(Since we had lots on this in the past, might as well keep adding stuff):
Some eminently sensible stuff in Hilary Jane Margaret White’s combox (the earlier comments are related to a post about her own Personal Stuff, skip down a bit). I was kicking myself for not having taken notes from Dom Delatte on this subject when I had his commentary on the Rule of St Benedict to hand the other week, but the comments say, and quote people saying, the same sort of thing. Including a reply from the Holy Office. Here’s John Lamont:
I would have said the same about the nature of vocation until coming across Fr. John Blowick’s book Priestly Vocation, in which he makes this case, I always thought that a priestly vocation was an inner call to a man from the Holy Spirit telling him to choose the priestly life, and that this inner call was based in God’s decision that that individual should become a priest. From this notion of the priestly vocation the idea of a lay vocation has been elaborated. But in fact this idea of a oriestly vocation was invented in the seventeenth century and has no satisfactory theological basis. All that is involved in becoming a priest is having the capacities to be one and making the choice to be one. Of course God’s providence is at work when a man makes this decision, but the providence works through his free choice rather than through any antecedent divine decision and call. The call that gives God’s stamp to the man’s choice is the bishop’s calling him forward for ordination. Blowick bases his arguments largely on Fr. Joseph Lahitton’s book ‘La vocation sacerdotale’, available online here:
This is a rather long theological disquisition, but it is important as the idea of lay vocations is simply an extension of the previous, mistaken idea of priestly vocations. Since there are in fact no priestly vocations of this kind, there are a fortiori no analogous lay ones. Fr. Lahitton was denounced to the Holy Office for his book, but the Holy Office’s response endorsed his claim: here it is.
‘The book of the eminent man Joseph Canon Lahitton, “La Vocation Sacerdotale.” is in no way to be reprobated, but rather is is deserving of outstanding praise in the following points: (1) that no one has a right to ordination antecedently to the free choice of him by the bishop; (2) that the condition to whcih the Ordinary should look, and which is called a priestly vocation, by no means consists, at all events necessarily and as a general rule, in some interior aspiration of the subject or in impulses of the Holy Spirit to receive the priesthood; (3) but, on the contrary, nothing more is required in the candidate that he may rightly be invited by the bishop, than a right intention together with a fitness based on those gifts of nature and grace, and confirmed by that goodness of life and sufficiency of learning, that afford a well-founded hope, that he would be able rightly to fulfill the priestly duties and maintain its obligations holily. – AAS 4 (1912), 485.