Cardinal: Vocation is call to happiness; right path is discerned in prayer

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Dicastery for Clergy, celebrate Mass for the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and South Korea at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome Dec. 11, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — At its most basic level, a vocation is a call to happiness, said Korean Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Dicastery for Clergy.

“Vocation is essentially the call to be happy, to take charge of one’s life, to realize it fully and not waste it,” the cardinal told the Vatican newspaper in an interview published ahead of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations April 21.

God wants each person to be happy and to live life to its fullest, he told the newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

In Jesus, he said, God “wants to draw us into the embrace of his love; thus, thanks to baptism, we become an active part of this love story and, when we feel that we are loved and accompanied, then our existence becomes a path to happiness, to a life without end.”

The path to happiness, he said, “is then embodied and realized in a life choice, in a specific mission and in the many situations of every day.”

Insisting that the “first vocation” of all people is the call to happiness, Cardinal You said that it is wrong to think that an individual’s desires have no role to play.

In discerning God’s call, he said, “the first road signs to follow are precisely our desires, what we sense in our hearts may be good for us and, through us, for the world around us.”

At the same time, the cardinal said, everyone knows how their desires can sometimes lead them astray “because our desires do not always correspond to the truth of who we are; it may happen that they are the result of a partial vision, that they arise from wounds or frustrations, that they are dictated by a selfish search for our own well-being or, again, sometimes what we call desires are actually illusions.”

At that point, discernment is necessary, which, he said, “is basically the spiritual art of figuring out, with God’s grace, what we should choose in our lives.”

Prayer is essential for discernment because “a vocation is recognized when we bring our deep desires into dialogue with the work that God’s grace does within us,” Cardinal You said. Through that dialogue of prayer, clouds of doubt and questions gradually clear, and “the Lord makes us understand which path to take.”

“We must not run the risk of thinking that the spiritual aspect can develop apart from the human one, thus attributing to God’s grace a kind of ‘magical power,'” he said. “God became flesh and, therefore, the vocation to which he calls us is always embodied in our human nature.”

The cardinal said he has devoted much of his life to priestly formation, and he knows that in many parts of the world many priests are experiencing hardships, trials, exhaustion and, especially, profound loneliness.

Priests and the people they minister with need to learn to share duties and responsibilities, he said, and diocesan priests need to learn to rely on and support each other.

But even more, the cardinal said, “there is a need for a new mentality and new formation paths because often a priest is educated to be a solitary leader, a ‘one man in charge,’ and this is not good for him.”

“We are small and full of limitations, but we are disciples of the Master. Moved by him we can do many things. Not individually, but together, synodally,” he said, reminding readers of what Pope Francis has said: “You can only be missionary disciples together.”

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