As I find myself working with some of Merton’s thought on the subject of vocation, I thought I’d share with you this brief selection from his book Life and Holiness (1963). Ahead of his time, years before the Second Vatican Council’s “universal call to holiness” articulated in chapter five of Lumen Gentium, Merton addresses the broadness of Christian life and discipleship in terms of vocation not being limited to the clergy and consecrated religious.
The way of Christian perfection begins with a personal summons, addressed to the individual Christian by Christ the Lord, through the Holy Spirit. This summons is a call, a “vocation.” Every Christian in one way or other receives this vocation from Christ – the call to follow him. Sometimes we imagine that vocation is the prerogative of priests and of religious. It is true that they receive a special call to perfection. They dedicate themselves to the quest for Christian perfection by the use of certain definite means. Yet every Christian is called to follow Christ, to imitate Christ as perfectly as the circumstances of [his or her] life permit[s], and thereby to become a saint (34).