Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
The author is the principal of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture, which is focused on the meaning of vocation and the common good. The credo of this Institute is that vocation is integral, not incidental, to the missio Dei, and we work that out in many different ways in our teaching and writing courses and curriculum. This book is an effort within that larger work, inviting you in its own way to “come and see” that this vision of vocation is being lived into by men and women, younger and older, who are committed to a faith that shapes vocation that shapes culture. To learn to see, to see ourselves implicated in history, to see that we share a common vocation to care not only for our own flourishing, but for the flourishing of the world, is the vision that has brought this book into being.
The author introduces us to his friends from near and far, men and women who incarnate the reality that we can know and still love the world, even with its wounds, perhaps especially in its wounds whether they be in family or friendship, psychological or sociological, in economic life or political life, in the arts or in education, in small towns or on complex continents. All day, every day, there are both wounds and wonders at the very heart of life, if we have eyes to see. And weeing what Weil called learning to know, to pay attention is where vocations begin. In their own ways the sociological and philosophical faces of our world conspire to haunt us. Attending to the info-glut character of contemporary culture, carries with it the ironic edge that the more we know, the less we care; the more information we have, the less engaged by it we are. Responding to the critique of postmodernism, a word that was used as early as the 1960’s to explain the soul strained character of contemporary life that makes most of us wonder whether anything is ever really true for everyone all the time. We do not need to read the philosophers to understand this. As the twentieth has become the twenty-first century the air we breathe is full of the ether of ‘whatever’. In the next chapter we will explore the meaning of both, weighing their influence upon our ability to be fully and responsibly human. Knowing what I know about the way the world is, what am I going to do? A mime in Europe had to answer, as did the Nazi bureaucrats, as did the Justice Department lawyer, as do all of us. Percy’s question echoes through the heart of every human being =m and it is especially poignant for those coming out of the starting blocks of early adulthood with a life of knowing and doing on the horizon. The question requires an answer if we are going to be human.
The book is filled with aspects of a vocation and how vocations are fulfilled by many, what happened in the culture that deterred many from answering a specific call, and people who decide to live out their vocation with other members. This communal aspect is one we are still working hard on. The reader will see the joys and struggles of a life with Christ and others and what is needed to fulfill the vocation.
Steven Garber, the author leaves us with a prayer for Vocations: God of heaven and earth, we pray for your kingdom to come, for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Teach us to see our vocations and occupations as woven into your work in the world this week. For mothers at home who care for children for those whose labor forms our common life in this city, the nation and the world, for those who serve the marketplace of ideas and commerce, for those whose creative gifts nourish us all, for those whose callings take them into the academy for those who long for employment that satisfies their souls and serves you, for each one we pray asking for your great mercy. Give us eyes to see that our work is holy to you, O Lord, even as our worship this day is holy to you. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.