Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Are You Living Your Vocation?

Tim Lilley

During the annual gathering of St. Meinrad alumni and friends, held Oct. 11 at The Bauerhaus in Darmstadt, Benedictine Brother Simon Hermann offered a definition of vocation I hadn’t heard before: “Our deepest desire meeting the world’s greatest need.”


“That is an amazing definition of vocation,” I told Brother Simon after dinner. He was quick to say it was not his, but one that he had heard. So, of course, I went prospecting for its author on the Internet.

It appears that Christian author Frederick Buechner said it first, albeit in slightly different form, in his book “Wishful Thinking,” first published in 1973. Here’s how Buechner said it, according to

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.”

As for me and my vocation, I can only speak to the first half – my deepest desire (Brother Simon) and my deep gladness (Buechner) – because I don’t presume to know or understand the world’s greatest need or its deep hunger.

Looking back as far as high school in the early 1970s, I see my deepest desire being to use the ability to communicate that God blessed me with. From that same reflection, I am able to define communicating as my efforts at creating something that moved others to feel some emotion, and to think. “Something” has taken many forms: newspaper articles, magazine features, photos, a book, public presentations … even songs.

There have been times when my motivation for some of these creations has been purely financial. When you get blindsided by a layoff, you still need to pay the bills.

Even during those times, I exercised my deepest desire – to communicate – in ways that left me grateful and filled with deep gladness for God’s blessings in my life.

I have said in this space before that retrospect shows me that every stop on my professional journey has involved elements of “on-the-job training” that helped prepare me to work for a Catholic diocese and its bishop.

That “OJT” included the opportunities to meet and work with wonderful people in truly fun jobs. For the record – if you love God, it is fun to work for a diocese and its bishop.

So, yes – my deepest desire (to communicate) has resulted in deep gladness because of all the opportunities to communicate in a variety of ways. Whether – and if so, how – all the work has impacted the world’s greatest need or deep hunger are things I cannot judge.

I will say, however, that the deep gladness I feel from being able to indulge my deepest desire has always left me feeling that I was doing what God has intended for me.

How about you?

If you are still working out your true vocation, re-read Brother Simon’s and Buechner’s definitions, and spend some time in prayer – before the Blessed Sacrament has always proved best for me – asking God to help you truly know your deepest desire and what brings you deep gladness.

How might you impact the world’s greatest need and its deep hunger?

Faith is required, friends. You must cooperate with the Holy Spirit – even if you face a life path that appears to be far from your deepest desire and far from anything that could leave you feeling deep gladness.

God will reward your faith with the vocation he has intended for you all along.