Medicine, for example, is often something we feel the world desperately needs. It is often high on our list, and we think highly of those who become doctors, nurses, and researchers in the realm of medicine. However, if medicine becomes the most important need then we define human beings are nothing more than chemicals and bio-mechanical functions. When medicine becomes an absolute, it reduces us to lifeless flesh, contradicting its own mission. As medicine becomes addicted to the necessity of saving lives it begins to destroy life. It becomes so focused on the problem of curing ailments that, in this myopic vision, it soon discovers that the obstacle to curing ailments is the frail human organism itself. When it comes to this point, it begins to kill in order to cure.
Science and technology fall into the same trap. As they become the most pressing need for humanity it soon discovers that the biggest obstacle to humanity’s problems is humanity. It reduces human beings to mechanical systems; a problem that needs to be solved. It gives us things but it does not give us life, because life is more than the number of years we have and warm bodies.
It is the same with money and prosperity. If what humanity really needs is an equal distribution of goods then we have assigned a dollar value to human beings, essentially making them slaves. Human beings are what they produce.
Psychology and therapy also has this status as a human need. Once again, though, as it takes precedence it soon undermines its own endeavor by reducing human beings to puppets of childhood experiences and chemical reactions.
Education is also raised on high. How can we go wrong by helping the individual claim their own agency and self-awareness? Education is a beautiful thing, but it is often tied to the categories given above. Systems of education are often focused on economics, science, therapy, and medicine.
These things will not save the world, but how often do we become enamored by them. Our youth chase after them, pouring their lives into them in order to change the world. Medicine, science, technology, economics, psychology; all of these things are very good, but when we place them as the thing that the world most needs they begin to contradict themselves. They cannot be the solution.
Have you ever noticed that the Church never talks about careers when it talks about vocations in life? How it does not talk about lawyers and carpenters, farmers and doctors? No, instead it talks about marriage, priesthood, and religious life. It talks about fathers and mother, sisters and brothers. These are vocations, and just saying that reveals a lot about what the Christian vocation as a whole is all about.
All three of these vocations, taken together, have a common identifier; they are all oriented toward forming community. From this we realize that the common vocation of all Christians is to forge deep and intimate communion.
It is communion which truly heals the world.
The grandma who bakes Thanksgiving dinner does more for the salvation of the world than any smartphone. The mother rocking her baby at night does more for the world than any rise in the stock market. And the sisters in the convent living community life bring more peace than any miracle drug. Husband, wife, mother, father, sister, and brother; these are the greatest titles that we can have.
Liturgy, prayer, worship, hospitality, celebration, lifelong consecration, reconciliation, communal life; these are the true medicines that heal the world.
There is only one vocation for a Christian; the vocation to forge true Christian community. The greatest thing that they can do for the world is to build communal life in their parishes, in the religious houses, and in their homes. Everything else has to be second to that calling.
Living and forging deep and intimate Christian communion is not something relegated to monasteries and communities of religious. It is the universal vocation. There is truly only one consecrated life, and that is the consecration of Baptism and Confirmation. It is truly a whole life dedication. Through these promises we consecrate ourselves to God, our Christian brothers and sisters, and to the world. We no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died and rose again. This is why, is a way, there really isn’t a vocation to the single life because at Baptism you are consecrated to God. The single person is already called to live a life of chastity for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. They should be the heart of the Christian community making its welfare their primary endeavor.
The religious who takes vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience is only giving a particular expression to their baptismal promises. All Christians already have the calling to build up the Christian community. This is why one of the greatest dangers to the Christian life is careerism and bachelorism. The Christian who is an aimless drifter without direction or who is consumed by their career has no sense of their identity and mission. Concurrently, the Christian who discerns their path in life without a sense of the needs of the community, whose only compass is getting a career and independence, has already lost their way.
To forge community is the Christian vocation, but it is important that we understand the word “community” well. Like the word “love”, the word community is often reduced to the most superficial of expressions. Often times we have nothing more profound than calling people to stand up in liturgies, shaking hands, small group discussions, and having cookouts. It’s enough sappiness to make the average Coke-drinker cringe. No, true communion is founded on a deep relationship with God. It is forged by an unconditional covenant signified by sacrifice. It is expressed through silence, liturgy, and the confession of sin. Its celebrations and parties spring out of shared endeavors and mutual self-denial. It is the living of the evangelical counsels according to your state in life. It is a body of individuals who are truly in communion with Christ; and that means more than getting a wafer on Sunday.
Too often we belittle this work of forming communion and chase after shadows. We paint motherhood as a failure, convents as futility, and fatherhood as a limitation. We crave careers and artificial positions and run away from the hard work of being in communion with others. If we want to heal the world we have to crave the true bread given for the life of the world.