As Catholics, the word “vocation” is a cause for both great confusion and tremendous anxiety, especially when thinking about the types of vocations in the Catholic Church.

First, there is great confusion about the meaning of the word and how to discern and know our vocation.

Second, discernment of vocation can be a cause of great anxiety. Even waiting for our vocations can be a huge source of stress. 

In the past, I have been a victim of this confusion and anxiety. Waiting for my vocation and knowing my vocation has been a cause for impatience. I felt as if I couldn’t be a good Catholic and do God’s will until I was in my vocation. 

But, the beauty of it all is that that is not true. God calls us to be holy throughout our lives, and He calls us to serve Him in so many ways. In this article, we’ll talk about the beautiful theology of vocation and how to strive for holiness and live our vocations, even if we’re not in our state-in-life vocations yet.

Resources for Learning About Types of Vocations in the Catholic Church

Before we begin, here is a list of books to read to learn more about types of vocations in the Catholic Church and habits for living out your own vocation:

types of vocations in the Catholic Church

A Simple Definition: What is Vocation? 

The word vocation comes from the word “vocare.” In Latin, this means “to call.” In Italian, it means “to name.” Vocations are about our relationship with God and the way He calls us to live out that vocation.

Types of Vocations in the Catholic Church

In her book Called by God, author Rachael Marie Collins describes three levels of vocation.

The first level is our call to be children of God and be in a relationship with Him. It is a call to be holy and to be who God created us to be. The other levels are the specific, other ways God asks us to live out this call. 

The second level is what we typically think of when we hear the word vocation. This level is all about how God calls us to be an image of Him. 

For example, someone entering religious life images God by being like Christ in their living of poverty, chastity, obedience, and in those sacrifices, imaging Jesus’ gift of self on the Cross. Someone entering marriage becomes an image of the Trinity with their spouse and family. 

This second level is essential because another person cannot replicate our vocation. 

The third level is other ways God calls us, such as in our career. This level, on the other hand, is replicable. For example, if I leave my job, someone can easily replace me and still do those tasks. 

The Proper Order

With the order and importance of these different levels of vocation in mind, discernment occurs in this hierarchy:

  1. Do you feel a call to a religious vocation (or priestly vocation for the men)? 
  2. For religious life, what order should you join? 
  3. If you do not feel that call, should you get married? If yes, to who? 
  4. If you choose to get married or remain single, how should you be employed? 

The world typically focuses on these questions from the bottom up. But, with the understanding of vocation in mind, we know that this is the proper order of focus. 

types of vocations in the catholic church

4 Divisions of Vocation: Types of Vocations in the Catholic Church

Now, I want to shed a little more light on these levels, just from how I have thought about the different ways God calls me. I have thought of vocation as having four divisions over the past years: state-in-life, career, hobbies, and volunteering. I have found this helpful in my time of singlehood because, as I wait and prepare for my vocation, I needed a little more guidance about the tertiary level of vocation.

Health and virtue help us to pursue the first understanding of vocation better. We should direct everything we do towards holiness, but health and virtue give us an excellent means of growth.

Now, I will explain the different divisions and helpful habits for each one.

The First Division: State-in-Life Vocation

This division is the same as the secondary level of vocation, but it is still important to have habits. These habits will look different depending on your state-in-life, but they should always carry more weight than the later ones.

If you are single, your habits should focus on discernment and preparation. For example, if you are discerning religious life, you can make a habit of researching orders, reaching out to vocations directors, and visiting orders. You can also make a habit of spiritual reading about the different vocations to aid in your discernment. Finally, learning some practical skills like budgeting, caring for a home, and caring for children can be helpful preparation, especially if your vocation is marriage (and also, just important to do anyway!).

If you are in your vocation, your habits should involve completing the duties of your vocation. 

The Second Division: Career

The final three divisions are the same as the tertiary level of vocation. These divisions are always important, but they will likely carry more weight if you are still in the process of discernment and waiting. 

I have found that God often uses our time of waiting to not only help us prepare but to do great things in our tertiary level of vocation. For example, St. Gianna went to medical school and started a successful medical practice during her time of singlehood. St. Zelie Martin began a very successful lace business. These endeavors would have been more difficult if they had already been in their vocations. So, be not afraid to let God use these times!

Anyway, for our careers, it is essential first to remember that, at different times in life, this may not be a part of your life. So, take these habits with a grain of salt, as they may not apply to you at this time. 

Habits for career should focus on completing the duties of your job well, improving your completion as much as possible, and ongoing learning. These habits might include improving your productivity (some great books for that include Getting Things Done, Deep Work, and 168 Hours). 

The Third Division: Hobbies

We must make free time to do activities that rejuvenate us and give us life. God still may use these activities to do his work, though! Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati would use his hobby of playing billiards to get his friends to join him in adoration or Mass. 

Habits in this area can involve learning about hobbies, completing projects, and then making an effort to have the time to complete them (once again, I recommend 168 Hours for help with scheduling!) 

The Fourth Division: Volunteering

As Catholics, we must give of our time, talent, and treasure. Through volunteering, we can give in this way, either through our local parish or local organizations. 

Habits in this area can involve learning about opportunities, completing projects, and then making an effort to have the time to complete them (once again, I recommend 168 Hours for help with scheduling!) 

Pulling It All Together: Types of Vocations in the Catholic Church

All of these different divisions require ongoing discernment. In this way, health is helpful because it gives us an avenue for discernment, particularly in prayer. These various divisions also require us always to give our best, which is where virtue comes in. 

Conclusion

I hope this article has given you a lot to think and pray about regarding your vocation and some practical ideas for getting started living out these understandings.  I hope you also see the importance of the health of mind, body, and soul for this growth. 

It is crucial to have a good foundation of healthy habits to get started with growth in vocation. Need some help with that? You can subscribe to the email list below. You’ll receive a free workbook that you can use to choose and plan a healthy habit.

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To learn more about vocation, I recommend the following books:

  • Called by God by Rachael Marie Collins. This book is excellent for discernment, as well as for health and virtue. Even if you are sure you’re not called to religious life, I highly recommend this book! 
  • For productivity and scheduling, I recommend 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam. This book gives lots of advice for ensuring that all aspects of vocation are in your schedule.
  • For productivity, I also recommend Getting Things Done by David Allen and Deep Work by Cal Newport. 

Finally, check out these articles to learn more about the Radiant as the Son progression.

types of vocations in the church