Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
by Bishop William S. Skylstad
(From the Oct. 4, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)
They say a watched pot never boils. Nothing can make time stand still like waiting expectantly for an important phone call. And it’s not at all uncommon for we human beings to live our lives as if they were on hold, waiting for some definitive, infallible sign from the heavens that certainly doesn’t come according to our personal schedule, and might not come at all – at least, not the way we want it to come.
Ideally, each of us pays attention to life, to our direction, as we make the journey toward eternal life. And though sometimes God speaks directly to our hearts in ways unmistakable, most often God’s voice is not heard in the roar of the hurricane, but in the whisper of the breeze.
The basic premise of a vocation is a call – the word vocation comes from the Latin verb vocare, meaning “to call” – and God calls all of us, each and every one of us, to do some unique work as his unique creation. There are so very many ways for we disciples to live lives faithful to the Gospel. But during October, the Church asks the question: Have you listened for the voice of God calling you to priesthood, or to Religious life?
How do we listen? How do we know?
The best, the first, the most important way to listen is through prayer. We often think of prayer as talking to God – expressing our hopes, our joys, our gratitude, our concerns. But ideally, prayer also involves quiet listening. Placing ourselves in the presence of God, and opening our minds and our hearts, listening attentively to whatever it might be that God is trying to tell us. It’s difficult, no matter how old we are, no matter how we try to practice that form of prayer. But I absolutely believe that attentive listening in the context of personal prayer is essential if we are to discern God’s will in our lives.
Second, I have to emphasize participation in the sacraments within the context of the community of the faithful. The power of the sacraments to touch our lives cannot be underestimated. Sometimes it is the community itself that God uses to speak to the hearts of those he calls to ordination. I have heard a number of stories over the years, of priests and Religious who had never seriously considered those vocations until someone from their parish said to them, “Have you ever thought about …?” Our parishes often become ongoing sources of support and encouragement as well.
Combining all of these things is the idea of discernment. It’s not enough for someone to decide all on their own that they have a vocation to priesthood, or to Religious life. Yes, often the first stirrings are felt in the heart of an individual. But those first stirrings must be encouraged, and examined, and perhaps, eventually, affirmed by the Church. A personal spiritual director can be of assistance. I also would encourage anyone who feels the pull of ordained ministry to contact our diocesan Vocations Director, Father Darrin Connall, for help in discerning the authentic movement of the Holy Spirit.
Our loving God calls to all of us – some, to be parents; some, to remain single; some, to priesthood, or Religious life. It is the responsibility of all of us to listen for God’s call – and to answer.
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