Until quite recently and even today when people talk of someone “having a vocation” they usually mean he has gone off to be a priest or she has become a nun. Linked with this has been another all too popular idea. Though they rarely say so, many think that the Church is saying that Priesthood and Religious Life is the Grade ‘A’ vocation. For those who could not rise to these heights Married Life is good Grade B’ but those who remain single are really the bottom of the pile! Nothing could be further from the truth!
There is a dream in the heart of God for each one of us, a loving purpose. The Good Shepherd is calling each of us by name to do something, be somebody. What each of us has to do is to try and come to know what the dream is, and then, with faith and trust, and taking our courage in both hands, try to live it out in our lives day by day. When we come to know what God’s dream for us is, we can be said to have discovered our vocation. Most of us will not get a blinding light or a voice from heaven, which clearly says “I want you to do this with your life”. Wouldn’t it be great if we did!
We have to discern over a period of time what it is God is asking of us. We have to try and get into the mind of God. We do that by prayer, talking and listening to Him. We will ask, “What must I do? What is it you want of me? What is your dream for me?”
Life is God’s gift to us. When we are on our deathbed we don’t want to look back on the unlived life. It is so sad when people reach that point, and look back with regret saying “how I wish I had done more for others’. How I wish! The solution is in our own hands. “Carpe Diem” Seize the Day. Now is the time to make sure that does not happen. God has a dream, a purpose for each of us. And there will not be just one task for many of us. The Good Shepherd continues to call His sheep to follow Him throughout their lives. For example, the call to marriage is a call from God to find Him and mediate Him to a lifelong partner in a loving, faithful, sexual relationship. But one partner will die first. Then there will be a new vocation – the vocation of widowhood, the call to find God in this experience of loss. There is the vocation of the terminally ill. There is the vocation to a single chaste life. And there are many other
There is too, the vocation to the Priesthood, the Permanent Diaconate, and Religious Life. These things must merit consideration in the life of every member of the Church, whatever their age and circumstances. They must be seriously looked at, in case God is asking this of me. Jesus taught us that, ‘it is in losing your life that you shall find it. . . it is in dying that we shall live’. Yes, we are Christ’s sheep. But we also share in His role as Shepherd and following his example; we are to care for one another – even to laying down our lives for others.
Sometimes the voice of the Shepherd is heard through someone else, most often a friend or family member. Sometimes the call presents itself not as a voice at all, but as a need of the Christian Community, which challenges me to meet it. So many ask, “Why me?” at that point, but what they should be asking is “Why not me?”
There has to be a very good reason for not responding to the need of a particular religious order for new members, or the need of the wider community for clergy, both deacons and priests. God loves me, so it is not so strange that He could be calling me to something specific like Ordination or Consecrated Life.
In this day and age why would anyone want to become a priest given some of the brick bats that are hurled against the Church and Her Priests? Why would a young man offer himself to the Church knowing some of the difficulties he will have to face? WHY? I suppose it all comes down to love in the end. God’s love for us and ours for God and other people. He wants each of us to be lovers. To be a lover is why people enter the vocation of marriage. To be a lover is why others choose the single life. To be a lover is why one becomes a deacon or priest or religious.
Maybe God and the Church are calling someone listening to my words today to Ordination or Religious Life. You can ignore Him, you can turn up the volume and live the noise of this world and try to drown out his voice. But if he is calling you and you run away, whatever happiness you experience in this life it will never be able to compare with that which you could have experienced had you been open to him and listened. God’s dream for us is a dream for our fulfilment and happiness. That is why we should listen. That is why we should trust him and respond.
Pray, my dear people not just for an increase in vocations, but pray that the Lord will send us many holy vocations. Holy priests to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass and holy religious to be examples of prayer to us.
Pray also for those who have answered the call to serve the Lord as His priests and religious may be granted the gift of perseverance. As a friend of mine would say, ‘Poor Jesus. He deserves better than us!’