July 1, 2019

Vocation: Everyone has a call from God

bishop stowe

By Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv.

This first edition of the new format of Cross Roads comes at the time that our local Church is rejoicing and thanking God for the priestly ordinations of Marc Bentley, Aldrin Tayag and David Wheeler and the ordination of Danny Taylor to the transitional diaconate. As we give thanks for these men ordained for service, we are also conscious that there are not so many more in line after them in formation at the moment.

God continues to call men to serve him in the ministerial priesthood, and we have been blessed by the generosity of those who have responded to discern that call and enter a formation program. I am grateful to the priests of our diocese for giving a joyful witness in the way that they serve and am hopeful whenever they are actively inviting the young to consider a life of service to God and his Church.

The recent Synod of Bishops focused on youth and vocations has been a stimulus to the universal Church to enhance its presence among youth and young adults and to truly shepherd them and engage them in all that the Church is and does. Pope Francis, reflecting on the fruits of that synod where the young were invited to speak to the bishops about their joys and their challenges, has emphasized how we need to help young people understand they all have a vocation — a calling — in the broadest sense of the word. God has a plan for each of them, and if they are engaged in a living relationship with God, cultivated by prayer, they will hear his call.

Vocations, in our understanding, are not limited to those whose lives are entirely spent in the ministerial service of the Church. Just as the Church needs priests, the Church also needs the witness of consecrated women and men; needs the witness of married couples and committed singles who can further the kingdom of God while living in the world.

I am afraid that when many people hear the prayers for vocations at Mass or in other liturgical settings, they happily pray for someone else to answer God’s call. Sometimes, our prayers even seem to suggest that God just isn’t calling, which simply can’t be true. Rather than pray for vocations, I suggest that we pray for generous responses to the Lord’s call for the fullness of Christian life in all the ways it can be manifest in the Church.

We know that we especially need ministers of the sacraments, and so we pray specifically for responses to that call. But we also need people with large hearts eager and willing to sacrifice everything to serve God and God’s people — that describes priesthood for sure, and the diaconate, and religious life, and married life, when lived as a vocation, and single life, when lived as a response to God’s call.

The lay theologian Edward Hannenburg gives a simple, yet complete, analysis of the Christian vocation when he says, “God calls me through others and for others.” When we break this down, it means that we first have to know the God who calls, manifest most fully in the person of Jesus Christ. We also have to know ourselves, how God has gifted us up to this point in our lives, what talents and abilities God has given me and what shortcomings are part of my history — God calls me as me, not to become someone else, no matter how holy. Just look at the examples of flawed human beings who did heroic things with God’s help; the pages of Scripture are filled with them.
God’s call to us comes mediated through others, the community that is the body of Christ. Even Paul’s private conversion on the road to Damascus had to be affirmed by the community. God doesn’t just whisper in our ears, God speaks to us through often unlikely people who are placed in our lives. Finally, no vocation is just for ourselves.

We are called to a life in Christ that is spent in loving service to others, no matter which walk of life we follow in the Church. God calls me through others for others.

Pope Francis, speaking to young people in his apostolic exhortation Christ is Alive! says:

“Jesus is walking in our midst, as he did in Galilee. He walks through our streets, and he quietly stops and looks into our eyes. His call is attractive and intriguing. Yet today the stress and quick pace of a world constantly bombarding us with stimuli can leave no room for that interior silence in which we can perceive Jesus’ gaze and hear his call. In the meantime, many attractively packaged offers will come your way. They may seem appealing and exciting, although in time they will only leave you feeling empty, weary and alone. Don’t let this happen to you, because the maelstrom of this world can drive you to take a route without real meaning, without direction, without clear goals, and thus thwart many of your efforts. It is better to seek out that calm and quiet that enable you to reflect, pray, look more clearly at the world around you, and then, with Jesus, come to recognize the vocation that is yours in this world.”

Let’s pray that everyone sees that gaze, hears that call and responds generously.