Unrepeatable Book: Rediscovering the Full Meaning of Vocation

My friend Luke Burgis and his co-author Joshua Miller just published a new book, Unrepeatable: Cultivating the Unique Calling of Every Person.

Unrepeatable seeks to rediscover the full meaning of the term “vocation” within the Catholic Church (and the world at large).

Vocation in the Narrow Senses

“Vocation” has come to mean different things to different people.

Some use vocation as in “vocational school” which are typically more blue-collar jobs like plumber, electrician, automotive technician.

In the Catholic Church the word is primarily used in the context of a young person discerning whether God is calling them to the priesthood or religious life. More broadly, marriage and priesthood/religious life are considered the two “vocations” that one can be called to, so this limits vocation to indicate one of two states in life.

Vocation in the Full Sense

Luke and Joshua point out that these narrow usages of “vocation” do not fully encompass the meaning that it has traditionally had in the Catholic Church.

A person is more than his state in life, more than his occupation. God calls the entire person, as Pope St. John Paul II so vividly and consistently demonstrated to us. Hence, vocation needs to be expanded to mean one’s total calling from God, which is unique to each person and therefore takes diverse and amazing forms.

Mentors, Discernment, and Vocation

The authors devote specific counsel to those in mentorship positions, whether formal or informal.

They give good advice for how one can help a mentee discern his calling from God, which could include the priesthood, religious life, or marriage, but also would delve deeply into that person’s motivations, strengths, interests, and how they could be best applied for the full expression of that person’s being in the world.

I found the chapter on listening with empathy and drawing out a mentee’s Achievement Story helpful and thought of ways I could apply it at my secular workplace, including when mentoring junior engineers but also in interviewing candidates for positions.

A Culture of Vocation

The book reaches its climax in a chapter that explores what it means to build a “culture of vocation,” which requires direct, personal contact with people, not just virtual online interactions.

Luke draws from the Church’s Magisterial teachings, writings of the popes and saints, and contemporary examples of people engaging in such a culture to paint a picture of what such a culture looks like and demands. I was especially glad to his reference to John Senior’s program in Kansas decades ago, one that ultimately led to the Benedictine monks of Clear Creek, Oklahoma, an order we as a family have followed for a long time and visited in person recently.

Luke himself “discerned a vocation” to the priesthood but ultimately believed he was called to a different life, one which included entrepreneurship in it. Entrepreneurship is not something a Catholic ever associates with “vocation” but in fact God gave Luke gifts in this area, and he realized he needed to cultivate it and grow it to be faithful to God’s movement in his life.

Unrepeatable is a needed and practical book for Catholics in our time. Few Catholic books exist that have practical application in the business world as well as the ecclesial one. I look forward to more resources produced by these guys!