July 21, 2014
A vocation, any vocation, is a mystery, one whose meaning is slowly, but only partially, revealed to us over the course of our lives. Human vision is always extremely limited in the context of God's entire plan; fears, sinfulness and desires also limit our perspective.
Yet, we know from the testimony of priests and religious that often the call to a life of ordained or consecrated ministry is resisted, sometimes strongly. We also know from the testimony of religious in the autumn of their lives that they have experienced great joy from turning their lives totally over to God through service to his Church.
Such fulfillment is also available to those in the lay state. The challenge of being a spouse and a parent is to avoid being caught up in worldliness and to hear God's call and experience his love in the steady stream of trials that come one's way. The maturation of a child, in particular, leads that child to question or rebel against the ways of his or her parents in order to create one's own path, one's own values.
It is curious then that youth so strongly resist the life of a priest, or religious brother or sister while eagerly pursuing that of a married person. The religious life is perhaps seen as one of denying love while the path of marriage is perceived as one of acquiring love.
The view from the other end of life can be different. The stories of priests and sisters found in the WCR, such as that of Father Ray Guimond (Page 11), typically tell that what our culture assumes to be a life of loneliness and gloomy self-sacrifice has turned out to be a fulfilling and happy one.
Love, it must be said, is not a possession. In following Christ, love is a gift – something that one receives, but also something that one is called to give. Sometimes, the giving can rip one's soul asunder.
God calls the majority of his people to follow him in the lay state, usually through marriage. The call to priesthood or religious life is, however, also a call offered to many. It is a call, not to the denial of life, but to abundance, an abundance beside which the trinkets and trivial recreations of economic prosperity are so much dross.
One can only urge those young people who believe they are hearing a call to ordination or the consecrated life to examine it and test it with an open heart. It is a call to a life much greater than the pap the advertising industry feeds us. To accept any call from the Lord is not to shoulder a heavy burden, but to receive a great gift, one that overflows with love and goodness in ways one cannot even anticipate in the springtime of one's life.
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