There was a phrase I heard in the fifties about a young priest that worried me: "he hasn't got a vocation to be a priest- but his mother has one!" It is a phrase less likely to be heard today but it serves as a reminder of the difficulty in discerning a vocation at any time. It is so easy to be deceived and to mix up motives for the choices we make. Pleasing your parents is not a fault but the desire to do so may mask a deeper and more authentic call that may point to a different life-choice.
One of the mysteries of a vocation to marriage, to ministry,religious life or the caring professions is that it comes through weakness as well as through gifts In Christian terms we meet the messiah in the shadow side of our lives and while we avoid confronting that darker side of our lives: the mixed motives, fears, angers and evasions, we cannot fully embrace our vocation.
A vocation is a lifelong challenge that comes from a deep inner voice that speaks from gifts and needs and finds an echo in the gifts and needs of the world into which we are born. The resonance between the story of the world around us and the world within us is the context of a calling. Therefore a vocation comes through life and from within ones personal story. God speaks through history and through personal histories too.
To make this more concrete I should share part of my own vocation story. My early family experience was marked with a lot of pressures including some violence, a death and the effects of depression. That darker aspect of my early years created a situation where I had to dig deep to draw on an inner spirit and meaning that gave me a more thoughtful and spiritual approach to life. Without that darkness I may never have heard the call to serve young people who struggled. I still carry the negative effects of that early time and darkness continues to be an issue. However, even that negative aspect continues to shape my choices, and the things I notice in the world around me. The darker aspect of my own story creates limitations that shape my vocation because there are so many things I cannot do. I get anxious and tire easily. I get impatient with detail and I can easily slip into self pity. These limitations keep me close to Christ as someone who saves me from these weaknesses and in that struggle to trust my vocation story continues to unfold towards the fullness of life.
So a vocation story is a reflection of the cross and resurrection a movement through struggle to new life. Each of us need courage to embrace both the cross and the resurrection in our lives. The danger is that we may embrace a cross that is not meant for us just as we may follow a vocation that is more to do with our parents wishes than our own.
That is why it is good to reflect on the need for discernment and perhaps attend the signpost weekend advertised on the Salesian vocations web site.