Wednesday, November 16, 2016


I mentioned in a previous post my interest in the word "vocation." It is now commonly used just to identify an activity pursued as a livelihood. Frequent synonyms include job, business, career, craft, line, occupation, profession, trade, and work. Even slang words such as racket might be substituted for vocation.

In actuality the root "voc" (from the Latin vocare) means "to call". Some other English words that use the root include: voice, vocal, vocalize, revoke (call back), evocative (having the capacity to call out), convocation (a place where voices come together), and many others. The word vocation, then, actually means "a calling" or an activity that one does in response to an inner urge. The implication is that the inner nature calls a person to fulfill him/herself by pursuing this activity. Most Christians understand this to mean the call of God for a person to best use his/her talents and skill to accomplish something that only he/she can accomplish.

A vocation is then an activity that is done, either professionally or voluntarily, not just for monetary benefit. The motivation behind the work is more altruistic. A vocation fulfills a need for the worker, some spiritual or psychological need. A vocation implies that the worker is specifically gifted in the field of his/her vocation.

The idea of vocation is central to the Christian belief that God has created each person with gifts and talents oriented toward specific purposes and a way of life. Particularly in the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, this idea of vocation is especially associated with a divine call to service to the Church and humanity through particular vocational life commitments such as marriage to a particular person, consecration as a religious, ordination to priestly ministry in the Church and even a holy life as a single person. In the broader sense, Christian vocation includes the use of ones gifts in their profession, family life, church and civic commitments for the sake of the greater common good.
The idea of a vocation or "calling" has been pivotal within Protestantism. Martin Luther taught that each individual was expected to fulfill his God-appointed task in everyday life. Although the Lutheran concept of the calling emphasized vocation, there was no particular emphasis on labor beyond what was required for one's daily bread. Calvinism transformed the idea of the calling by emphasizing relentless, disciplined labor. In the Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536), Calvin defined the role of "The Christian in his vocation." He noted that God has proscribed appointed duties to men and styled such spheres of life vocations or callings. Calvinists distinguished two callings: a general calling to serve God and a particular calling to engage in some employment by which one's usefulness is determined.
The Puritan minister Cotton Mather, in A Christian at his Calling (1701), described the obligations of the personal calling as, "some special business, and some settled business, wherein a Christian should for the most part spend the most of his time; so he may glorify God by doing good for himself." Mather admonished that it wasn't lawful ordinarily to live without some calling, "for men will fall into "horrible snares and infinite sins." This idea has endured throughout the history of Protestantism. Three centuries after John Calvin's death, Thomas Carlyle (1843) would proclaim, "The latest Gospel in this world is, 'know thy work and do it.'"
The legacy of this religious ethic continues to exert its influence in an increasingly secular world. Modern occupations which are seen as vocations often include those where a combination of skill and community help are implied, such as medical, care-giving, and veterinary occupations. Occupations where rewards are seen more in spiritual or other non-financial terms, such as religious occupations, are also seen as vocations. Borderline occupations, where community service and more personal reward are more evenly balanced, such as politics, may often be regarded as vocations.
Many forms of humanitarian campaigning, such as work for organisations such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace can also be considered vocations, although the term tends to imply that the activity is a full-time job rather than a part-time activity or hobby, which would be called an avocation.
This entry is from Wikipedia, the leading user-contributed encyclopedia. It may not have been reviewed by professional editors (see full disclaimer)

The root of the word "advocate" is the Latin word "vocare," which means "to call." The word "advocate" comes into being through the addition of "ad" to "vocare," changing its meaning from "to call" to "to summon to one's aid." Advocacy has the same root as vocation—meaning a calling away from ordinary life, a summons from God to undertake service to others. And advocacy shares its root term—"vocare"—with the word "voice." The roots of the word "advocate" break open its true meaning: Advocates give voice to the people they are called to serve, a calling that has at its center a deep and awesome responsibility, as well as, at its best, a touch of the divine. be continued....

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