Q. 1. I am confused. Prior to Vatican II, when we prayed for Vocations, it meant to pray for religious vocations. Why is it now that prayers for vocations include marriage?
A. 1. According to the "Catholic Word Book," page 44, published by the Knights of Columbus, the word "Vocation" means:
"A call to a way of life. Generally, the term applies to the common call of all men, from God, to holiness and salvation. Specifically, it refers to particular states of life, each called a vocation, in which response is made to this universal call; viz., marriage, the religious life and/or priesthood, the single state freely chosen or accepted for the accomplishment of God's will. The term also applies to the various occupations in which persons make a living. The Church supports the freedom of each individual in choosing a particular vocation, and reserves the right to pass on the acceptability of candidates for the priesthood and religious life. Signs or indicators of particular vocations are many, including a person's talents and interests, circumstances and obligations, invitations of grace and willingness to respond thereto."
As you indicate, prior to Vatican II, when a reference was made to a "Vocation" or a "Calling," it was implied that it was to the priesthood. Those who were drawn to the religious life as a brother or sister of a religious Order, it was referred to as a Calling to the religious life. Outside of these boundaries, it was assumed that someone would get married unless he or she chose to remain single.
Since Vatican II, many "Prayers for Vocations" have been composed to include everything. And since Vatican II, there has been a traumatic drop in vocations to the priesthood. This may be because the prayers have a tone of indifference as to what a person is praying for, placing no emphasis on the need for priestly vocations. There is an old saying that says, "Watch what you pray for." If you pray for anything, you will get anything. Those who sincerely seek priestly vocations in their parishes should specifically pray for priestly vocations. Otherwise, they only have themselves to blame, not having properly prayed to God.