St. Pius X parishioner writes book about finding your life's calling
GREENSBORO — What am I supposed to do with my life and how am I supposed to go about doing it?
It's a question everyone asks of themselves at some point in their lives. In Stephen Martin's new book, "The Messy Quest for Meaning: Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation," he offers direction on discovering what your vocation may be.
"It's a topic that I'm really passionate about," Martin said. "It really is the most important thing you can do – figure out your callings and how to use them."
Martin, a parishioner at St. Pius X Church in Greensboro, is a speech writer, journalist and an award-winning essayist whose work has appeared in publications such as "America," "Commonweal" and "Portland."
Martin also directs public relations and executive communications for the nonprofit Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro where he lives with his wife Dawn, son Evan and daughter Elly. It's easy to see that Martin has a variety of personal and professional vocations as a husband, father, author and executive. According to Martin, having multiple callings is something that is easily overlooked when thinking about vocations.
"I think there are myths about calling," Martin pointed out. "Many times, we associate calling exclusively with career, and that's not necessarily true. Career can be part of a calling, but even if you don't have a professional career, you still need to think about your calling. People have many facets that are part of their overall mission. We need to look at the bigger picture as a whole."
Similarly, Martin believes a person's calling is not static. It can change depending on circumstances in life.
"People's callings change over time," Martin said. "It's a process that keeps evolving and as things change, so do callings. It's not something that you can just check off a list and say you're done with it. The process is a challenge, but that's what makes it exciting."
The five practices that Martin details in his book – discovering desires, channeling focus, embracing humility, involving community and living in the margins – were taken from his personal experiences, his work as a journalist and most specifically his reflections on the example of Trappist monks.
"The principles are grounded in Catholic traditions, especially the Trappists and what they have done for the past 1,000 years," Martin said. "They are great resources on how to put these practices into action. They have proven over the past 1,000 years that the practices can work, but we don't need to be in a monastery to make them work. There is nothing here that requires special talents – it's all a part of being human."
As the book details, human nature means life can get complicated, confusing and, well, messy. However, a messy quest doesn't have to be a negative one, as long as we embrace and understand it, according to Martin.
"Finding what our callings are is not a clear process. There will be a lot of false starts and mistakes," Martin said. "Look at the Apostles – their quests were very messy and they spent every day with Jesus! Comparably, our quests will be messy, but that's not bad as long as we have that expectation, approach life with humor and understand life is a process which is what makes the journey exciting."
A person's own quest can begin at any time, young or old. That being the case, "The Messy Quest for Meaning: Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation" can benefit anyone no matter where they are in life.
"My hope is people will find value in the book no matter what their age or denomination is," Martin explained. "The practices in the book and the book as a whole can benefit a wide range of people."
The five practices Martin discusses in the book give a direction on finding a vocation, but the route is not a straight path.
"I view the five practices as more of a loop than a linear process," Martin said. "Each practice can feed and build off of each other."
And by using, exercising and building on each of these practices, one can continue on the quest to answering that most important question.
"The Messy Quest for Meaning: Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation" is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also follow Stephen Martin's Messy Quest on his blog at www.messyquest.com.
— Ryan Murray, correspondent