In the course of my religious life I have encountered an astounding diversity of theologies of vocation and vocational discernment. But often it comes down to one question: does God will a particular and certain path for each person?
In other words, is there only one possible correct outcome as we try to discern a vocation? Is God's will so specific that the divine will means for one to become a religious is this community, or to marry this particular person, or to become a hermit, or to stay single in the world?
Some say yes. Others say it's a more complex process of cooperation without a predetermined outcome. I have heard wise people come down on both sides of the question.
For whatever reason I was thinking about it yesterday on the bus, and I thought of a simple problem I hadn't noticed before.
Let's say the divine will has A. entering religious life, but A. marries B. instead. This means that both are in the wrong vocation, because B. has also missed the mark. Or let's say C. was supposed to marry D., but D. becomes a hermit, and now C. goes and marries E., whom God meant to marry someone else entirely.
Thus the whole idea of God demanding a certain and particular vocation from each, though it seems encouraging in the individual interior life, breaks down when it comes to an inter-personal system. But is this a reductio ad absurdum for the whole idea? Well, it would seem so, because why would God let someone suffer the loss of his or her proper vocation because of the negligence of another?
On the other hand, the world is full of those who suffer unfulfilled lives of poverty, sickness and despair because of the selfish choices of others.