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Daily Catholic Question

How do I know if I have a vocation?

You recognize that all Christians are called to discipleship and to share in the mission of the Church. So I’m not going to talk about the lay vocation here. Just let me note that it would be worth reading everything the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about vocations in the section entitled “Christ’s Faithful—Hierarchy, Laity, Consecrated Life” (#871-945).

Your question seems concerned with recognizing a call to priesthood or religious life. Joseph Gallen, S.J., in Canon Law for Religious (Alba House) states the fundamental element in a vocation to the clerical or religious life is the special call, election or choice by God. Pope Pius XII, in Sedes Sapientiae, said that the two essential elements to a divine vocation are a call from God to enter religious life or the priesthood and the call or admittance by the Church.

But how does a person recognize the call of God before seeking admittance and acceptance by the Church? Says Gallen, the choice, election or call of God is communicated to a person through grace, and the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Ordinarily there is a series of acts which culminate in the decisive and supernatural intention to become a religious or priest. The supernatural or graced aspect of the intention is deduced and ascertained primarily from the rectitude of motives.

In other words, as good Sister Mercedes said to the Wise Man when he was in the third grade, “Don’t wait for an angel to come down and tap you on the shoulder.” That isn’t usually the way.

You discern a call to ministry or religious life in the same way people judge whether they should become a plumber, bookkeeper or radio announcer, or whether they should marry John Doe or Mary Jones. The one who wonders if he or she has a call has to feel some kind of attraction to a life in the priesthood or a religious order. That person looks at his or her talents and abilities in the light of the life he or she is considering.

Those who think they might be called ask if they have the necessary physical, mental and emotional health to live the sacerdotal or consecrated life. They ask if their motives are good—to do the work and will of God and not because they think it’s a way to escape parental control, get financial help toward a better education or escape a life on welfare.

If you believe you might be called, you pray and reflect, asking the guidance of God. You ask the advice and opinion of people you trust and seek the counsel of a confessor or spiritual director. If you find you desire to live the religious or sacerdotal life not just at peak emotional moments but with constancy, you apply to the proper authority for acceptance and the opportunity to test what you believe is your calling.

Can you be saved or happy if you reject what may be a vocation to the religious or sacerdotal life? Father Gallen says, as do other theologians, that since religious life is a counsel, it is not in itself a sin to refuse to follow the grace of a vocation. An obligation could exist from a vow or from the certainty that God has commanded the individual person to enter such a life. But such a command would be most rarely verified! I believe you would almost need a private revelation to recognize such a command.

Father Gallen also writes that it is not true that refusal to accept a vocation is sinful because it necessarily exposes the person to eternal damnation by remaining in secular life. While the person will not be given the graces he or she would have received to live a holy religious life, he or she will receive sufficient and, if he or she prays, efficacious graces for a secular life whose purpose is also a life of sanctity.

I’m sure the vocation office of any diocese or religious order will be glad to send you literature about the priesthood or a particular order upon request.

And, if you send 50¢ and a self-addressed envelope or $1 and ask for Catholic Update C0994, “Why Become a Priest, Sister or Brother Today?”, or C0986 “Are You Called to Be a Lay Minister?”, I’ll see to it that you get a copy.

Click here for the rest of today's answer

Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Daily Catholic Question for 1/1/2013 Daily Catholic Question for 1/3/2013


Peter and Paul: 
		<strong>Peter (d. 64?)</strong>. St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: "You are the Messiah" (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter's life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus. 
<p>The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles. </p><p>And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b-19). </p><p>But the Gospels prove their own trustworthiness by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus. </p><p>He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self-regard, "What are we going to get for all this?" (see Matthew 19:27). He receives the full force of Christ's anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Matthew 16:23b). </p><p>Peter is willing to accept Jesus' doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus's ear, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears. The Risen Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep (John 21:15-17). </p><p><strong>Paul (d. 64?)</strong>. If the most well-known preacher today suddenly began preaching that the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the Constitution, the angry reaction would help us understand Paul's life when he started preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most Pharisaic of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate. </p><p>Paul's central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort—even the most scrupulous observance of law—can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus. </p><p>Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God's chosen people, the children of the promise. </p><p>In light of his preaching and teaching skills, Paul's name has surfaced (among others) as a possible patron of the Internet.</p> American Catholic Blog The way of the cross is unavoidably uphill. Christians don’t get to carry their cross downhill. Suffering has always been inextricably linked with Christianity, but those who carry their cross willingly in these times can serve as an example and inspiration to all of us.

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