Human Flourishing

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by Paul Brock III  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 21, 2022   

Three crucial vocations

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Due to the pervasive technology of the 21st century, modern man has been seduced into a nonstop desire for momentary pleasure. And this preoccupation with temporary gratification has robbed man of the ability to ponder his true vocation.

Of course, technology is not evil; rather, its improper or idolatrous usage is. The complication today is that society essentially begins and ends with technology.

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Pope Pius XI

Most kids nowadays get their own cell phones in elementary school and create some sort of social media account soon after that. Addiction sets in by the time they're in middle school or high school.

But this fixation on the here and now goes hand in hand with the secular education given to 90% of American children.

In his 1929 encyclical On Christian Education, Pope Pius XI wrote, "It is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man's last end."

Today, education as a whole seems to direct people only to a functional life; that is, men and women are taught to pursue a degree simply because it will earn them a decent paycheck.

Bishop John Spalding, cofounder of the Catholic University of America, wrote about this very problem in 1903: "We are taught to strive for money and place, not for wisdom and virtue, and herein lies the defect of our education."

Taking this point further was Herbert Conn, an American educator who wrote in 1914, "Education without religion makes cold calculating men with self-centered interests, and any system of social advance which leaves out the religious side of nature leaves out the one force that makes possible the lasting organization upon which civilization depends."

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These truths are suppressed by the modern world. Religion today is only tolerated to the extent it abides the disordered lifestyles pushed by the secular State. However, religion is reviled by worldly powers when it stands firm against evil.

Religion is the virtue by which one renders to God what is due to Him. Yes, the religious man fights against evil, but beyond this, he unites his will to God's. On a practical level, this entails an honest pursuit of one's vocation in life.

Christian tradition points man to three different vocations in life. These three vocations are laid out by Thomistic psychologist Dr. G.C. Dilsaver.

The Imago Dei Vocation

The imago Dei vocation recognizes man as made in the image and likeness of God (angels also share in this vocation, although in a heightened capacity). "These beings," according to Dilsaver, "in their ability to rationally assent to truth and volitionally choose and love the good, share a similar functionality to God."

Religion is the virtue by which one renders to God what is due to Him.

This first vocation is not acknowledged or promoted in a materialistic world. Instead, truth is "relative," and so too is objective morality — so we're told. Man is not made to become like God, according to the materialists, and so they say, with Freud and Jung, that God is a figment of one's imagination.

The Incarnational Vocation

This next vocation is a bit more specific as man's further realization of his own mortality is embraced. In this existential vocation, Dilsaver states that one's "human incarnational status as either male or female is explicated." The incarnational vocation pursues the masculinity of man and the femininity of woman.

The modern world's denial of God necessitates a denial of the nature of man and woman. If God is really a figment of one's imagination, then this would render man's being made in His image impossible. The philosophy of godlessness is the basis of the secular world's war on human nature.

But this war on human nature cannot be critiqued using the conventional talking points. It's not just that "men are men, and women are women"; it's that men are called to fulfill their manliness (masculinity) and women are called to fulfill their womanliness (femininity).

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G. Stanley Hall

These basic differences are the reason that G. Stanley Hall, the first president of the American Psychological Association, went so far as to condemn coeducation. Hall, a eugenicist who was no friend of Christianity, stated that "manliness and womanliness need a different regimen to bring them to their perfect flower."

Hall's disapproval of coeducation was not controversial at the time, but today such sentiments are considered radioactive.

Friedrich Foerster, a German philosopher who publicly opposed the Nazis, also did not think highly of coeducation. He held that it results in "making the boy effeminate and causing the girl to lose much of the natural grace and charm of her sex."

Pope Pius XI, later in his encyclical On Christian Education, even called coeducation "false" and "harmful."

In today's world, these statements are unheard of. But a century ago, when coeducation was still relatively new, they were quite normal. As a reference point, only about half of colleges and universities were coeducational in 1910.

Foerster explained well his reasoning for denouncing boys and girls learning together. He believed coeducation to be contrary to the nature of education, whose purpose is "to preserve to each sex its own proper character and to develop the psychic qualities characteristic of each."

Granted, there are some perks of coeducation, such as affordability and regular social interaction between the sexes. This, however, is not the focus.

The point is that the incarnational vocation, one which pursues the perfecting of man as man and woman as woman, begins by acknowledging the differences between the sexes — a reality completely ignored in secular education.

The Familial Vocation

As the title suggests, the third vocation is the familial vocation, which is centered on the family. Dr. Dilsaver explains that this "is the fundamental locus of the previous two crucial human vocations. It is in the family that the fullness of gender is expressed and comes to full fruition."

In the context of this vocation, both the husband-father duties and wife-mother duties are explicated.

Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P., breaks this down in his book Christian Social Order: "The role of the father is more one of intellectual affirmation. ... The role of the mother is more one of emotional tenderness. ... [The husband] must be the spiritual head of the family, [and the wife] is the spiritual heart of the family."

The husband must be the spiritual head of the family.

The familial vocation is also found in the evangelical vocation of the priest and religious, who share in Christ's victimhood for the spiritual good of others.

All three vocations (imago Dei, incarnational and familial) are engrained in the very nature of man and ought to be pursued.

To learn more, go Premium and watch the 10th and final episode of Church Militant's brand new series Mental Health: Catholic Perspective.

 

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