Pathways To Heaven

Photo by VISION Vocation Guide, via Flickr

We had a pretty good discussion here last week on the topic of marriage and whether there is only one man for one woman. As I was writing, I knew I was spending too much time on one part of what I was trying to communicate, but not until later did I realize I had buried the really important point. So I decided to revisit it today–briefly. (No epic-length post today, I promise!)

The quotes I shared about marriage were actually made in the context of a discussion of vocation to consecrated life:

“Usually, in refusing (a vocation) from God, a person finds his or her path to heaven more difficult. It is not so much that there is only one way to heaven for each of us. But it seems that God calls us to the best possible vocation suited to our personalities and talents.

“God would never violate his own creative act by compelling human persons to act in a certain way. This is why God tolerates the choice to sin. … Therefore, there must be more than one possible path to heaven for each of us, although for each of us there is a best vocation.” (ToB/Hogan, p. 155)

This is the point I was hoping to make last week, and I got off-track by spinning out my neurosis about marriage as an example. It’s a big deal to discern a vocation, but sometimes we leave kids with the impression that if we incorrectly identify GOD’S WILL FOR MY LIFE, we’re just basically screwed (pardon my language). Like, if we get it wrong, we’ll never be able to get to Heaven because we aren’t following GOD’S WILL FOR MY LIFE.

Once you put it in those terms it’s kind of obviously nonsensical, but does it ever occur to us that maybe people resist the idea of discerning a religious vocation because we make it such a big deal? That maybe they’d rather not risk asking the question and getting the answer “wrong”?

Hogan went on to explain “best vocation” by saying that God calls each of us to our vocation based on our talents and interests; a person who isn’t good with kids might not be well-suited to marriage, for instance…but all is not lost if that person does get married–it’s just that the path to Heaven is harder, because the daily demands of life are going to push their buttons more. Likewise, someone called to marriage might not function as well in the priesthood, because loneliness might be a heavy burden–but it’s not impossible, it’s just harder. So it’s okay to step out and discern, because that’s the point of seminary or novitiate–to ask the question, and learn by living out the life whether it is or isn’t meant for you.

That, in the end, was what I was getting at by saying this was such a liberating idea.