This page contains the resources that we’ve vetted and found interesting or useful for a deeper understanding of personal vocation. If you don’t want to scroll through the entire list, just click on one of the links here to explore by specific category.

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The Personal Vocation (Rome: Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2006)

Fr. Alphonso provides beautiful reflections on who personal vocation affects us to the core of our being – even how we pray. He uses stories from throughout his many years as a spiritual director to take us back to the basics of what a “vocation” means, and opens our eyes to the theological depth and richness of the idea. Excellent for spiritual reading.

Personal Vocation: God Calls Everyone by Name (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2003)

Germain Grisez and Russell Shaw treat personal vocation specifically in this work. They dedicated to the book to their “parents, teachers, friends, and others who have helped them find and try to live out their personal vocations.” That is a fitting dedication! They cover the important topics in chapters entitled Organizing a LifeA Historical Overview of Personal VocationThe Emergence of Personal VocationPersonal Vocation: The Idea in Depth, and Putting The Idea into Work. This is essential reading for anyone interested in delving more into personal vocation.

The Messy Quest for Meaning (Sorin Books, 2012)

Many of us want to know with quick certainty what we are called to do with our lives. Stephen Martin’s book, The Messy Quest for Meaning: Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation, is a valuable read for those seeking to identify their personal vocations. First, Martin shows that the very journey of searching, often full of challenge, frustration and uncertainty, can itself be a valuable part of one’s eventual vocation.  Thus, it should be embraced, patiently. At the same time Martin does provide several key lessons, grounded in Trappist spirituality, for effectively discerning one’s personal vocation.

We could, you know. We can live any way we want. People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience–even of silence–by choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting. A weasel doesn’t “attack” anything; a weasel lives as he’s meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity.

I figured out that whatever I selected myself I could read with more depth and more breadth – there was a match to my curiosity [motivation]. And I could take advantage of what people later pathologized as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) by using natural stimulation as a main driver to scholarship.

Nassim Taleb
Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder (New York: Random House, 2014), Kindle Location 4331

Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.

Dorothy Sayers
Creed or Chaos (New York: Harcourt, 1949), 53

“In fact, from eternity God has thought of us and has loved us as unique individuals. Every one of us he called by name, as the Good Shepherd “calls his sheep by name” (Jn 10:3). However, only in the unfolding of the history of our lives and its events is the eternal plan of God revealed to each of us. Therefore, it is a gradual process; in a certain sense, one that happens day by day.”

John Paul II
Christifideles Laici (Vatican: Vatican, 1988), #58

The Purposeful Graduate: Why Colleges Must Talk to Students about Vocation (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2016)

Higher education is in big trouble in the U.S. Students are graduating from college wandering, and often purpose-less, after paying $100,000+ for an education. What’s the problem? We don’t have a culture of vocation, or purpose, in our educational institutions. We should be doing more to help our students understand their calling in life by integrating a sense of vocational awareness into the entire undergraduate curriculum. Tim Clydesdale does a masterful job presenting the case.

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999)

Parker J. Palmer compiled this classic book from a series of essays that he compiled over a decade of his life. Palmer reflects on vocation as learning from our lived experience, which involves letting our life speak to us. Vocation is not as mystery as we often make it out to be; often times, it is closer than we wish to see. We have to listen to our own life, and that is often the hardest thing to listen to of all.