by Michael Kissane, O.Carm.
Being called is a very mysterious reality. Most times when someone is called, they do not realize it or accept it for some time.
This is especially true if your call is a religious call! We may begin to ask ourselves the questions: Who's calling? How do I answer? Then again we may want to say:
Stop calling! I'm too busy to take calls right now!
Each day in the community where I live, we pray for vocations to the
priesthood and religious life. Today, when we speak of call
we often mean priesthood or religious life. But, what about the majority of people we
know? Are they called? Do they have vocations?
Father Steven Alcott, O.P. of Our Lady of
Sorrows Parish answered God's Call in 2001
Vatican II reminds us that by our baptism
all Christians have a fundamental call to holiness.
All of us are invited into a very special friendship by God.
How we live out that special relationship with God
is as unique and different as we are!
How do we know what we are called to
be? How do we know if we are called to religious
life? The key, of course, begins with self-understanding, prayer, and a willingness to
allow ourselves to ask the questions.
We often need to have other people share in the discernment process. A
good spiritual director is a necessary element of any vocation discernment! So often we
feel that we are the only ones who have these types of questions or feelings. We may feel
we are the only one in the whole world who has been called!
Of course the opposite is true. Therefore, we cannot go through the discernment process on
our own. We need to talk to those special people who know us well and speak to us honestly
and directly. We may also need to hear the experiences of others and find strength in the
shared pursuit of this mystery. Go to the Scriptures to see how God
has acted in the past. The prophets and the apostles all had different responses to their
individual call. The enthusiasm with which they
responded to God's call
varied. Some were willing to give up everything, others did not want to respond at all!
Knowing how God acted in the past can help
us to understand how God may be acting in
our life right now!
We often hear: "God's ways are not our ways".
Certainly in the lives and events of Scripture
this seems to be the case. From a human
standpoint, God seems to act so illogically
especially when calling individuals to accomplish
some task. Our culture and business orientated approach to vocational discernment usually
encourages us to try and find the most qualified person for the job. We seek the most
experienced, the best educated, the most gifted! Yet, look who God
chose! Moses, Sarah, David, Jeremiah,
Mary, the apostles, and many others - people
seemingly limited because of age or lack of skill, but human
beings in tune with the reality of God's
presence in their lives.
Do we at times put ourselves down because we feel that we are not worthy
enough? Or good enough? Or talented enough? Do we put ourselves down because we are not
perfect? Do we rule out the possibility of a religious vocation because we are all too
aware of our humanness? If so, we may be
overlooking the very gift that God has given us to serve the Church. For some tragic reason we may be too blind
to see the unique gift we can bring to religious life.
"Come, follow me," Jesus said to the apostles. To us, this may sound
very vague and unclear. Most of us want clarity. We want a job description before we say
yes! We want to know our benefits. We want to know what is expected of us. Yet, when we
receive the call, Jesus simply says, "Come, follow me".
Father John Robbins of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish
also answered God's Call in 2001
Our need for control and certainty can prevent us from responding to the
invitation of Jesus. Our concerns and
anxieties about the future can often be paralyzing and can minimize our freedom of choice.
And yet the questions remain - am I motivated by my faith or controlled by my fears? What
is it that is getting in the way of my response to God?
Why do I feel so unfree at times? Unable to move forward?
Again experience in the Scriptures
can assist us. While God's action in our lives may seem illogical and vague, God's call
or invitation is never in the abstract. God calls
each of us personally, by name. And God calls in the present. These two realities can help us as we
try to determine our best response to God's invitation.
Since God calls us by name, our response can only be from the unique individuals
that we are. We respond with our own talents and abilities, our own shortcomings and
limitations. As Peter was different from Paul, and Mary
from Martha, so each of us is different and so is our response. We
respond to God in a way that is not better
or worse than others just uniquely different.
us always in the present. Jesus called His
followers at a particular moment in history. They answered accordingly, out of their
culture and time frame, out of a whole series of relationships.
Today's disciples are no different. The circumstances and people in our
lives help to clarify our response to God.
We live in the 20th century with uniquely
rich backgrounds and special human
relationships. Being attentive to our experience will provide the clarity we need.
is mysterious and unclear.
Knowledge of ourselves, acceptance of our strengths
and weaknesses, and self awareness are
crucial in helping us respond. But it is the realization that God
is present NOW inviting each of us to a deeper
friendship that is the source of this call. It is
the promise of Jesus, "I will be with you always" that makes our response