Panorama complessivo dell’insegnamento vocazionale della Chiesa - S.Em. il Card. Vincent Gerard Nichols

Cardenal Vincent Gerard Nichols
H.E. Cardinal Vincent Nichols

In the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi there are three paintings by Caravaggio telling the story of St Matthew. I am sure you are familiar with them. The first is entitled 'The Call of St Matthew' and it is an excellent starting point for these reflections on the doctrine of the Church on Vocations.

As with all of Caravaggio's paintings, light plays an important part in their composition. In 'The Call of St Matthew' we see the light of eternity coming from behind the figure of Jesus, flooding into the scene of the taxman, Matthew, at his table. Jesus is summoning him in a call which comes in heavenly light, for it comes from the Father. Jesus' hand of summons is unmistakably the same hand as that of Adam, in Michelangelo's masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel. Jesus is the Second Adam and is calling Matthew to the fulfilment that he alone can give.

This makes so plain the first aspect of the Church's doctrine of vocation: God is the source of every vocation.

Then, in the picture, we see that Jesus is accompanied by Peter. The summons given to Matthew is to become one of the companions of Jesus. The call and its fulfilment takes place in the context of the Church.

Thirdly, Matthew is called in the reality of his everyday life and work. You may recall that the group around the taxman's table are dressed in the clothes of the sixteenth century whereas Jesus and Peter are clothed in the timeless robes of New Testament iconography. The call of God comes to us as we are, flawed and compromised, in the daily realities of our lives.

These three aspects will provide the structure for this presentation with a fourth section looking briefly at the pastoral implications of this doctrine.