"Authentic vocational discernment seeks a proper balance between inward listening to our hearts and outward, socially engaged listening with our hearts to the realities of the world in which we live. These come together in our heart's response to the needs and the sufferings of the world," writes John Neafsey, a clinical psychologist and senior lecturer in the department of theology, Loyola University Chicago. In this cogent and soul-stirring assessment of personal vocation and social conscience, he challenges us to discern the voice of the Spirit in our work and in our responses to injustice and inequality in the world. Gandhi once remarked: "For me the Voice of God, of Conscience, of Truth, or the Inner Voice or the 'Still Small Voice' mean one and the same thing."
Neafsey is convinced that the spiritual practice of listening is one of the key gifts in today's chaotic and contentious world: "The capacity to really listen, to put aside our own concerns for the moment, to feel or imagine ourselves in the world of another person and then to communicate our empathic understanding to that person in such a way that he or she feels heard or understood is the foundation for all genuine relationship and solidarity between human beings." This skill is critically important in our relationships to poor people. Their cries must be heard by our hearts, and yet many in America have hardened or numbed hearts that are oblivious to the suffering of those less fortunate than they are.
The author spells out a robust understanding of the spiritual dimensions of calling and vocation in chapters on sacred voices, discernment, authenticity, passion and compassion, vision, suffering, conscience, and awakening from the sleep of inhumanity. Neafsey quotes William Sloane Coffin: "A career seeks to be successful, a calling to be valuable. A career tries to make money, a calling tries to make a difference." Conscience is the whisper of the Spirit arousing us to compassionate service and responsible global citizenship. The education that is needed most today is the education of the heart.