Kathleen A. CAHALAN and Bonnie J. MILLER-McLEMORE, eds.  Calling All Years Good: Christian Vocation throughout Life’s Seasons. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2017.  pp. 244. $20.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-7424-5. Reviewed by Christine FLETCHER, Benedictine University, Lisle, IL 60532.


Vocation is a hot word on the self-help aisle of the book store, where people are encouraged to find their bliss in their paid work – another way, along with dress-down Fridays and company ping-pong tables to make work the most important experience in life.  In Christian churches, however, the word vocation has lost its power.  Among Catholics, vocation is understood still as God’s call to some people to become priests or religious rather that God’s call to each individual through the body of believers. So people struggle to integrate their faith and their life.

New books are working on filling that gap, such as the three volumes from the NetVUE (Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education) and Scholarly Resource project for example . This literature is primarily directed to those working with undergraduates.  In contrast, this book addresses vocation at all stages of life and is a very helpful addition to the literature.

The book is the product of seminars organized by the Collegeville Institute, and written with congregations in mind.In the introduction Kathleen Cahalan identifies the key findings of this project: congregations have a limited or non-existent understanding of God as caller; vocation is usually thought of in relation to young adults making career choices; people discount religious experiences they had as children or teens; most communities are not places of calling and the language of vocation is not compelling.
Cahalan sees vocation as finding life’s purpose in God’s purposes, and explains callings over a lifetime under four headings: in relationship, through the Body, over Time and for Community. This echoes Edward Hannenberg’s explanation of vocation: “God calls me through others for others.” The book examines calling through the life course, rather than focusing solely on the big vocational questions of young adults.

 The book then moves on to six chapters discussing various life stages: Childhood (Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore), Adolescence, Younger Adulthood (both by Kathleen Turpin), Middle Adulthood (Matt Bloom), Late Adulthood (Kathleen Cahalan) and Older Adulthood (Joyce Ann Mercer).  In between the chapters are Biblical Interludes, in which Jane Patterson reframes and retells familiar passages from Scripture in a new dialogue of God as caller and humans as responders.

Each chapter has a description of the characteristics of the particular stage of life, how that affects calling and the understanding of being called, and then the transition to the next stage of life. The chapters on Childhood and Older Adulthood are particularly insightful, as persons in these stages of life, not usually economically active members of the society but dependent on others, are often ignored in theology and ethics as they are in society.

This book would be valuable in the college classroom, in ministry and diaconate training programs, and in congregations who are interested in revitalizing their sense of faith and its relevance to all of life.