Key terms such as vocation, life calling, religious life, priesthood,
marriage, sacrament will help in tying the article to your programs.
Understanding Basic Terms in This Months Article
Look for these key words and terms as you read the article.
Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself,
or from the resource materials cited throughout the Links for Learners.
Finding Your Way in Life
In this months article, we learn about two brothers
from West Virginia who took different routes early in life and wound
up with the same calling, the life of a Catholic priest. After reading
the article with your group, begin a discussion of the routes to a life
vocation each of the brothers used.
One brother felt the call to be a priest since he was
a child. He play-acted in the role, even dressing up in homemade vestments.
Dont many of us do the same? As kids we dressed up as a doctor
or pretended to be a store clerk. Imagining ourselves professional athletes,
we practiced free throws or soccer kicks for hours on end. Maybe we
dressed in moms or dads clothes and imagined ourselves grownups
caring for our kids and working around the house. Of course we dont
always end up being what we play at as children, but its often
an indicator of an interest in a particular life path.
For some of us, the choice of direction is clear. The
difficult part can be convincing our parents or others that this is
what we need to do. Our parents want the best for us, and that usually
includes financial security. Some careers can be perceived as relatively
unstable and erratic. Parents dont want to see their kids come
to their mid-twenties, for example, discover that the acting life isnt
for them and have no other career skills to fall back on.
Sometimes, too, we get to high school and college and
still have not a clue as to what we want to do with our lives. Or, like
the second brother in this months article, we feel especially
lost, try a number of different jobs, and even fall back on escape routes
such as alcohol and drug abuse before we finally find our way.
No matter what our path, through it all, God persists
in his call.
Talk now in your discussion group about your individual
interests. Share some of the dreams and goals you have. Share, too,
the uncertainty about the future that you may feel. What are some of
the obstacles you face in following through on your dream?
How Do You Find a "Life Vocation"?
Vocation, at its most profound level, means a life calling.
Contemporary society considers vocation a synonym for a craft or profession.
The Church sees it at a deeper level. The U.S. bishops Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation provides
an in-depth look at the Churchs view of vocations.
Archbishop J. Francis Stafford spoke on the subject of
vocations in his 1994 address, "The Vocation of Marriage
in Gods Plan," in Lima, Peru. This speech offers
a fine explanation of the calling of marriage, and vocation, in
Finding your lifes work means listening. Its
really that simple. But listening to what?
Look for a paperback book titled By Way of the Heart,
by Wilkie Au, published by Paulist Press. In chapter three, "Heart
Searching and Life Choice," Au states that the search for vocation
calls for thought and reflection. And silencethe quiet that is
so hard to come by in todays world. Gods call, Au believes,
is embedded in our heart and comes forth from the midst of our particular
life circumstances. Each of us will find our unique calling in our own
heart and in prayer.
Au further tells us that genuine desire or wanting is
the foundation for a life choice. He doesnt mean simply following
each desire that strikes us. Au wants us to connect our desires and
longings to the rest of reality. What does a longing mean when compared
to the whole of our life?
A discussion leader or teacher will find provocative quotes
in this chapter for getting a conversation going in a group or class.
And interestingly, in grappling with the question of what is my purpose
in life, Au frames his material not only for young people starting out
in life, but also for people in mid-life transition and even for early
The Beginning of a Life Choice
In many of these Links for Learners, we have discussed
the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation as starting points in our
Christian lives. Vocation starts there too. There is one vocation we
all share as Christians the call to love others as God loves
us. In Baptism, we are each signed as Gods child. Later, in Confirmation,
we reinforce or confirm this role as a child of God. Each sacrament
gives us strength to live as Jesus would have us live.
The sacraments also serve as signposts as we reach major
milestones in our lives. As a baby, or as a teen or adult convert, we
are starting out fresh, beginning a new life. Baptism supports that
moment and keeps it alive all through our lives. When we begin maturing
into adulthood, when we are nearing decisions about what college to
attend and what courses to take, Confirmation offers us more of Gods
direction. Every week in Eucharist we feed on the love of Jesus, nourished
to return to our days efforts.
What Kinds of Life Choices Are There?
You may find it helpful to talk first about how Christian
service is exhibited in the various life vocations people choose. How
do we serve others as a teacher, an accountant, a sales manager, a professional
football player, a beautician? Where is the common Christian element
in every life choice?
Some authors will say there are only three basic life
choices: married, single or religious life. From these basic styles
come our career choices and particular life directions.
Weve discussed in earlier Links for Learners
how the Church considers marriage
to be so sacred a calling that it offers, indeed insists on, a couples
preparation through Pre-Cana retreats and workshops. You can find
Pre-Cana information on many of the local diocesan and parish Web
Religious Community Life
Some Christians commit themselves to a life of religious
service. They enter a congregation or order dedicated to a specific
mission, whether teaching, working with the poor, or perhaps health
care. The Sisters of Notre Dame are just one of many examples of
the religious community life-style. Their Web site provides visitors
with an overview of the
call to religious life.
Orders such as the
Missionary Cenacle Family offer participation in their
Catholic community in roles as religious brothers, sisters, priests
and also as lay persons.
Monastic orders of both women and men devote their
lives to the service of work and prayer. Thomas Merton, a Trappist
monk, is certainly one of the better known of these contemplatives.
For the story of his struggles to find his way to his vocation,
see his biography, The Seven Storey Mountain. A number of
Web sites are devoted to Merton and his work.
In the October 1998 online issue of St. Anthony
Messenger, youll find the story of Edith
Stein, a woman of Jewish background who came to the life
of a Catholic sister and eventually died in the Holocaust of World
To get an understanding of how groups within the Church
work to encourage vocations to the religious life or to the priesthood,
see these online sites and other resources:
- On their Web site, the Crosiers,
a religious order, provide a brief discussion of different life-styles
(married, single, religious) and how these styles differ from
careers. Youll also find a chat room where anyone with an
interest in priesthood can log on to discuss his interest with
- The Vocationists
explain their purpose in encouraging vocations to the religious
life and priesthood, especially among the poor. Their House of
Formation is located in Florham Park, New Jersey.
- St. John Vianney Seminary
in St. Paul, Minnesota, offers one seminarians
week-long diary of life in preparation for priesthood. The
seminary conducts an annual open house and daily e-mail
You may also find this poem by an anonymous author helpful
as a discussion starter for talking about lifes purpose and our
calling to service:
"Your Life is Jesus to Someone"
Your life is Jesus to someone,
though tattered and torn it may be.
Though often times weak and unstable,
youre all of God someone will see.
Your tongue is Jesus to someone.
That idle, insensitive word
reflects to at least one searching heart
an idle, insensitive Lord.
Your goals are Jesus to someone.
What you put first, they believe,
are the goals of God for the Christian.
Your life is all they receive.
thats Jesus to someone.
Their judgment of how God is true,
rests unquestionably in the faithfulness
they see day by day in you.
Your love is Jesus to someone
that someone who is seeking to know
that Jesus will follow and guide and
befriend wherever in life they might go.
So beware lest others blaspheme
God by what you say or do,
for the only Jesus that someone knows
is the Jesus they see in you.
By Way of the Heart: Toward a Holistic Christian Spirituality,
Wilkie Au, S. J., Paulist Press, New Jersey, 1989.
The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton, Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich, San Diego, 1990.
Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference.
Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading
articles contained within the site's archives.
http://www.nytimes.com/ - The New
http://www.latimes.com/ - The Los
http://www.time.com/ - Time magazine
http://www.cnn.com/ - CNN
http://www.msnbc.com/ - MSNBC
- This site will take you to a number of online publications.
http://wire.ap.org/ - The Associated
- The Chicago Tribune
http://www.people.com - People magazine
The Washington Post
The History Channel
http://www.herald.com - The Miami
http://www.closeup.org - The Close
http://abcnews.go.com/ - ABC News
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