Yesterday fall sunshine suffused our conference room at the Collegeville Institute.

Butler Center conference room set up for seminar.

Butler Center conference room set up for seminar.

I was “on deck” as the first scholar to present my findings and receive feedback on my project: Jubilación: Vocation in the Third Act of Life.

Having colleagues, a community of scholars who challenge and encourage you, is a gift at any stage in life.

In the Third Act years, too many people lack this gift.

My guess is that work is the only place many people experience any kind of community.

They aren’t like my new friends, Benedictine monks or nuns, who never retire and who live by the motto: “Ora et labora.” Prayer and work in community.

As I listened to my colleagues, I realized that my calling to learn and teach has never been solitary. Nor has it depended solely on any of the many jobs I’ve had or roles I’ve played.

I’ve never been without community, which means I’ve always had a larger framework for my vocation.

Today, I celebrate community and invite you to think with me about the multiple places we can go to experience it.

Below is the post I wrote for the Vocation Matters blog today. It starts out with some nostalgic candy and introduces a beautiful question:

Now and Later candies. Wikipedia.

Now and Later candies. Wikipedia image in the public domain.

Some of you remember these vintage candies with the enticing name: Now and Later. Have some now. Save some for later. They were the 1960s way of saying you can have your cake and eat it too.

We usually think of vocation as being about NOW. Listen for your calling, make a choice, and then follow it throughout your adulthood until retirement. But that’s an increasingly outmoded way of conceptualizing how vocation works.

What if we think of our callings as seeded at birth, confirmed in adulthood, and continued into old age all the way to the end? In other words, vocation is both being and becoming — both now and later. Evolving throughout the life cycle, vocation connects us with purpose:  before, during, and after paid employment.

Sounds good, right? But how many people actually think this way? Especially while involved at the peak of their careers? If they think about post-employment living, it’s usually in financial terms. How much money do I need to make sure I don’t outlive my savings? We’d all like a definitive answer to that one, but most of us can’t be sure we have it. It’s not A More Beautiful Question, as Warren Berger might say.

“Always the beautiful answer / who asks a more beautiful question.”  – e. e. cummings

To discover my answer to the beautiful question, click here to read the rest of the post.

Then come back and tell us your own experience with any of these topics: how do you find or create community in your life? Did you do anything, or are you doing something now, in middle age that helps you see your vocation as lifelong? Pray tell!

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