My latest from the Catholic Telegraph:
'What makes you so lucky?'
Truly, this is a daring response to offer a young man who thinks he should get married. Why do you think God has called you to married life, when perhaps He is calling you to something different, something daring, something extreme?
Certainly married life can be all of these, but yet it is often something so easy to fall into, we do not think about the calling that it takes. Marriage can be seen as ‘just the next step’ in life.
To break that trend, the first question I always ask young men and women is about priesthood or the religious life: “Have you considered the Call?” The answer to this question about priesthood and/or religious life is one that takes serious thought, prayer, and contemplation. Ultimately, the question concerns self-sacrifice, as these two vocations require giving your life so that others might come to know Christ through you. This is the more difficult question, hence during this National Vocation Awareness Week; this is the question we focus on.
The fact is, our world is noisy. It is difficult to hear that ‘small, still voice’ that drew Elijah to the mouth of the cave, as ‘the LORD passed by.’ All Catholics have the responsibility, the duty even, to promote vocations to the priesthood or religious life, to encourage the next generation to consider the option, and to pray for those who are seeking to follow God’s Call.
The temptation is to think that we might be forcing someone’s hand to accept what they may not want to do. However, if God is leading that person to a different direction, He will make it known. In my own life, if I did not have the consistent encouragement and prayers of one woman in particular, I would have never made it to the priesthood. Every time she saw me while I was in high school, she would look up at me and say: “You’re going to be a priest!” When I finally settled down and thought about what she was saying, her prayers helped prepare me to enter the seminary.
The fact remains, every single Catholic has a vocation by virtue of Baptism, a vocation to live out a relationship with Christ in the world, and a majority of the faithful lives this in the Sacrament of Marriage. But what I said about people ‘falling into’ marriage is true. ‘It is the next thing to do in life, so I better find a wife or a husband quickly.’ The church asks more of her members who are considering marriage. And in fact, asking the question first about priesthood or religious life helps prevent this ‘falling into’ from happening.
A dear friend of mine kept wrestling with the question of if she was called to the religious life. She kept feeling the answer that she was not, she felt called to be married. She now admits that because she went through the stage of discernment to arrive at that answer, she changed the characteristics she was looking for in a potential husband. She needed someone with whom she could have first and foremost a spiritual connection, and it was a great joy for me to be a part of their wedding day.
Finally, that initial question: “What makes you so lucky?” It was posed by Bishop Estabrook, auxiliary of the Archdiocese of the Military Services to a young man whom he thought had the gifts to be a priest, but who was, at that time, thinking he should get married. This young man is now in formation to be a priest, all because he was challenged to consider that God might be calling him to something other than married life.
As we all strive to follow Christ’s leadership, and search out our vocation within the Church, ask yourself the question: “What does God want me to do within the Church?”
The life of a priest is one of great joy, and if God is calling you, or you see in someone the gifts that would make for an excellent priest or religious, do not be afraid to name it.
For more information on the priesthood, and links to the religious orders present within the diocese, visit www.cincinnativocations.org.