Do late vocations really exist?

Those who discover the divine call at a certain age know that there is no time for God. We could say that only "humanly or chronologically" they are late vocations.

Alejandro Vázquez-Dodero-October 10, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes

(Unsplash / Nathan Dumlao)

Life, generally, in the West, is long; longer and longer thanks to so many medical and technological advances. Life goes through many circumstances, its conjuncture is changing, and it is shaping oneself. We experience that in life we do not do neutral things: the things we do make up a life; and yes, it is true that "tell me who you go with and I will tell you who you are". 

I search in the DRAE I found, as is often the case, several meanings: inspiration with which God calls to some state, especially that of religion; inclination to a state, a profession or a career; convocation, calling.

I will keep the last one: convocation, call. Because it encompasses the other meanings, and because in fact it refers to both human and divine realities. It is true that one has a professional vocation as well as a supernatural vocation.

We could say that one has a vocation if the reality - God, the job, the family to be formed, etc. - "summons" or "calls" to a specific dedication, to which one gives oneself, with a sense of mission, and to which one dedicates one's life. 

For such a mission there is someone who calls or summons, pulls one; someone -God for believers- or something -the mission itself, which attracts me to dedicate myself to it. And so it is.

How many times, moreover, those who had grown up in a certain environment, or who had studied for a specific profession, end up working in other sectors and performing tasks that differ from the theory they had previously learned. 

I feel called, summoned to a mission throughout my life. And that mission - calling - can arise at any moment, because each one is as he is and perceives what he perceives when he perceives it.

Is it possible that it is already too late?

The term "late vocation" is used especially in the divine or supernatural realm, although it is somewhat inaccurate and, in any case, should not have a negative connotation. 

Those who discover the divine call to priesthood or to the consecrated life at a certain age, and after years of work, without having studied in the minor seminary or attended the parish in their youth, they know that for God there is no time, and that he calls when and whom he wants for one mission or another. 

We could say that only "humanly or chronologically" they are late vocations. If for God, as we said, there is no time, what difference does it make whether I respond to what he tells me - to his call - sooner or later? On the face of it, there will never be a sooner or later.

Because what is important, as in almost everything, is quality and not quantity; the fruit of the correspondence to the vocation received will depend in essence on the quality with which it is developed, and to a lesser degree on the quantity of such development. 

Often, and seminary formators are witnesses to this, it is advisable for the candidate to extend the period of discernment before his ordination, or to wait to finish his civil studies, or to develop professionally for a period of time. All this for prudential and formative reasons.

And what about the vocation -yes, vocation- to the marriage? From the point of view of faith, as the sacrament that it is, if it were received in the maturity of life, it could only be humanly qualified as late, because divine grace and therefore the sharing of married life with God are not quantitatively measurable.

It would be different for someone who sees that God is calling him to some specific mission and delays his response: then it could be said that he is "late". But even then he would have to be convinced of the mysterious depth already mentioned in affirming that for God there is no time.

Moreover, once a vocation has been received, it is shaped little by little, and each thing in its own time. For example, St. Teresa of Jesus, after twenty years as a nun and at the age of thirty-nine, discovered her true vocation as a reformer, starting her first foundation when she was almost fifty years old.

I read an advertisement the other day and it made me think about the influence of time on one's life, and it also made me think about how much good a life well spent can do. I thought about the possible late vocations, but above all that they are always fruitful. And I went a step further in my speech, and added after "fruitful" a "for their fidelity and for their happiness".

From fidelity - to vocation - to happiness is just one step

In this life we need to know what we have been called for. Or, in other words, what is the meaning for each one of us. And this, as we said, in all areas of development that we can think of, especially in the spiritual. 

The sense of fulfillment, doing what I must do and being in what I do, is inherent in the response to that call or vocation. And to be fulfilled is to be happy. Because indeed all humanity has a call or vocation, which is called happiness: to it it tends, to it is due, it corresponds to it.

A life that is coherent, consistent with what it should be lived for, and which will always be something good in itself, is a happy life.

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