It ´s a simple question of adding up. The new call for encouraging vocations: “The most important thing is what we don´t see” (6/10)

Working in vocations is like a farmer who prepares the earth for sowing, that is, they work on the earth of the human heart. That is to say, that in a culture as diverse and varied as ours in which the models for a Christian society are being broken up the pastoral task of vocations works upon “deep set vocational attitudes” which create the conditions to allow people to hear God´s calling to them.
Fabián Martín Gómez Pastoral | 2018 Dec 13

Black and white films are practically disappearing…For those of us who are used to the style of current cinema a black and white film seems somewhat archaic like something prehistoric, like for example any film from the 60´s or 70´s. Nonetheless, from time to time we try to see a film seen to be cinematic classic, maybe because someone has suggested it to us or because it has been quoted for some reason or other. For me something similar happens with works of literature, music, theatre etc. There is always something from the past, for whatever reason, that is kept in our collective consciousness as a pleasant memory or something worth mentioning.

I would like to refer to a work of great human intellect which we could define as a literature classic, which many people are reading right now. I refer to the “The art of loving” by Erich Fromm. This humanist psychologist and sociologist published this work in 1956. The first Spanish translation appeared in 1959. Today any library worth anything will surely have a copy of this beautiful work. We are talking about a treatise on love, a central question for human life in whatever time, which includes also our own time.  

Erich Fromm takes the position that love is an art, as is living an art. In order to be expert in any form of art it is absolutely necessary to acquire a series of abilities and techniques, as well as the possession of good knowledge and theory. For the author, love is a peculiar art that requires care, responsibility, respect and knowledge. As an analogy we could think, for example, about the art of interpreting the musical guitar piece of “La Alhambra”.  Before getting to the sublime moment of the concert, behind it there is as well as a particular gift for music, learning, discipline, sacrifices, persistence, large periods of practice, a development of certain abilities, etc.

We enjoy  and admire this special moment in which a musical performance stimulates and pleases our spirit and allows to experience something sublime and marvelous.

When we investigate what is happening we soon realize the depth of the moment: that which is not seen but is there, and without which it would not be possible for us to contemplate this pleasing spectacle: dedication, effort, discipline, time, rehearsal after rehearsal.

Therefore, the pastoral work of vocations understands that the encouragement of vocations in the Church is also an art. Certainly, it is wonderful to accompany the particular moment of the celebration of a wedding; to attend a religious profession in which someone makes a vow of chastity, poverty and obedience for the whole of their life; or to participate in a priestly ordination in which a Christian takes upon himself the task to serve God´s People. But, the question is what is behind this moment? Behind every special moment there is life, battles, sacrifices, dedication, care, persistence and a love which has grown little by little.

The pastoral work of vocations is the art, oftentimes, behind the beauty and sublimity of vocations in the Church. It is an art because it is a discrete and modest intervention by those involved in encouraging vocations and by those who accompany the necessary aspects of searching for meaning and that of life´s own mission. In this way, as Erich Fromm refers to in “The art of loving”, it is necessary to care, to be responsible, to have respect and knowledge in order to arrive at true love. Also necessary are some attitudes in order arrive at and to discover how to live one´s vocation.

Saint John Paul II called them “deep-set vocational attitudes”, that is to say, those attitudes that are part of a human life of quality, which is behind and makes possible the vocation.

The pastoral work of vocations, through those who encourage vocations, is focused on the art of listening and accompanying those who wish to search for help in order to receive precise direction in their vocation. The art of caring for attitudes that are necessary in order to unlock in people a strong vocational call we call “preparing the earth” in vocational jargon. The sowing of vocations is very important, but in order that this be done in a meaningful way, it is necessary to prepare beforehand the earth, that is the human heart.

For some time now, the pastoral work of vocations has specialized in trying to enforce and care for these “deep-set vocational attitudes, which create the conditions to enable hearing God´s call.

It is about, then, preparing the heart of the person in such a way that, in the culture of our time, they can count upon the necessary help and direction in order to understand that we all have a vocation, moreover, we are our vocation. I would say “the culture of our times” because it is every day clearer, thanks to God, that in the way of life of our Christian communities we can not, and should not, take for granted these deeper set vocational attitudes.  We should pay attention, not because we are worse than before or because we are better, but rather that the “traditional” cultural sources for communicating values and giving sense to life as a vocation have suffered great changes. Think, for example, about the family, education, and in the sense of belonging to a Christian community. 

Therefore, in order to bring to the foreground this initiative so important for the Church, those encouraging vocations work on those attitudes which make possible a vocational awareness. Saint John Paul II left us a very concrete and clear list of these deep-set vocational attitudes: the forming of conscience, the awareness of spiritual and moral values, the promotion and defense of the ideals of human fraternity, the sacred character of human life, social awareness and civil order. It is about achieving a culture that allows modern man to find himself again, to recover the higher values of love, friendship, prayer and contemplation.

Fabián Martín Gómez, Augustinian Recollect

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