– Br. Michael, ofm
The nearer you come to God in contemplation, the more you discover God as root of your action, author of your vocation, inspirer of your prophetic faculty, giver of your special talents. The further you penetrate the silence,
the more you feel yourself dwelt in by the Word.
– Carlo Carretto, Little Brothers of the Gospel
As we recognize Good Shepherd – Vocation Sunday the above quote speaks to me and my journey. Anyone who knows my story knows that it was not a lightning bolt moment which revealed a clear understanding of my vocation as a religious Brother. Those who journeyed with me knew that it was through much contemplation, lots of listening, consistent moments of quiet prayer, stories in scripture and purposeful dialogues which helped me discover another layer of my vocation.
I would say that from an early age I knew my core vocation was that of service. I knew I was called to work with people, both as individuals and in groups and teams to create encounters of life. To serve someone for me comes with a heart of hospitality and a desire for everyone to be part of the kingdom community. This gift of service was fostered through my growing years in our family business along with involvement in the local community and parish. It was also fostered by moments of quiet, time to create, time to sit with Christ and listen. I can think back to moments as a child of just needing to be quiet and as a teen of simply sitting in our church listening and even speaking with Jesus. I came to see that the vocation of service needed a balance of both doing and being. This has been a truth my whole life. Even when it is out of balance or sometimes skewed (as it is now in our current reality) I know that if I want to live centered in my vocation – my call to service, I need both contemplation and action.
Vocation Sunday is a day set aside by the Catholic Church to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It is a noble cause that is celebrating 58 years. As we continue to pray and encourage women and men to discern going into the harvest in these specific vocations, we also pray for those who are already priests and religious. It is in the encouraging that healthy vocations to the priesthood and religious life begin. They begin in the family home; vocations are not dropped down from heaven. I was not predestined to this way of life; I had to discover it and wrestle with it and listen well. I had to see living examples of marriages at work not just lovely photos. I had to see priests loving their ministry and those struggling to minister. I had to encounter religious communities on fire for the gospel and pray with church communities striving to build the kingdom. I had to equip myself with skills and then hone these skills of service so as not to simply be a gong booming. I had to have strong supports such as good friends with varying backgrounds, a reliable spiritual director, people praying for me (even if I didn’t know it) and random encounters to help me make space to be and evaluate my doing. All of these aided me in seeing how my vocation of service was one layer of the call to a vocation as a religious Brother.
Yes, Vocation Sunday is an opportunity to pray for women and men who are part of religious communities and the priesthood and those discerning their call to these ways of life. It is also a Sunday to pray for families, for parishes and the larger community to continue to be heralds of the good news, witnesses of the resurrection, examples of the renewal at work and places which invite conversations and contemplation as both the young and old fulfill their vocations. It is here that the still small voice awakening someone to the depth of their vocation is heard.
I come back to the quote I began with; it spoke to me because it speaks of connection. Connection with God. We connect with God through our relationships which fosters vocations lived well; lived for the kingdom of God.
God is indeed the root of my actions. When my actions don’t reflect the love of God, I am out of balance with my vocation but God does not abandon me, rather God walks with me until my actions are aligned again.
God is the author of my vocation, writing with me the story that needs to be told through my life. As God continues to author my story I am entrusted with the stories of others and their stories foster my vocation of service and of being a religious Brother.
God does inspire prophetic faculties or else I would have no words to write here, nor ways to create prayers or space for prayer. God invites me time and again to trust that God is at work and equipping me.
God is indeed the giver of special talents. Each one of us has abilities and skills to make the kingdom more beautiful, more inviting, more aware and more spacious. I do not produce these talents within myself on my own, I have to trust and believe that they are seeds planted by God and entrusted to me to grow and foster.
In my vocation I trust that the Word – Jesus himself dwells within me. He is the core of my heart, the lamp unto my feet and the thrust of my vocation to serve. He is the still small voice which whispers each day, “I am with you always… come and follow me.”
Gabrielle Clare Marino