It has been suggested that Religious calling be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since December 2023.

A vocation (from Latin vocatio 'a call, summons'[1]) is an occupation to which a person is especially drawn or for which they are suited, trained or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in Christianity.


Use of the word "vocation" before the sixteenth century referred firstly to the "call" by God[2] to an individual, or calling of all humankind to salvation, particularly in the Vulgate, and more specifically to the "vocation" to the priesthood, or to the religious life, which is still the usual sense in Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism recognizes marriage, religious, and ordained life as the three vocations.[3][failed verification] Martin Luther,[4] followed by John Calvin, placed a particular emphasis on vocations, or divine callings, as potentially including most secular occupations, though this idea was by no means new.[5]

Calvinism developed complex ideas about different types of vocations of the first type, connected with the concepts of predestination, irresistible grace, and the elect. There are the vocatio universalis, the vocatio specialis, only extended to some. There were also complex distinctions between internal and external, and the "vocatio efficax" and "inefficax" types of callings.[6] Hyper-Calvinism rejects the idea of a "universal call", a vocation, to repent and believe, held by virtually all other Christian groups.

In Protestantism, the call from God to devote one's life to him by joining the clergy is often covered by the English equivalent term "call", whereas in Roman Catholicism "vocation" is still used.

Both senses of the word "call" are used in 1 Corinthians 7:20, where Paul says "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called".[7]


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. In the broadest sense, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being".[8] More specifically, in the Eastern 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 dedication, 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 one's gifts in their profession, family life, church and civic commitments for the sake of the greater common good.

Contemporary views on vocation

See also: Avocation

Since the establishment of Vocational Guidance in 1908 by the engineer Frank Parsons, the use of the term "vocation" has evolved, with emphasis shifting to an individual's development of talents and abilities in the choice and enjoyment of a career. This semantic expansion has meant some diminution of reference to the term's religious meanings in everyday usage.[9][unreliable source]

Leland Ryken argues for seeing the call of God to a particular occupation as a reflection of the gospel call, and suggests that this implies vocational loyalty – "modern notions of job become deficient" and "the element of arbitrariness of one's choice of work" is removed.[10]

Pope Francis refers to business as a "noble vocation", noting in its favour that it produces wealth and prosperity and "improves our world", especially when "it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good".[11]

Literary clarification

These books have attempted to define or clarify the term vocation.

See also


  1. ^ Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House Company, 1985), s.v. "vocation."
  2. ^ The OED records effectively identical uses of "call" in English back to c. 1300: OED, "Call", 6 "To nominate by a personal "call" or summons (to special service or office);esp. by Divine authority..."
  3. ^ Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 11.4
  4. ^ Gustaf Wingren, Luther on Vocation
  5. ^ David L. Jeffrey, A Dictionary of biblical tradition in English literature, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1992, ISBN 0-8028-3634-8, ISBN 978-0-8028-3634-2, Google books See also Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Alcott Parsons, Ch.3, p. 79 & note 1.
  6. ^ Kenneth G. Appold. Abraham Calov's doctrine of vocatio in its systematic context, p. 125 and generally, Mohr Siebeck, 1998, ISBN 3-16-146858-9, ISBN 978-3-16-146858-2, Google books. See also Jeffrey, 815
  7. ^ King James Version
  8. ^ "Catechism of the Catholic Church – part 3, section 2, chapter 2, article 6". The Holy See. Retrieved 2023-03-11.
  9. ^ Douglas J. Schuurman; Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004) ISBN 978-0-8028-0137-1 pages 5, 6
  10. ^ Ryken, L. (2002), Work and Leisure, 147.
  11. ^ Pope Francis (2015), Laudato si', paragraph 129, accessed 28 January 2024