“Follow me!” the Lord said to Levi the tax collector (Mt. 2: 13-17). The call was specific, and Levi heard it clearly. He had just experienced his vocation: to follow Christ.
My question is not only about vocations to the religious life or to the priesthood, though I’m certainly mindful of that in this reflection. All of us have a vocation. Each has his or her own. The widow. The grandfather. The spouse, the mother and dad. And certainly, yes, the religious and the priest. Each has its own grace. A vocation always occurs in the particular circumstances of one’s life, regardless of what those circumstances may be.
When Levi felt the grace of his vocation, it was not just the Lord’s external call. Along with that, he felt something deep inside his soul. It had to have been something like what we feel when we think of a close friend. We want to spend time with her. When we anticipate getting together, we get antsy—we want it to happen, and we get ready with a smile as we imagine hers. We want so much to make it happen.
It’s like that, I think. But it is more. The interior call of a vocation is deeper than that. It is a longing to become more than I am -- to be a part of a greater good. We know and see what that greater good is in relation to God, because the call is from God. For the Christian, for the Catholic, this involves following in the footsteps of Our Lord. We want to be with Him. That’s an essential part of a vocation. The call comes from within, as much as from the inspiration and circumstances coming to us from outside ourselves. A vocation happens in the experience of the Lord’s presence in such a way that it triggers an interior desire to be with Him – all the time, both over the long haul and in the opportunities of immediate circumstance. It sometimes occurs as a sense of Him inviting us to proceed with Him in a certain way, in companionship, and doing so feels attractive. It will also likely to be accompanied with a readiness to do whatever He may ask.
Sometimes the call is a whisper, sometimes it’s as loud as a gun-shot. Sometimes it’s a felt challenge to help others, because that is what Our Lord does. Sometimes it can be a conversion – a desire to turn my life around – to repent – to let go of an egocentric life, and to embark on a new one, centered on God and in order to serve others.
Finally, we can test the authenticity of a vocation by prayer and serious discernment. Take the time and create the circumstances to be attentive to God’s presence, to enter into colloquy with Our Lord about the direction of your future, to let the Holy Spirit work His wonders in you personally for committing yourself in that direction, and to welcome the graces He so much wants to give you to help you along the way.
Here’s a final thought about vocations. It’s a suggestion. Bring to the young ones of your life the appropriateness of considering that they might be called to the religious life or the priesthood – especially those you think have the desire to do the sort of things religious and priests do. And, if you are a young man or woman, remember that God is certainly calling you to follow His Son, no matter what particular vocation God has in mind for you. Take the time to discern what that might be, and pray for the grace to respond with generosity when you’ve identified it.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook