Detachment is a marvelous concept which is essential to the fulfillment of any vocation. Detachment is that inner disposition which clings to God and refuses to cling to anything or anyone else in that same way.
Detachment is the inner freedom to use and enjoy the material goods of this world without becoming enslaved to them.
Detachment does not mean giving up everything good and fun and living a miserable life but it can mean giving up something very good that in human weakness one would rather not let go.
GOOD AND GREATER GOOD
What is this talk of “good” and “greater good”? That is an excellent question. There are many things in this creation which are good. The taste of fresh clean water on a hot day, the scent of flowers in spring, the love of a man for a woman, and the love of God for each of us are all goods but they are not of equal value. The love of God and our relationship to God is a higher good than, say, the scent of flowers in spring.
A SAINTLY EXAMPLE
St. Teresa of Avila understood the importance of detachment. St. Teresa wrote about giving up her love of softer living to simplify and be poorer as a means of growing closer to God. This was a call of God to deepen and develop her vocation. She had to simplify, to give up social events and nice clothing, to give up a private cook and other privileges allowed her at the Carmelite monastery in order to follow her unique vocation.
St. Teresa said in her writings that her life was good and that many very holy nuns lived by the rule as it was practiced at the Incarnation. Even so, her unique call led her to found discalced (meaning without closed shoes, ie. sandals or barefoot) monasteries. St. Teresa had the detachment to give up quite a few good things to follow her own vocation.
I met a man who had a successful, satisfying and excellent paying job and as he grew in his love for God and his practice of the Faith he heard a call to leave it all behind. Detachment allowed him to give up a career he loved in a field that was lucrative to enter the seminary and seek formation to eventually enter the priesthood.
WHAT THINGS MIGHT BE GIVEN UP?
The world is filled with many excellent things and sometimes the call of God to let go of the good things we have is very difficult to follow.
We ALL make choices about how we will live our lives.
We choose our study habits, and if our habits are poor then we choose the close off the options in life that require strong study habits. We might choose to practice a sport until we become very good at it, and then find ourselves called to give up that sport to concentrate on something else, like entering the military or going to college to study medicine.
Marriage is a choice that shuts off the goods inherent in living life single in favor of the goods inherent in marriage; marriage also accepts obligations into our vocations that are unique to marriage such as being open to children and the adjustments they require.
Every choice we make cuts off some goods and opens the door to other goods. We are called to discover our vocation, unique to us, that is willed by God. How this is expressed depends on the particulars of the individual vocation.
VOCATION and DETACHMENT
Vocations fulfill our potential and bring us closer to God through the ordinary things of life. We come to know our vocations and as we do we will be called to practice detachment toward things which do not fit our individual vocations. Letting go of some loved activity is difficult but often essential to fulfilling other obligations.