intertwining of the state in life vocations of clergy, laity and consecrated strengthen and support one another, building up the Church and enabling it to be fruitful.
A primary vocation of the laity is to order families according to the plan of God. "The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution.... Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator's eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation. 'And God blessed them, and God said to them: 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.'" (CCC 1603, 1604) How critical is this vocation of sacramental marriage and family life, and how under attack it is in today's culture! Throughout the world, this fundamental unit is under attack, this microcosm of the Church, this safe place where children can be raised and husband and wife live in fruitful and selfless love. To the world and to the Church, the sacramental marriage offers a strong haven of security and hope; it is the first presentation of God's love.
Monastic Life in the East: "In its desire to transfigure the world and life itself in expectation of the definitive vision of God's countenance, Eastern monasticism gives pride of place to conversion, self-renunciation and compunction of heart, the quest for hesychia or inner peace, ceaseless prayer, fasting and vigils, spiritual combat and silence, paschal joy in the presence of the Lord and the expectation of his definitive coming, and the oblation of self and personal possessions, lived in the holy communion of the monastery or in the solitude of the hermitage." (VC 6 § 3) Open to men or women, this vowed form of religious life may be lived in community or individually. Eastern monasticism is flourishing especially in the Eastern Catholic Churches.
Rooted in the baptismal vocation and given shape by the commitments made in one's state in life vocation, one's personal avocations are concrete expressions of the unique plan of God for each human person. While the Baptismal and State in Life vocations are more about being, the personal avocations are more about doing. From all contemplation, from all "being," the fruit of action is born. One's personal avocations include one's choice of occupation, as well as the choices one makes daily among the many opportunities to make a real contribution to a better world.
Personal avocations are depicted as the fruit and leaves of the Vocation Tree. A particular avocation might flower from any of the states in life. For example, a medical worker may be ordained, consecrated or a member of the laity. And although the work itself, carried out competently, might look the same, it will be flavored by the distinctive mission flowing from the individual's state in life commitment.
Entertainer, Singer, Actor, fisherman, policeman, plumber, guard, pilot, sailor:
Servant of God Pope John Paul II greeted many people during the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, including youth, children, families, consecrated, ordained, artists, politicians, elderly, laborers in factories and fields, athletes, teachers, journalists, military personnel, workers, the sick and handicapped, prisoners and those in the world of entertainment. In the apostolic letter Novo Millenio Ineunte (2001), he mentions all of these groups and his esteem for their particular contributions to the Church.
Artist, Sculptor, Writer, Photographer, Poet, Musician, Calligrapher, Painter:
Printer, Engineer, Laborer, builder, butcher, carpenter, dry cleaner, landscaper, homemaker, electrician, architect:
Economist, Consultant, Stockbroker, Clerk, Banker:
Doctor, Dentist, Surgeon, Nurse, Therapist:
Farmer, Landscaper, Hunter, Rancher:
Professor, Theologian, Philosopher, Journalist, Teacher, Babysitter, Librarian:
The Vocation Tree artwork depicts the myriad of unique ways of life which, in accord with the plan of the Lord Jesus, make up the life of the Church. Rooted and grounded in the baptismal call to holiness, the Christian discerns a particular state of life vocation with its inherent mission: the lay - activity in the world; the clergy - ministry; consecrated men and women - special conformity to Christ, chaste, poor and obedient. Displayed by the array of branches on the tree, the Holy Spirit "establishes the Church as an organic communion in the diversity of vocations, charisms and ministries." (VC 31 § 2)
"These state of life vocations are at the service of one another, for the growth of the Body of Christ in history and for its mission in the world." (VC 31 § 3) The fruits of the Spirit are evident in the myriad of occupations and activities (i.e., personal avocations) pursued by the baptized and depicted by the fruit and leaves of the tree.
Each individual Christian is uniquely called by God, beginning at Baptism, to go into the world and to bear much fruit. The Vocation Tree helps to illustrate that this unique, individual vocation given to each Christian embodies many components, "not just the calling to make a single commitment - to marriage, consecrated life, or ordained ministry. As its elements are discerned and accepted, a personal vocation leads to a closely-knit pattern of integrated commitments that organize the whole of life in the light of faith through implementing choices." (Germain Grisez and Russell Shaw, Personal Vocation - God Calls Everyone by Name, pg 97)
The branches of the tree, ordained, lay, and consecrated, provide a network of supportive relationships ordered to build up the Body of Christ in love. "As all the members of the human body, though they are many, form one body, so also are the faithful in Christ (cf. 1 Cor.12:12). Also, in the building up of Christīs body there is engaged a diversity of members and functions. There is only one Spirit who, according to his own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives his different gifts for the welfare of the Church (cf. 1 Cor. 12:1-11)." (LG 7 § 3)
Look closely and you'll find yourself in this tree, the Church, which is rooted and grounded in Christ. Your faith life grows from the base of baptism, is given definition through commitment in one of the branches of lay, ordained, or consecrated vocations, and bears the distinct fruit and leaves of your particular gifts and talents in the occupations and activities you choose. And yet, the Vocation Tree illustration is not a comprehensive picture of the entire Church! Particularly within the laity, many other branches exist and bear fruit, including children, adolescents and young adults who have not yet discerned a state in life vocation, widows and widowers, those who are separated, and single persons open to marriage. The Vocation Tree is meant to illustrate vocations in life that are both discerned and chosen.
Those vocations which are entered into through a prayer of consecration (ordained and consecrated virgins living in the world), as well as those involving a vow (marriage and most forms of consecrated life) involve lifelong commitments. The "dedicated single" vocation does not necessarily involve a lifelong commitment, although it may be freely discerned and chosen for a lifetime.
The Vocation Tree uses the term "personal avocation" instead of "personal vocation" in order to illuminate the distinction between the active dimension of living out oneīs unique call from God from the mission dimension embraced by responding to one's state in life vocation. Most Catholics hear the word "vocation" and think of the call to be a priest or a nun, and in a secular context the word "vocation" commonly refers to training in a skilled trade, like woodworking or plumbing. In the Christian understanding, both dimensions flow from the baptismal call to holiness:
Yes, the tree of the Church is very rich! For example, permanent deacons may also be married; and there are some circumstances of diocesan priests who are married; and some religious institutes of consecrated men include men ordained to the priesthood.
The term consecrate means to set aside for a sacred use. The Vocation Tree reflects three distinctions of the term "consecrated" in reference to vocational calls:
Members of third orders (sometimes called by other names) embrace the spirituality of a particular religious tradition, such as Carmelite, Franciscan, Benedictine, Ignatian, or Dominican.
Traditionally, "first order" refers to the masculine branch of a religious family; "second order" refers to the feminine monastic branch of a religious family; and "third order regular" refers to those in active religious communities. "Third orders secular," known commonly today simply as "third orders," are associations of laity, and sometimes diocesan priests, who embrace the spirituality of a particular religious tradition while remaining in the state of life in which they have been living. It might be pointed out that the Vocation Tree artist has signed her name, "Mrs. Jennifer Ward, O.P." indicating that she is a married woman following the Dominican spirituality in her married life.
The Vocation Tree distinguishes three states of life (ordained, lay, and consecrated) while earlier Church understanding has often distinguished only two states (ordained and lay.) The addition of consecrated life as a distinct, third, state in life stems from the teachings of the Second Vatican Council: "The state of life which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, while not entering into the hierarchical structure of the Church, belongs undeniably to her life and holiness." (LG 44§ 4) The distinct state of consecrated life is further affirmed and clarified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in the apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata.
A reference to "lay consecrated" seems to be premised upon the earlier understanding of only two states in life, with recognition of the consecrated state as a category of the lay state. Another question may arise as to which particular form of consecrated life is lived by the "consecrated" members of particular movements. The groups may not fit precisely into the understanding of the traditional forms of consecrated life shown on the Vocation Tree. The Church in time defines the nature of membership in new movements.
The Vocation Tree concept - outlining the various ways in which Christians live out their baptismal vocation - developed as consecrated virgins began to explain the distinct vocation of consecrated virginity lived in the world. Profit from the sale of Vocation Tree products will be used for the purpose of promoting a fuller understanding of vocations in the Catholic Church.
"The artist has a special relationship to beauty. In a very true sense it can be said that beauty is the vocation bestowed on him by the Creator in the gift of 'artistic talent'. And, certainly, this too is a talent which ought to be made to bear fruit, in keeping with the sense of the Gospel parable of the talents (cf. Mt 25:14-30)." (John Paul II to Artists, 1999)
Artist Jennifer Ward lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and four children. She maintains an art studio in her home and focuses on preparing artistic representations of Catholic mysteries. In the Vocation Tree illustration, the child reaching into the water is the youngest child of the artist and her husband, and the family to the right of the tree are friends of the artist.