Page 4, 29th May 1942

29th May 1942
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Organisations: Mystical Body


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The Call to a Life's Work

Conditions for Full Membership of Christ's Body 1.4EGALLY, one comes-of-age at twentyone. It is, however, merely for convenience that this particular year has been made the dividing line. In actual experience it may come either earlier or later.

There are several factors which decide when it is that youth passes into manhood or womanhood. one of them being, of course, physiological. But an important part is played in effecting the transition by the first remunerated job. It is, to no small extent, initiation into the worka-day world as an active member which carries with it the added dignity of being " grown hp." But this will he only a passing phase to be soon forgotten unless, in entering upon his work, the youngster discovers in himself powers which

render it congenial. Sometimes the sense of vocation will make itself felt before the opportunity of exercising it comes in sight. More often, however, it is the result of a deepening interest in the work. Only let the job be one which offers chances of development and brings into play latent forces of the personality and there will occur that intoxicating moment when it becomes possible to dedicate one's whole life to some specific task.


IT is this dedication of the self to some particular

I calling or mission in life which constitutes the essence of the vocational consciousness: As in marriage, the individual is pledged to a loyalty which may be for better or for worse but which is, in any case, irrevocable. Prophets and poets have spoken in exalted strains of the hour in which the " call " came to them. It is not too much to speak of the experience as being, in their case. of a mystical character.

From that moment the person concerned ceases to Ihe his own. He belongs to the job. What the job demands he must do, whether it bring him fortune or misfortune. He is a dedicated being, set apart for the exercise of certain functions, " devoted " to the object which has been placed before him as his goal. Everything is made contributory to the one aim. Circumstances which seem remote are bent to serve the dominant purpose. A carpenter's workshop may prove to be the annexe to a world-wide mission. If the purpose be strong enough and ,deep enough, there is nothing which it will not find relevant. Such language, however customary it may be in the cases named. is not familiar in connection with what are called " the lower walks in life." But we have to remind ourselves afresh that the greet distinction between men is not the number of talents committed to them but the -measure of their fidelity to such responsibilities as are assigned them.

Moreover, we do recognise the applicability of such language in certain quite ordinary avocations. There is nothing startling, for instance, in speaking of marriage and parentage as vocations. Indeed. the conflict between this conception and that of modern paganism is one of the major issues of our age. The soldier, again, is, in the sense indicated. a dedicated being, and eases are not unknown where he embraces his destiny with mystical fervour. We might even go so far as to say ihat the older type of farmer looked upon his work in this way and may even have regarded as his life-task the cultivation of some particular acres into which his roots had gone down and with which he felt himself completely identified.

Yet it must be admitted that between this mystical view of vocation and present-day industry there is a wide gulf. Can it be bridged? It is the whole contention of these papers that by the establishment of appropriate institutions, it can, and that it is in this way industry is to be redeemed from its drudgery and sordidness.

TRAVAIL THE question is not so much as to whether the vocational idea can he transferred from the higher to the lower regions of society as whether those concerned arc willing to pay the price.

There is first of all the travail which many are called upon to experience before their native powers are revealed to them. For long years they may wander in the wilderness, passing unsatisfied from one form of employment to another. The process attendant upon the exercise of creative powers is not unlike that of

child-birth. Uncertainty and confusion daunt the pilgrim, but if he hold on, he will have his reward.

But the discovery of the career for which he is intended will not end his troubles. The adoption of a vocation, in the nature of things. In

volves self-renunciation. This is very clear in the case of literary or artistic work. " What happens," says Mr. T. S. Eliot in this connection, " is a continual surrender of himself as he is at the moment to something which is more valu able. The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality." The law that only by losing oneself can one find oneself has a very wide application.

We can sec now Why it is that the possession of a vocation, as distinct from casual employment or work undertaken merely for the pur'

pose of gain, gives dignity. The dedicated " person has "signed on " for a job which may involve him in all sorts of difficulties and losses. Ruskin made this very clear in the chapter entitled " The Roots of Honour " in Unto This 1.asi. The passage is too long to quote in full but a paragraph may be given. " I have alluded," he says, " to the difference hitherto existing between regiments of men associated for purposes of violence, and for purposes of manufacture; in that the former appear capable of self-sacrifice—the latter, not which singular fact is the real reason of the general lowness of estimate in which the profession of commerce is held. as compared with that of arms. Philosophically, it does not, at first sight, appear reasonable (many writers have endeavoured to prove it unreasonable) that a peaceable and rational person, whose trade is buying and selling, should be held in less honour than an unpeaceable and often irrational person, whose trade is slaying. Nevertheless, the consent of mankind has always, in spite of the philosophers, given precedence to the soldier. And this is right."

We may leave it at that.

THE INTEGRATED LIFE IT may be asked what it is which for some at least makes the revelation of a vocation so imperative. Implicitly, the answer to that question has been already given. The necessity of finding something bigger than oneself to which one may devote one's powers is inherent in human nature, for it is the condition of a fruitful life. In this way only, as Mr. Eliot suggests, can we become creative, and to be creative is a fundamental obligation. But it is also the condition of the unified life. There comes a time when youth becomes tired of pursuing wandering fancies. It feels that the period of experimentation must end. Life has to be integrated around some central and binding purpose. There is, however, the danger that the ideal of unity may conflict with that of fruitfulness. The " man of one idea. " is apt to become infertile. It is necessary therefore that the unity achieved should be vital, like that of the plant which absorbs nutriment from air and soil. A living purpose will find that all is grist to its mill. "To those that love God all things work together for good."

THE UNIVERSAL VOCATION T HERE is the further danger that such callings as .1. those of which we have been speaking may

come to be regarded as ends in themselves. In these days it is possible that men may find a substitute for, instead of an expression of, religion in devotion to some craft or business. That is to put the cart before the horse.

We are all called, first and foremost, to be integrated with Christ in His Mystical Body, and we cannot find rest and satisfaction until we have been so integrated. But this universal and eternal vocation so far from excluding the lesser demands it. The Mystical Body is a functional organism, the members of which, while interdependent, have each their distinctive parts to play in the whole.

To imagine that the parts they play as members of the Mystical Body are limited to those mentioned by the Apostle is to interpret his words in a too literal sense. After describing the labours of various craftsmen, the writer of Ecclesiasticus says: " Upon the judge's seat they shall not sit, and the ordinance of judgment they shall not understand, neither shall they declare discipline and judgment, and they shall not be found where parables are spoken: but they shall strengthen the state of the world and their prayer shall be in thc work of their craft, applying their soul, and searching in the law of the Most High." Such craftsmen as are here described, it may be surely asserted. fulfil their vocation as members of the Mystical Body by the conscientious pursuit of their daily work.

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