I don't think it's a contradiction to say that marriage is a vocation in
the same terms as a religious vocation AND to say that the grace of a
married vocation is a substantively different grace.
I know it's not a popular thing to say in the culture-of-life era, but I think it's
important if we are to understand the fundamental differences between
marriage and holy orders, why most receive the former, and why few
On the other hand, I do admit that there is something of this styling
of the married vocation found in the secular clergy, as in teaching,
in active religious orders, or indeed, missionary work. Not all
vocations to the priesthood and religious life are contemplative
vocations. Christ's words to Martha and Mary were a sign of the grace
of that moment, not necessarily a command about their lives or their
fundamental nature. I don't think Christ in this passage is giving a
"calling". The analogy to vocation is just that; an analogy pointing
to a species of grace which requires a life condition in order to live
it to the full.
I am reminded of a discussion I had with another friend once; he was
critiquing the lifestyle of priests and pointing out that the model of
priesthood, John Vianney, lived as an ascetic and essentially worked
himself to death. I suggested that this was indeed *a* model of
priesthood but not necessarily an ideal.
Our path to sainthood lies in our vocation but also in our character,
our environment, and our free will.
I think it would be an unfair generalization to say that all
priests should be like John Vianney, in the same token that all laymen should be
like Thomas More, etc. That's precisely why there is such a beautiful
panoply of religious orders, rules, and charisms.
I do think, however, that when finding one's vocation one needs to
simplify rather than complicate - especially in the present age in the
West where we are flooded with "career paths" and "options".
That's why I think traditional understanding of vocation and the "grace of a
calling" need to be rediscovered. Sometimes we see fundamental truth
only in the most basic and childlike interpretations.