We are called to follow Jesus Christ and to serve Him in diverse ways

Archbishop Robert J. CarlsonDo you know what your vocation is? Every Christian has one. The vocation, or calling, of every baptized Christian is to follow Jesus Christ and to live as He lived in communion with God and with all God's children — past, present and future.

We all receive the same calling to follow Jesus, but the Lord calls each one of us by name. He knows us — better than we know ourselves — and so He invites us to follow Him in ways that are particularly suited to the gifts, talents and abilities God has given us.

Some of us are called to be married and to take on the awesome responsibility of parenthood and family life. Others are called to live the consecrated life, to be members of religious communities and to practice the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience according to the charisms of holy men and women such as St. Ignatius Loyola or Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Some are called to live as single women and men who witness to the Gospel through their daily living "in the world" and their active participation in the mission and ministries of the Church. And still others are called to the ordained ministry as deacons, priests and bishops who, by the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, assume special responsibilities for preaching, celebrating the sacraments and providing pastoral care for all God's people.

God has a plan for each of us. He calls us to become one with Him — to know Him, love Him and serve Him. Our vocation is to be holy women and men who serve the Lord and one another wholeheartedly. We live out this vocation — practically and concretely — through the ways of life we have embraced as a result of our faith-filled acceptance of God's will for us.

If you're married, your vocation to follow Jesus is lived out concretely in the vows you have taken to love, honor and freely give yourself to your spouse. This is not easy. Married couples are often independent-minded, distinctive personalities who are not easily united. The grace of the Sacrament of Marriage and the frequent reception of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance are needed to help make married life a "way to holiness" that a woman and a man live out together.

If you are a religious woman or man, your baptismal vocation is carried out in your fidelity to the particular way of life espoused by your religious community. Religious life is filled with challenges, and opportunities, in every age and culture. Today it can be very difficult for a religious sister, brother or priest to be faithful to the way of life developed by founders who lived in very different times, but the Gospel witness that religious communities provide today — especially here in the Archdiocese of St. Louis — is truly remarkable, a gift from God to be cherished by all of us!

If you are single, your calling is to be united with Christ as a special friend or brother in a unique and intimate form of friendship. The single life has its own special set of challenges today. With the mobility of our society and the breakdown of social patterns we used to take for granted — extended families and close-knit parish communities and neighborhoods — it can be especially difficult for single people to "stay connected" to the individuals and groups who matter most. That's why a personal relationship with the Lord is so important for women and men who are called to live their Christian lives as single people.

If you are a deacon, priest or bishop, the call to holiness you received at baptism now takes on a new and different dimension as your life is conformed to Christ in His role as head of the Church. Those of us who are ordained are challenged to promote the Church's unity and its fidelity to the teaching of the apostles. Every baptized Christian is called to holiness and to active participation in the Church's mission. Our role as deacons, priests and bishops is to be servant-leaders who help others live out their vocations and grow in holiness.

Do you know what your vocation is? It is to follow Jesus Christ. And to be open to the way He is inviting you to live, concretely and practically, through marriage, religious life, as a single person or as an ordained minister in our Church.