Many years ago, the Sisters of Mercy used the question “Do you have a call waiting?” as a theme for a marketing campaign to recruit members for their religious congregation. I think it is a good title for this column during January when the Church in the United States celebrates vocation awareness.
The fact of the matter is that each of us has a “call waiting” that only we can answer. One of the major tasks of young adulthood is to discover God’s call in our lives. It is not as easy as answering a phone call from God. (He doesn’t use a cell phone). It takes hard work. We must make time for prayer, reflection and serious discernment.
In my campus and young adult ministry and also when I did vocation ministry for my community, the Sisters of the Holy Cross, I was often asked how a person discovers God’s will and plan for his or her life.
First and foremost, it is important to remember that God calls everyone. Each of us received the most important call of all when we were Baptized. In that primary sacrament of our faith, we became members of Christ’s body, the Church. Every baptized person is called to help build the reign of God in this world. It is not just the role of religious brothers and sisters or those who are ordained. Through the Sacrament of Baptism we all share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ and are given the mission to reveal God’s love to the whole world. Our challenge is to discern how God wants us to do this.
The majority of the Baptized live their Christian call as married people, but some are called by God to live the single, ordained or consecrated life as a religious brother, sister or priest. Most people discover their call by listening to the deepest desire of their hearts. Some have a strong feeling within that they are called to share life with one special person and to raise a family in the Sacrament of Marriage. Others have a passion to give their entire lives to the Lord through prayer, community and service to the people of God.
It is important to listen to the many ways God calls us. We do this by taking time for quiet, reflective prayer and by seriously considering what others say to us about our lives. One needs to take seriously questions or statements like, “Did you ever think of being a priest, a sister, a brother?” or “You would make a wonderful mother or father.” When I was in high school one of my teachers, a Sister of the Holy Cross, asked me what my plans were after graduation and said she thought I should consider religious life. At first it was a shock but then I began to seriously reflect upon that possibility, and here I am many years later.
Discernment of God’s will is not easy because we are usually choosing between two or more good options. It would be much easier if one were good and the other bad. For instance, valuing marriage and loving children doesn’t automatically eliminate the possibility of religious life or priesthood. The ministers of God’s Church must be warm and loving as was Jesus.
A good way to start is, after praying about the pros and cons of each option, to listen to the way you are drawn. Tune in to what feels right and gives you a feeling of peace. I remember one of my professors, a wonderful priest I had in graduate school at Boston College. He taught that the deepest desire of our hearts is usually God’s will for our lives.
Recently I watched a DVD about community life and the presenter said it another way. She said the key to discovering one’s vocation in life is to discern which lifestyle would be the best for me to become happy, healthy and holy. To be happy really means having inner joy and loving my life (most of the time). A healthy life is one that enables me to use my gifts and grow into the person God wants me to be. A holy life is one that gives God central place in my life. I have a desire to grow in relationship with Him.
Let us pray that we will strive to be holy, happy and healthy witnesses of God’s unquenchable love as we renew or strive to discover God’s particular call for our lives.
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