Today we are celebrating the feast of All the Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus. We are also observing the occasion chosen for worldwide promotion of Jesuit vocations. In the Epistle to the Romans Paul asks a question of special relevance for today’s feast.
“Who has known the mind of of the Lord
Surely we all agree with Paul that the ways of God’s providence are indeed inscrutable and unsearchable: How can a loving God permit a human condition that contains so much evil and so much innocent human suffering?
But Paul’s question prompts another question: Can we know the mind of God for our individual lives? Does God have a will for us individually? Does God call us to particular vocations?
Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, surely thought so. He included in his famous retreat manual (The Spiritual Exercises) a set of guidelines to foster discovering God’s will entitled “An Introduction to the Making of an Election.” Ignatius assumed that retreatants through prayer and reflection could discover God’s particular will for their lives. Indeed many scholars believe that Ignatius viewed discovering one’s personal calling from God free from all attachments as the primary purpose of The Spiritual Exercises.
From Ignatius’ time onward many have made The Spiritual Exercises seeking to discover and follow God’s will for their lives.
And some have even joined the Jesuits!
Today the Society of Jesus throughout the world is inviting young men to ask the question: Is God calling me to be a Jesuit?
I recall fifty years ago when the question of a Jesuit vocation was put to me in my senior year of high school. I resisted it fiercely, thinking the vocation demanded too much sacrifice — no marriage, no family, no material possessions. For me at that time a religious vocation was a call to a life that lacked normal human fulfillment; it seemed like a call to suffering. Who in their right minds would chose that?!
Yet recently when asked for my golden jubilee celebration to choose one word summing up my fifty years as a Jesuit, I chose the word Fullfillment. This is what I wrote:
“I cannot imagine a life of greater fulfillment than the one God gave me. . . Fifty years ago I could not have imagined a life of such richness. Indeed, before leaving home for the novitiate I remember telling my parents not to give my bedroom or my car to my sisters because I’d probably be unhappy and return in a couple of weeks. But I’m more convinced now than ever of what I teach and preach: Don’t be afraid to embrace God’s will! God’s will is our path to our most most effective service to others as well as to our deepest peace and fulfillment.”
We Christians have always acknowledged, at least in our best moments, that following God’s universal will as found in the teachings of Jesus and the Church is the surest way to true happiness and peace on this planet.
But I don’t believe that we Christians have equally acknowledged another truth: following God’s personal vocation for each of us — be that as married, single or priest-religious — is equally the path to deepest human fulfillment. God’s will for our lives need never be feared!
On this special Jesuit feast, I know that the 45 saints and and over 140 blessed of the Society of Jesus would join me in urging young men who are experiencing this call to say “Yes!”
It was the best decision we ever made; we all know you will never regret it.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook