Once when in Rome, a priest asked me, "So, do you have a vocation?"
And I looked at him and said, "Yes, I do. I'm just not sure what it is yet."
He seemed a bit taken aback. And now a couple of years later the second priest witnessing that interaction will be witnessing my wedding vows in a few months.
On another occasion, I was speaking with a fellow parishioner who was asking about my family. He inquired about one of my brothers who had just gotten married a month or two before. But then he puzzled me by asking, "With all of those brothers, do you think there's going to be a vocation in there somewhere?" It took all of the politeness I could muster to not quickly reply, "Yes, I already told you, there is one -- my brother just got married."
It's a tricky situation. On the one hand, we certainly want to affirm the beauty, dignity and gift of a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. Please, please, contact Fr. Kyle Schnippel, or look into a religious order. But we cannot promote religious vocations to the exclusion of realizing that marriage is also a vocation. It is also a path to holiness ... not a lifetime vacation of getting whatever one wants.
At times, when we pray at Mass for vocations, we fail to realize that marriage is also a vocation. It leaves the idea that if I am holy, I can be called to more holiness in priesthood or religious life. But if I am not holy, I will be banished to the second-tier of marriage, which will not lead me to holiness. It's simply for the mediocre rest of us.
We need a way to promote vocations as a way of discerning the gift that God wishes us to receive -- the gift of growing in holiness in a particular way that He calls us to.
I'd like to spend some time during this Vocations Awareness Week exploring ways in which we can seek and celebrate the goodness and beauty of both the vocation to celibacy and the vocation to marriage. They shouldn't be set in opposition like the Steelers and the Bengals, but should wonderfully complement one another and highlight different aspects of the relationship between Christ and His Church.