September 1, 2013 by lucieromarin
First day of spring! So, I’ve been thinking about the winter, especially as it appears in two books I read a few months back. Stylistically very different, but similarly-themed, both Bill Bryson’s ‘At Home’ (I didn’t finish it) and Rowland Parker’s ‘The Common Stream: Two Thousand Years of the English Village’ (I did finish it) tracked the history of private life, the first through a house, and the second through a village. And both revealed the same thing, which was that, for most of history, the question foremost in people’s minds was, “How shall we survive the winter?”
People will occasionally ask me in accusing tones why the Church Didn’t Do Something About Some Issue any earlier than Whenever It Was That We Did Something About It. Well, human weakness and resistance to grace notwithstanding, the reason we didn’t arrive at contemporary moral indignation any faster than we did is because we, like everybody else, spent nine months of every year planning how to not freeze and/or starve to death during the remaining three months. If you don’t believe this is time-consuming, try doing less reading and more farming, and that without any modern equipment, and then see what happens when your entire livelihood depends upon it. (Then add to the mix disease, war, piracy, unassisted childbirth, travel by foot, and royalty fighting over their crowns, and ask yourself again why That Thing Took So Long.)
This thought also applies to roadkill. I’m not saying it’s not hard to find yourself without a vocation by the age by which you were taught to expect it. It is hard, the same way that it’s hard for our secular friends to be raised in the expectation of having an Amazing Career, and then not having one. However, it’s a difficulty which only presents itself to persons whose superiors took our long, healthy, and comfortable lives for granted, and, thus, felt obliged to tell us to do something other than survive and pray for rain.
Of course the idea of vocation is nothing new. The idea of vocation as neatly, immediately, and inevitably discernible is new. Wondering where your vocation is is partly a duty. It’s also, in part, a luxury. If you were prisoner in a thirteenth century Saracen dungeon, you’d be wondering if any Trinitarians or Mercedarians were coming to rescue you. And never mind the thirteenth century – what about those girls today for whom a word like ‘vocation’ would be unutterable and unintelligible luxury?