If you say "vocation" in a church, chances are people will think
priest 'minister'. If someone comes forward claiming a sense of calling, invariably they are saying "I think I want to be a vicar". Vocation and ordained ministry have become synonymous (more often than not).
Oh that it was that simple.
I don't deal with vocations in the way some of my colleagues do. I don't have to read the fine print and the words between the lines with those who feel that inexorable pull from God. Maybe one day I will, but not now. Now, I regard it as a tough job and one where I would struggle.
Today we remember Simeon ('the Righteous', for there is a panoply of Simea), the old geezer of Candlemas, the fella who just happened to be stood there when Mary and Joseph carried in that peculiar little bundle of out-of-this-world new life. With Simeon, we then witness a hardcore calling, an extreme vocation.
The thing with Simeon, is that his calling was there from before his birth, placed within him by God as he was formed in his mother's womb. This is, I believe, where all callings are placed - whether we care to take any notice or not. His calling was not to pop down to the nearest clerical outfitters for an array of Fairtrade poly-cotton tunnel-collar sky-blue shirts. His calling was not to move into a generously proportioned vicarage or take the keys to a marvellous edifice.
Simeon was called by God to receive that Christ child - and then, basically, to die. For Simeon, his vocation to was wait an entire lifetime for the moment that may or may not happen in his dying days. When we think "vocation", we think beginnings, new directions. For Simeon, "vocation" meant fulfillment, accomplishment and endings. God, having filled the old bloke with the Holy Spirit, had kept him alive so that his eyes may see the child, the Messiah. We know that it all worked out perfectly for Simeon, for our Bible tells us so. But imagine waiting seventy, eighty or ninety years for a single moment that may or may not happen - a moment that you feel called to enter.
Callings are universal - which is to say that all people have a calling placed upon them from God. Some listen, some can interpret that, many mis-interpret that, but some are the hardest callings of all. May Simeon become your Patron Saint.