A blog by a displaced Catholic Texan working at a parish in a suburb of Milwaukee. Who knows what you're going to get. I am currently looking for employment (a job) in the Washington DC area in catechesis as a youth minister, adult minister, or something along those lines.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I fell called to...
This idea of calling we Christians have given a fancy word you may be familiar with: vocation. Vocation is a calling from God. We hear this word mostly when we talk about priests and nuns. It seems very obvious that priests and nuns have a calling from God because they usually work in a Church or otherwise are associated with Church-y things. But vocation is much more than that.
In today’s Gospel we hear about the baptism of Jesus. This baptism marks the beginning of Jesus’ public life, His acceptance and inauguration of His vocation to be the suffering Servant of God. It’s no coincidence that today marks a transition point from the Christmas season to ordinary time in the liturgical year. Jesus’ baptism marks the end of the beginning of His life. Now, He transitions into a new role into a new community, leaving behind decades of familiarity to embark on a new calling from God; a vocation.
Our baptism in Christ calls us to a new beginning too, a new life in Christ. There comes a point in our lives where we leave behind years of familiarity to embark on a new journey – we go to Kindergarten. We learn, we grow, and we develop as people. And as we mature as Christians, we grow in the Body of Christ. And in that Body we each have a function, a calling, a vocation. Regardless of how prestigious, difficult, or lucrative our vocation may or may not be, all of us are called to do or to be something.
If you’re like me, right about now you’re cringing. Maybe you’re thinking, “Yes I know I am called to something, but I just don’t know what. My life is busy with so much STUFF. I’m confused and pulled in so many directions. I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t know where I will be in a year, five years, ten years.” [Pause; sigh]
But we gather as a people in transition, always in transition. As we live our lives, we should keep an ear open for God’s calling. But often it takes more than an open ear. Discerning vocation is not easy. You probably won’t see heavens open, time stop, and hear a deep voice say, “Ok dude. You are going to graduate high school, go to Madison, meet your spouse on May 8th of your freshman year, become an engineer, and live happily ever after.” God usually doesn’t speak that way to people. God calls us silently, through the workings of our hearts and our minds, through our interests and our desires. In order to find out how God calls us, we must look within ourselves and discern.
There are three questions to answer when discerning vocation: Number 1) Does this bring me joy? Joy is a thing deeper than happiness, that goes down to our heart. Joy is a byproduct of being in right relationship with God, others, and self. We cannot find joy by seeking joy itself. Joy is the feeling we get when we feel like what we’re doing or how we’re being matters and is significant. Joy is a gift from God because joy makes us more alive and Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.
Number 2, do I have an ability to do this and can I grow in this ability? I am terrible at learning foreign languages. I sometimes wonder how I learned English. I do enjoy speaking Spanish – all six phrases that I know. I am not very good at it and don’t have much room for growth. I have accepted that I am not called to be a linguist.
Finally, does the world need this? Being skilled at the art of making paper airplanes with your feet while blindfolded is very impressive and it may even bring you joy. But I’m not convinced the world needs another feet folding paper airplane maker. I’ve got that market cornered. I’m kidding of course. But our vocation should meet a genuine need in the community.
Community is VERY important when discerning vocation. Talk to those in your community—your friends, your coworkers, your family, everyone you interact with. Listen to their significant compliments. Not “you’re hair looks nice” but “you did a really good job on that presentation”, or “you have a knack for math”, or “I feel like I can tell you anything”. And don’t be afraid to give significant compliments and affirmations to others. We need this in the world today. As a community, we need to be with each other and help each other discern who we are and how God is calling us.
One way we can do that today is with these cards. [Hold up red card]. Since we are a Church community, I will talk about the Church. We are in constant need of leaders in the Church. Do you know someone who you think would make a good priest? Sister? Brother? Deacon? Lay minister? Fill out this card and put it in the collection basket. That’s you’re homework for today.
One of the categories of leaders I mentioned is lay ministry. I feel called to be a married lay minister in the Catholic Church. I am full of joy when I have an opportunity to be with people of faith and to share my faith with them and vice versa. God has blessed me with wonderful opportunities to grow in my ability to minister – during high school when I was active in my youth group, throughout college in my theological studies, and now through an apprenticeship at St. James parish in Menomonee Falls. And there is most DEFINITELY a need in the Church today for young people, young lay ministers.
This is my vocation. This is my passion. I admit to something somewhat embarrassing. In addition to praying, sometimes before a major catechetical event I pump myself up like you see athletes on TV. It’s kinda funny, actually, and I laugh at myself all the while. But lay ministry is my bottom of the 9th with two outs and the World Series on the line. It is my three-point shot at the buzzer in the championship game. It is my fourth-quarter drive to win the Super Bowl for the Green Bay Packers.
Of course, there is no glory without sacrifice, no vocation without challenges. Jesus’ vocation involved much suffering. The first reading for today from Isaiah is also read the Monday of Holy Week during Lent this year, not a coincidence. Jesus’ baptism leads him to his death, but also to his resurrection. And that’s a great thing. This is the mystery of our faith. “Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!”
Our vocation leads us to resurrection in Christ. But we must die before we rise. No matter the vocation, there will be mundane, annoying and downright irritating tasks we have to do. You know, those things at work you hate doing but you gotta do them to do your job. Yea, that thing you’re thinking about right now. It’s important to be faithful in those small things, even if we don’t like them, for whoever is faithful in small things will be faithful in large ones.
And sometimes our vocation directs us to unknown, scary paths. I am a native Texan, born and raised, who went to school at the University of Notre Dame in Northern Indiana and somehow, by the grace of God, ended up in Waukesha County. Huh? This journey is not only strange but difficult. Having no family in a thousand miles any direction is a challenge, a type of death of self. I have to put my desire to be near loved ones on hold for what God is calling me to do here in Wisconsin. This deeper calling from God is something I need to follow, just like I need to breathe, despite the pain of leaving decades of familiarity. And in my faithfulness to this calling, God has blessed me with a beautiful fiancée who I met at Notre Dame. God is good.
I must come clean though. Before meeting my fiancée, I was discerning priesthood. *Gasp* If you’re a guy out there thinking about thinking about being a priest, give it a shot. It’s not too scary. And what if God is calling you to be a priest? Abundant Joy!
But no matter your calling, be not afraid. Do not be afraid. God is there. God loves you deeply and passionately. God wants you to get to know Him. God doesn’t ask us to make a choice between God and something else. God just wants to be included.
Include God in your workplace. Maybe you’ve thought of your job as your calling from God for a while now. Great! Even if you haven’t, I invite you now and this week to observe, reflect, and pray about your vocation, your calling. Realize that right now we are all being called by God to something. I quote from Martin Luther King Jr.:
"And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don't just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn't do it any better.
If it falls upon your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.
If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are."
All of us are called to do or to be something. Find what that calling is for you and say yes. Live it out each day. I leave you with a question to continue to think about for the next 20 or 30 years. God is calling YOU, how will you answer?