As Catholics, when we think of the word "vocation," usually what comes to mind are nuns, priests, and married folks. Yet there's more to vocations than the state-in-life vocations!
I remember the first time I was told that vocations applied to more than getting married or becoming a priest or nun. I was absolutely flabbergasted, while intrigued to know more.
The word vocation comes from the Latin word "vocare", which means "to call." A vocation is how God calls us to Himself. And there are actually three different types of vocations!
The first type of vocation is the universal call to holiness, which is first given to us when we are baptized. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us this about the universal call to holiness when it discusses the "sacraments of Christian initiation" (aka Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist):
Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are sacraments of Christian initiation. They ground the common vocation of all Christ's disciples, a vocation to holiness and to the mission of evangelizing the world. They confer the graces needed for the life according to the Spirit during this life as pilgrims on the march towards the homeland.
– CCC 1533
The second type of vocation is what we're most familiar with: state-in-life vocations. To quickly go over these, there are three types of state in life vocations: marriage, priesthood, and consecrated religious life. Fun fact: while marriage comes through the sacrament of Matrimony and priesthood comes through the sacrament of Holy Orders, consecrated religious life does not have a specific sacrament attached to it.
Lastly, the third type of vocation has to do with how we are called to use our particular gifts and talents in our specific life circumstances. For instance, if a person is gifted with mathematical abilities, this person should cultivate these abilities and discern with the Lord in prayer how He is calling him/her to use this talent. As musicians, we have each been given the gift of music, and God desires for us to share it with the world in some capacity, for some amount of time. For some of us, we might be giving this gift up till the day we die! For others, we may be called to share this gift for a certain period of our lives. St. Elizabeth of the Trinity is a wonderful example of this, as she was very gifted at the piano and shared her gifts with those around her until God called her into a Carmelite convent.
No matter how short or long a period of time we're asked to cultivate and share our gifts of music, we each have a golden opportunity to be sanctified and grow in holiness in this area of our lives. God sanctifies through the ordinary in whatever that may look like for us, whether it's playing principal trumpet for a top-tier orchestra or teaching elementary general music in a suburban neighborhood. Whatever our ordinary may be, we are called to become saints in this place.
At this point, maybe you're really hyped about growing in holiness through your gifts as a musician, but you're stuck on where exactly to start. If you're like me and enjoy having a list in front of you to kickstart some ideas, here's ten ideas for you to begin growing in holiness through your vocation as a musician:
Offer your practice sessions to God
Be extra patient with your students
Place your performances under the patronage of a particular saint
Make long rehearsals into a prayer
Choose to be kind to a difficult colleague or coworker
Unite performance anxiety to the suffering Christ
Say a prayer of thanksgiving after performances
Include colleagues or students in your daily prayers
Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire your compositions
Choose to incorporate a composer's faith into your thesis, dissertation, or lesson plan
I hope these are helpful to you in some way! And if you have any additional ideas, feel free to share them in the comments.
I'd like to leave you with this quote from St. Joan of Arc:
"I am not afraid, for God is with me, I was born to do this."
Our vocations help us to become saints. Becoming a saint is hard work – there's no doubt about that. But do not be afraid. God has great plans for your life, and He has given you the capacity to become a great saint through the vocations that He has entrusted to you. Lean into His love, allow yourself to grow in intimacy with Him, and He will sanctify you greatly through all that He calls you to!