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Whatever the calling, we sometimes need to go to unfamiliar territory


I have no business singing high C.

The second a hymn starts, I can tell by the notes whether the song’s range is in my comfort zone. Solidly alto, I am happiest singing F, G and A above middle C.

But B thins out, C stretches and D screeches. (I don’t even attempt E — leave that to the sopranos.)

Yet when I’m tempted to sit out a song, I remind myself: This is Mass, not the opera. When we worship, it’s not a performance but a time for praise of God. We gather as the body of Christ: sopranos, altos, tenors and basses — but also the tone-deaf and tuneless.

So I try not to stop singing, even when my voice isn’t strong enough. We all have a sweet spot, but we don’t get to stay there. We’re singing the whole song together.

Same for our callings.

Life at home brings its own sweet spots. We each have daily tasks we don’t mind and chores we detest. But we know we are working toward the whole — the good of the household. So we scrub the crusty pans, file the taxes or drag the garbage cans down to the curb, not only because it needs to be done but because we love the people we serve.

Certain stages of parenting feel like sweet spots, too. I have friends who revel in the teenage years and friends who wish for smaller, simpler days. Some parents adore babies while others enjoy having young adults launched.

But we don’t get to pick and choose. All the years must be lived through (and loved through). All the day’s tasks must get done, even if we want to play to our strengths. We have to pitch in together.

We’re singing the whole song here.

And it’s not just the business of raising children. Caregiving can be a calling that’s unplanned or unwanted. Marriage is far from smooth sailing in every season.

Family life, friendships, professional work, parish life — any vocation where we deal with humans (spoiler alert: all callings) requires us to move from our sweet spot into unfamiliar territory.

Adult children often feel unprepared to care for aging parents. Blended families navigate the delicate balance between biological parents and stepparents. But we sacrifice out of love for the ones we serve.

Which means we don’t always get to stick to our sweet spot.

Too often vocation gets narrowed to just one thing: the magical point “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet” (according to a well-known definition by Frederick Buechner).

Instead, most of us find that our lives, relationships and work are a muddy mix of duties and delights, limits and circumstances, gifts and responsibilities.

God calls to each person within the circumstances of his or her life, with the gifts each has been given for the good of the community, beyond the limits of our comforts or desires, for the service of others.

On any given day, I can face the tasks of my callings the same way I start a new hymn. I might want to stick to what feels smooth, but the greater good lies in the beauty of the whole.

As St. Paul wrote, “We should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love” (Eph 4:15-16).

Where we feel weak, others may be strong. At church and at home, we’re singing the whole song together.


Fanucci is a mother, writer and director of a project on vocation at the Collegeville Institute in Collegeville, Minnesota. She is the author of several books, including “Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting,” and blogs at www.motheringspirit.com.