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Consecrated Life Faith Formation Fatherhood Holy Orders Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Misty Motherhood Priesthood Religious Sacraments Single life Sisterhood Vocations

No, Son, You CAN’T Be Whatever You Want

vocations1One thing most loving parents say to their kids at one time or another is, “Honey, you can be anything you want to be when you grow up!” I used to think this was a wonderfully affirming statement—until I became Catholic.
 
I was married and pregnant with my first child when my husband and I converted together. For me, there was no “vocational discernment” process. When our daughter was born, I spent many bitter days as an immature new mother crying over the sacrifices I had to now make, resentful I hadn’t been given a choice beforehand. It chafed me royally that there were nuns in the world living it up on austere vegetarian diets and middle-of-the-night prayer vigils, while I had to eat things like steak and cheesecake, and didn’t have a choice about getting up in the middle of the night like they did. I was sure that if I’d been a cradle Catholic who’d had a whole host of vocational choices, I’d have chosen to be the next Mother Teresa of southern Virginia. (Somehow, it didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t have my wonderful husband and daughter if I’d become a nun.) 
 
One day, my husband pointed out the obvious: that my “Be in charge or don’t participate” personality would cause me problems in religious life. “You’d constantly be arguing with your superiors, Misty,” he said. “You’d never be able to silently follow orders if you knew there was a better, more efficient way to get the job done.” 
 
In one of my rare moments of humility, I begrudgingly admitted he was right. And that finally stopped my ridiculous romanticizing of religious life and finally started me down the path to embracing my vocation as a wife and mother. 
 
As idiotic as I’d been though, that initial wrangling with my vocation brought some very important truths. The most important being that we don’t choose our vocations—God does. Why God? Because He created us and endowed us with our own unique strengths and weaknesses, so even more so than ourselves, He knows which vocation will best help us to grow in holiness and make it to heaven. Just as an inventor designs a machine to work best with a specific kind of fuel, so does God design us to work best in a specific vocation.
 
Eventually, I realized that God had known exactly what He was doing when he’d called me to marriage and motherhood. The joy of giving and receiving unconditional love through motherhood was redeeming the damaged relationship I’d had with my own mother. Seeing my husband sacrifice for our children and treasure them was healing the distorted image of fatherhood I’d gleaned from my own father, too, which had served as a serious impediment to being able to trust God the Father. The good fruits of embracing my vocation are too numerous to mention, but I now feel grateful that I’d stumbled into the right vocation! (Or did I?)
 
I think we’ve all known someone who seems discontent in her vocation. I once met a priest who was upset when Benedict XVI was elected because, “I was hoping we’d get a pope who’d allow me to get married!” he told the stunned RCIA committee. This statement, along with the priest’s admission that he was loathe to preach on moral issues(!) made me wonder what exactly drew him to the priesthood. And we’ve all met women who, upon having children, calendar-watch until the kids go to school or turn 18 so they can “finally start enjoying life.” I’ve had at least one single friend who was hell-bent on getting married, despite getting sign after sign that she was likely being called to religious life. Most of us struggle within our vocations, but it’s not hard to see when a person is struggling with their vocational calling itself.
God, of course, can write straight with crooked lines and even if we resist His vocational calling; He can guide us into greater holiness wherever we end up. But like God, those of us with children want nothing more than to see our own kids reach their fullest potential. And the best way to ensure that they do is to help them discern and then assent to God’s vocational calling in the first place. My husband and I tell our five kids that they can achieve the greatest happiness and true peace if they surrender to God’s will and accept the vocation HE chooses for them. 
 
Can they be anything they want? Contrary to popular wisdom, no–they can’t. Temperamentally, I’d make a great nurse, but I can’t because I faint at the sight of blood. I admire engineers, but I don’t have the aptitude for math. Likewise for our kids: everyone has talents, but no one does EVERYTHING so well that the world is their oyster. Even more generally, though, our kids need to learn that the only true path to being the best version of themselves is by embracing the vocation that God has chosen for them. 
 
How can we best prepare our kids to hear and give their own “fiat” to God’s vocational calling? Here are a few practical suggestions:
 
1. Make vocational discernment part of their life early on. From the time our kids were old enough to get asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we directed them to listen to God’s call. I even wrote a small book for my preschool-aged daughters, to get them thinking about vocational discernment.
 
 
2. Expose children to those who have answered the call to religious life. We’ve always invited priests, nuns, and brothers into our home to interact with our children. Kids have plenty of examples of people who answered God’s call to marriage, but they often see the calling to religious life as a calling for “special people, but not for me.” Let them spend time with religious, both men and women, so they can see that these are ordinary people (like them) who simply answered God’s call to that vocation, which is perfect for them.
 
 
3. Expose children to people who are called to the single life. This may be the hardest vocation for you to find friends in, as most of our culture assumes that the only two vocations are religious life or marriage. But for some souls, God does call them to live in the world singly, in Christ-like service to their friends, family, and coworkers. We are blessed that several of our closest friends are single men and women who tell our kids what joy they gets from growing their relationship with Jesus above all other relationships.
 
4. Watch movies and read stories about people in all vocations, and discuss their choices. There are many excellent movies out there about saints who were called to religious life, but there are other saints who lived singly and as married couples, too. Mix it up!
 
5. Emphasize that how we work out our salvation ought to be God’s decision above all. When your child says, “I want to be a pilot when I grow up,” respond with, “Yes, God could call you to that.” Or if they say, “I don’t want tobe a nun,” just say, “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what vocation God has in store for you, won’t we?” Don’t quash their excitement about their future; let them bask in the possibilities, as we once did. But gently reiterate that God ought to be in charge of setting them on the right path.
 
6. Pray as a family for vocations. For ALL vocations. Include prayers for priests and religious, but also prayers for married couples and single individuals to grow in holiness, too. The world is trying its best to convince our kids that the only path to fulfillment is a romantic, sexual relationship, so we need to ensure that our children understand that God loves diversity and has a unique plan for each one of His children. And finally…
 
7. Train your children to listen for God’s vocational calling. Every night, our children pray a simple prayer: “My dear Jesus, I want what You want for me.” Whenever they have a difficult situation, we tell them to take it to Jesus. Our hope is that over time, consulting God for every decision will be second nature. That reflexive habit of asking God to guide them will pay the greatest dividends of all when it’s time to make serious decisions about their vocation as an adult.
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7 Quick Takes Apologetics Baptism Christi Communion Confession Confirmation Doctrine Faith Formation Holy Orders Ink Slingers Last Rites/Anointing of the Sick Matrimony Sacraments

7 Quick Takes – the Seven Sacraments

I was rolling quite a few ideas around in my head while the calendar days were being scratched off much more quickly than I cared to see and my deadline loomed larger and larger. I bounced a few of these ideas off on my 18 yr old and he suggested that since I needed seven quick takes – why not review the seven sacraments…  As he so wisely pointed out; we are coming up fast on Lent and what could be better to ponder  at this time than the seven sacraments instituted by Christ and maintained by our catholic church?  How do you argue with such wisdom?

So subdue the drum rolls, please, as I roll out this month’s Seven Quick Takes (and we’re linking up to This Ain’t The Lyceum).


7 baptismal fontQuick Take one: Baptism

According to our Catechism (CCC 1211) these seven sacraments are divided into three groups. The first group is comprised of the sacraments of Christian initiation. And the first of these is Baptism and is the first step that we take as we embark on our Christian journey; regardless whether we are baptized as an infant or as an adult. Jesus himself was baptized by his cousin St. John the Baptist before being led “by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty day and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Mathew 4:1-2)

According to St Gregory of Nazianzus; “Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift…. We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water: anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed: enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship. (Oratio 40 preached at Constantinople Jan 6,381)

Quick Take two:  Confirmation (or Chrismation)7 confirmation

The second of the initiation sacraments is Confirmation during which we receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. According to the Catechism (CCC 1831) these are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

 

 

7 holy communionQuick Take three: Eucharist

Within the Roman rite – one’s first Holy Communion is typically received around the seventh year of life which is determined by the church as the beginning of the age of reason and marks the beginning of, hopefully, a lifetime of receiving this life giving sacrament.  Within the Eastern rites the infant receiving baptism immediately following also receives Chrismation and the ‘admission to Eucharistic Communion’.  (CCC 1233) These three sacraments complete the initiation sacraments.

 

7 pennanceQuick Take Four: Penance and Reconciliation

Penance is one of the two Sacraments of healing   that Christ instituted for his Church to offer His people.  “The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health,3 has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation, even among her own members. This is the purpose of the two sacraments of healing: the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.” (CCC  1421)

Some may ask why, once we are washed clean through the act of baptism, is there a need for the Sacrament of Penance or Confession? The Council of Trent (1549) answers this perfectly as quoted in the Catechism: “Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life.”

It is through the sacrament of penance, as instituted by Christ through St Peter, (Mathew 16:13-20  that we are able to be washed clean and be healed of our sins.

The Catholic Catechism answers the question of what is this sacrament called with the following:

It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.

It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.

It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”

It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the life of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.” He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother.”

Lent is a wonderful time to take advantage of this sacrament – especially if it is a sacrament that has fallen by the wayside. When I read the explanation of this sacrament in the catechism it filled me with resolve not to miss this wonderful opportunity to be filled with Christ’s grace.

 

7 annointing of the sickQuick Take Five: Anointing of the Sick

There are some misunderstandings surrounding this sacrament. At one time it was known as the ‘receiving of last rites” because it was, and still is, a sacrament used to fortify “the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father’s house.” (Council of Trent 1551) However, it is also a sacrament through which Jesus can unify our suffering with his and thus support the Church and, if it is for the good of our soul, also bring us physical healing from a grave illness. Contrary to the misbelief that one can only receive the Anointing of the Sick once in a lifetime; if one recovers from a grave illness for which they have been anointed and later faces death again, or is suffering intensely and is in need of fortification, they can once again receive this sacrament.  (CCC 1515)

This sacrament is based in Jesus’ command to heal the sick (Mathew 10:1-8) as well as through tradition.

“… the apostolic Church has its own rite for the sick, attested to by St. James: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [presbyters] of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Tradition has recognized in this rite one of the seven sacraments” (CCC 1510)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this quick takes post the Catholic Church has the three sacraments of initiation through which the Christian begins his journey to heaven. In addition, the church uses three sacraments to assist a Christian on the last leg of this journey. These are the sacraments: of penance, (when possible) the anointing of the sick and the Eucharist.  The administering of the Eucharist when in danger of death is referred to as Viaticum.

The anointing of the sick can only be administered by a priest whereas the Viaticum can be administered by a priest, a deacon or an extraordinary minister, using the reserved Blessed Sacrament.

 

7 holy ordersQuick Take Six: Holy Orders 

Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.”  (CCC 1536)

Holy orders is one of the two sacraments that the Church refers to as sacraments of salvation.  (CCC 1534) The sacrament of Holy orders is conferred  through the Bishop laying his hands on the head of the ordinand while asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is being ordained.  It is only a bishop that can confer this sacrament which imprints an indelible sacramental character upon the recipient who must be a baptized member of the church. Only the Church authority has the responsibility and right to call someone to Holy Orders.

While I have links to the three degrees of the priesthood above I will give a brief description of them. The episcopate refers to the Bishops and their duties, the presbyterate refers to the priests and the diaconate is the most obvious as it refers to our deacons.

What some may not know is that there are two forms of the diaconate. There is the permanent diaconate and the transitional. The transitional deaconate belongs to the seminarian who is preparing to become a priest. While the spiritual mark on his soul is permanent when he is ordained a deacon, he does eventually transition into the priesthood when he is ordained. On the other hand, the permanent deacon belongs to the man who is not, at that time in his life, feeling the call to the priesthood. He may or may not be married when ordained. If single the acceptance of ordination requires a commitment of celibacy and if married at the time of his ordination, should his wife pass away after ordination he may not re-marry. He may though, if called, become a priest.

We have all, at one time or another been inspired, by various members of the religious in our lives. Sometimes, though, we have felt let down by one priest or another. However, regardless of our feelings, or the personality of any particular priest, the sacraments celebrated by him are never invalid or impure.  This is emphasized quite powerfully by St. Augustine and, as such he is quoted in the Catechism: Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting.76 St. Augustine states this forcefully: As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ’s gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth. . . . The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.” (CCC 1584)

That is so reassuring and perhaps one of the most important things we can remember about the sacrament of the Holy Orders – that our priests are acting “in persona Christi”.

 

7 marriageQuick Take Seven: Sacrament of Matrimony

The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (CCC 1601) This understanding of this sacrament is the same in both the Eastern and Western (Latin) rite. In the Latin rite the spouses mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church and this is the same within the Eastern Rites except that in order for the sacrament to be held valid the priest must also extol his blessing on the couple.  (CCC 1623)

The sacrament of marriage is the other sacrament that is for the salvation of others. In fact, the Second Vatican Council refers to the family as the Ecclesia domestica or the Domestic Church. This is very apt as it is within the family that we exercise the ”priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way ‘by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity.’ Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and “a school for human enrichment.”  Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous – even repeated – forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life.” (CCC 1656)

It is the duty of the wife and husband to aid each other in getting into heaven and as well the duty of the parents to raise their children in such a way that they are well prepared to continue their personal journey to heaven so it is very fitting that this is called a sacrament of salvation.

This concludes our Seven Quick Takes of the seven sacraments.  A much heavier quick takes than usual, I admit. My topic for next month promises to be a little lighter but not much. I know that by the first Friday of March I will be a tad lost in my efforts to follow the resolutions I will set for myself on Ash Wednesday. I will be flagging quite a bit – if Lent follows its norm for me. I plan to take March’s quick takes as an opportunity to reset myself with seven suggestions that not only I can follow, but anyone who is also lagging a little in the middle of the race. My hopes is that we can apply one or more of them to our Lenten sacrifice and find ourselves ready to head for the finish line and the celebration that follows. Until then, a bientot!

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Diaconate Faith Formation Holy Orders Ink Slingers Kerri Marriage Matrimony Prayer Priesthood Sacraments Single life Sisterhood Vocations

Fostering a Culture of Vocations in 5 Easy Steps

clerical_collarWe often associate the term “vocation” with our priests or those discerning a call to the priesthood. What we often overlook is that we all have a vocation. Two actually!

Yes, I said two. Primarily, we are all called to a life of holiness. That is we should all be striving to be saints one day. In addition, we all have a particular vocation. It is through our particular vocation that we discern the state of life God is calling us to. This particular vocation does not refer only to men who discern to serve God through the priesthood, but instead impacts all of us. So what are the vocations in which God is calling all of us to serve Him in this life?

The most obvious vocation is that of the priesthood. Without our priests we would not have the sacraments, and we need the sacraments to help us live out our primary vocations. Our priests serve God by serving God’s people. Priests are ordained clergy. And they aren’t the only ones. Our deacons are also ordained clergy. Deacons are also called to serve God by serving God’s people. They too bring the sacraments to the laity (you and I) and profess vows to the Bishop. They also serve the priests and Bishop when called upon.

There are also many people who are called to live religious lives. Both men and women may be called to religious life. Men can join an order as a Brother and live in community with other men serving God in some particular charism (teaching, prayer, etc.). Some religious men will also take Holy Orders and become religious priests for their order. Women can be called to live in community as either a nun or a sister (yes, there is actually a difference). Read more about religious life at www.ichoseyou.com/religious-life/.

Finally, the laity are also called to live out a vocation for God. Men and women of the lay faithful are called to either live a generous single life for Christ or live for Christ through the vocation of marriage. We often forget that as laity we too are called to a vocation, whether we are single or married. For more on marriage as a vocation click over to my article Five Characteristics of a Matrimonial Vocation.

massIt is important to understand what a vocation is and what it entails in order to understand how to foster a culture of vocations within your parish. The future of our Catholic faith depends on building a culture of vocations in your parish family and in our individual families. What are some things you can do to help in this effort?

1. Pray. Prayer is always the first step. Pray for more young men to listen for God’s call to the priesthood for them. Pray for the strength of marriages in our community. Pray for strength and courage for our priests, deacons, and religious as they live their lives in service to God. Pray for all young people to listen to God’s call for them and then to follow through. Pray for your own children, that they will be open to God’s will for their lives and they will say yes to whatever He is calling them to.

As a bonus, take your prayer to Adoration if it is available to you. Parishes with perpetual adoration often see a boost in young men discerning the priesthood. Remember that without our priests we don’t have the sacraments and without the sacraments we don’t have a Catholic Church. We need more priests. Spend one hour in adoration, pray for an increase in priestly vocations, and one day we will see God’s amazing work.

2. Put a name with a face. Check out your diocesan website and look for a vocations office or vocations page. Browse through the site and see if you can find the names (and hopefully pictures) of the young people in your diocese who are currently in formation for the priesthood or religious life. If not, contact the office and get a list of their names and contact information if possible. Then pray for them by name.

3. Let those in formation know that you praying for them. Going through the formation process can be a joyful time as well as a very difficult time for young people. Almost every priest or religious I have spoken with has questioned their vocational call at some point during their discernment process. Knowing that people are praying for them offers them support and encouragement. If you are able to get their contact information, send them a note or letter of encouragement, send them a care package, or a gas card (for those long weekends or other breaks when they want to come home to visit their families).

Sisters of Life Novices 20084. Talk to your children, Godchildren, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and any other young people you know. Encourage them to pray, stay close to the sacraments, and to always seek God’s will for their lives. And be an example of this for your children. Incorporate prayers for vocations during family prayer time and share your own stories of how you discerned your call from God. Invite priests, deacons, and religious into your homes so your children get to know them and see them as real people too.

5. Join or create a vocations committee in your parish. A vocations committee can do a lot to help create a culture of vocations in your parish. A vocations committee can get support through a diocesan Office for Vocations which can provide materials and information on diocesan events. Within your parish, a vocations committee can plan events for young people to get to know priests and religious in the local area, ask questions, and pray together. A vocations committee can create programs for the whole parish to participate in (like a vocations cross that rotates between families each week), publish interesting facts or Vocations Q&As in your parish bulletin, and help promote diocesan vocations events.

For more information about vocations, check out the Vocations page at the USCCB site.

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Conversion Craig Diaconate Discipleship Faith Formation Guest Posts Holy Orders Perspective from the Head Prayer Priesthood Sacraments Vocations

On That Day: From Agnostic Theist to Seminarian to Deacon

::Friends, we are excited to share with you the next installment in the ongoing story of Catholic Sistas friend Craig DeYoung, a former agnostic who began his journey to Catholicism, then to seminary. We invite you to get caught up by reading his first four installments, part I, part II, part III, and part IV. And now that you are up to speed, please dive in and see what has happened with Craig most recently.::

On the morning of May 18th, 2013 at St. Mary’s Student Center in
 College Station, Texas I was ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacon.
 For the last six years I have prepared for that moment and still
 prepare for a moment yet to come next year when I am to be ordained as
 a priest. But, on that day as I was surrounded by friends and family, I 
was called to Holy Orders and then promised to live celibacy as a
 total dedication to the Lord and in service to His Church. I committed 
myself to praying the Liturgy of the Hours faithfully for the Church
 and the whole world, I resolved to carry out the office of deacon and
 conform my life to Christ’s own, and I promised respect and obedience 
to my Bishop Joe Vásquez and his successors. Moments after this, as I 
lay prostrate on the ground I gave my life and all I had to God just
 before Bishop Vásquez laid hands upon my head invoking the Holy Spirit
, ordaining me as a deacon in the Catholic Church. All in all, it was a
 big day. I’d like to offer this article as a reflection about the 
ordination and its significance.

It is my belief that an Ordination to Holy Orders is less about the
 man being ordained and more about the work that God has done and will
 do in him. For this reason, any ordination is an occasion for joyous
celebration and much thanksgiving for the local Church. That said, there is usually a larger 
turnout by the people of a diocese for a priestly ordination than for 
a deaconate ordination. There is more excitement for a priestly 
ordination because it is the ultimate goal of seminary formation, in addition to 
various other reasons. I mention this because for the seminarian 
eventually preparing for priesthood, their deaconate ordination is in
some ways the more important of the two. I say “in some ways” because
, while the seminarian longs for the day he becomes a priest, it is at t
his deaconate ordination that he first lays down his life before God
 and gives himself in service to the Church and her members. It is at t
his deaconate ordination where he makes his promises of celibacy,
 obedience to his bishop, and commitment to praying the Liturgy of the
 Hours. For a new transitional deacon, his ordination is a fulfillment,
 a beginning, and a transition. It is a fulfillment by his commitment
 to live out a vocation faithfully and for life. It is the beginning
 of a new identity as a servant lived out in mission. And as a deacon
 preparing for priesthood it is a transition which becomes the 
foundation for a future participation in the priesthood of Jesus
Christ. As for myself, being ordained as a deacon was all of this, and
 more.

As I reflect on God’s work in my life and how I ended up where I am,
 I think perhaps the most beautiful thing about discovering my
 vocation and making a total self gift of myself to the Lord through
 ordination, is the realization that I am becoming who I am meant to be.
 I am being fulfilled day by day and am becoming more myself, more me.
 However, finding my vocation and now living it out has been a
 challenging and sometimes frightening process, as it is for many.
Whether a vocation is to holy orders, religious life, consecrated 
life, or the married life doesn’t make this less true. Certainly, this is
 because vocations have to do with giving your life away, all of it,
 holding nothing back. It is frightening because answering a vocation 
means committing yourself irrevocably and for life. There are no take
backs so to speak. A vocation is a specific call from the Lord to
respond in a particular way to His total gift of Himself to us in
 Christ by the total gift of ourselves to Him. This is true for every
 vocation. What I have sometimes forgotten during my journey is that
God’s will is for my good and ultimately my eternal happiness by being
with him forever in heaven. This is true for every vocation. A
vocation is God’s plan for a person’s ultimate happiness and joy
through eternal life in Him. Vocation is the road God sets a person
 upon in order to lead them to Himself.

It is important to note that a vocation necessarily includes other 
people in some way, shape, or fashion. (Even for those called to be 
hermits.) This is because vocations are always the path of love and
 every true act of love is an act of sacrifice in which we die to
 ourselves a little so that another may have life through our
 sacrifice; this demands there be another to love. Through vocations, 
the Lord teaches us to live in communion by humbling ourselves in
 order to exalt others. This kind of Love demanded by vocation 
prepares us to be the kind of persons who will enjoy heaven. Heaven 
is nothing other than a participation in the inner life to the Trinity
 wherein the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit live in an eternal 
exchange of love, in communion.

Even knowing this truth doesn’t make it easy to respond to God’s love
 with our own love. There are very real obstacles such as sin and 
fear. This has also been true for me in my own vocation. A little
 over a year ago I was battling with the decision of whether to take
 time off from seminary or to continue formation toward ordination. I
 found myself paralyzed with fear and feelings of inadequacy. After 
much inner turmoil and debate I found myself undecided until the
 morning of my final evaluation at St. Mary’s Seminary. Just before
the evaluation I spoke with a friend about my dilemma and his own
 discernment. I remember in speaking with him how everything suddenly
 became clear. I realized that I wasn’t in doubt about what my
 vocation was but, rather, I was afraid to give my life away to Christ.
 I was holding back out of fear that somehow God wouldn’t be enough 
for me. Moreover, I had an acute case of what Bishop Fulton Sheen 
called staurophopia or fear of the cross. I was afraid of what God
 was asking of me, namely that He was asking everything of me. At that
 moment I realized my fear was keeping me from God. Knowing the truth, 
I was free to chose. Thanks be to God, He gave me the grace to 
respond in love by following Him. Increasing Him, decreasing me.

Committing to a vocation is not a once and done kind of thing. A 
vocation must be recommitted to daily both before and after making a
 final commitment. My formation last year was dedicated to having the
 freedom to make a complete gift of myself to God without holding back 
because of fear or personal sin. An essential moment in this work 
included making the 30 Exercises of St. Ignatius. Those 30 days helped 
me to grow in friendship with Jesus and to trust Him as my friend
 and Lord so that I might follow Him even to His cross. From then 
until today, each day has included its struggles to recommit myself to 
the Lord and place my heart and trust entirely in Him. My greatest 
help in this ongoing effort has been the Blessed Mother who knows my
need, intercedes for me before the Lord, and provides every virtue
 where I am lacking. As the Mother of Jesus, she becomes the Mother of
 every vocation leading each of us to her Son.

On that day I was ordained deacon, I became a little more of the person I am meant to be. I 
was surrounded by my family, my friends, the people of the local 
Church I am studying to serve, brother deacons, future brother
priests, the angels, the saints, and my bishop. I was held up to the
 Lord by their love and prayers but it was the Lord’s work in the Holy 
Spirit which made that day great. As He does for each of us, on that
 day He gave me myself so that I might give myself away and become 
one of his deacons. By his work, I have been blessed in becoming a 
little less so that He might become more in the hearts of men and
 women. Please keep me in your continued prayers so I may continue to
 commit my life to God day in and day out. God Bless!

In Christ,

Dcn. Craig DeYoung

 

 

 

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Navigating the Uncharted Waters of Pope Benedict’s Retirement

The final Angelus – 24 February 2013. Handout photo provided by Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano. EFE/EPA/OSSERVATORE

So, we’ve had 16 days to accustom ourselves to the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, our 266th pope in the line of succession beginning with the Rock, St. Peter. By now most of us have shaken off the fog of shock and have taken a more resolute pose. As the leader of the world’s 1.2 Billion Catholics, however, Benedict’s unusual step has left us as quite the Papa-ratzi. News reports by the dozens appear hourly to feed our need to know. What will we call him, where is he going, and what about that all important Twitter account with its 1,582,730 followers? For that matter, what about those indulgences that we obtain for praying for the intentions of the Holy Father when we have no sitting Pope? In an effort to answer some of the questions that have caught my fancy, I will share some answers and their sources.

Q: Since this is an unprecedented occurrence in modern times, what in the world shall we call him when he leaves?

A: His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome will be his new title according to both Patheos and Zenit.

Q: What changes has he made to the rituals for new pope’s inauguration?

A: “One of the most visual changes, he said, would be the restoration of the public “act of obedience” in which each cardinal present at the pope’s inaugural Mass comes forward and offers his allegiance.”

Q: So what will he be doing after 8:00 p.m. (Rome time), February 28, when he steps away from the Seat of Saint Peter?

A: According to his own words, “I, retired in prayer, will always be with you, and together we will move ahead with the Lord in certainty. The Lord is victorious.” After a brief stay at Castel Gandolfo, the Papal summer home, he will dedicate himself to a life of prayer and study in a Vatican-based monastery.

Q: But isn’t he abandoning the Church at a very tumultuous time?

A: No, Benedict is not abandoning the Church. Perhaps in anticipation of this question he clarified, “…this does not mean abandoning the Church,” he qualified. “Indeed, if God asks me this it is just so that I can continue to serve with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done so far, but in a way more suited to my age and for me.”

Q: What about the indulgences that are obtained by those who pray for the Intentions of the Holy Father when we have no sitting Pope?

A: Surprisingly, the answer is yes! According to a post by Fr. Zuhlsdorf, “The faithful are able to obtain plenary indulgences during the “Sede Vacante” time, where there is no Pope.As a matter of fact, the Church holds matters of internal forum and of indulgences to be so important for the faithful that the office of the Major Penitentiary (who oversees these matters for the Apostolic Penitentiary) is one of the few that does not cease when the Pope dies or resigns”.  Actually, this question was addressed after the death of Pope John Paul II after his death in 2005.

Q: Doesn’t this move us closer to the Prophecy of St. Malachy and his list, where he predicts that Benedict XVI’s successor will be the last pope? Are we to conclude that we are nearing the end?

A: There are strong indications that the List of St. Malachy is a fraud. According to Catholic Answers, “(t)he consensus among modern scholars is that it is a 16th-century forgery created for partisan political reasons”. We must remember that predictions of the end times were warned against in the Bible…“but of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father”.

Q: Will the conclave begin earlier, shortening the expected month long wait, and how many Cardinals will participate?

A: In his motu proprio Normas nonnullas (22 feb 2012), Pope Benedict has given authorization for the conclave to begin earlier. Sources at the National Catholic Register report that “the conclave to choose the next pope will likely begin between March 9 and 11”. We may have a new pope by Easter! This decision, however, now “falls squarely within the pontifical provisions for a conclave, and one may leave the choice of a start-date to the competent authority without further concern for the legality of the assembly” according to canonist Ed Peters.

There will be 118 Cardinals in the conclave.

Q: Will the virally popular Papal Twitter account, @pontifex, be shut down when the Holy Father steps down?

A: In a word, no. It will go dormant while we await the election of our new pope, however, as soon as he steps into his role as Vicar of Christ he will be free to take up what his predecessor started. It appears that Benedict chose the name “Pontifex”  wisely, in anticipation of a seamless transition from pope to pope. The name means “bridge builder” or “pope” .

This is but a small sampling of the questions that have arisen since Pope Benedict XVI made his announcement. Catholic Sistas (CS) is also involved in a Q & A endeavor over at Electing the Pope. Here you will find many more questions and answers, with sources, some of which are being provided by Ink Slingers. You will also able to post questions of your own.40 Days of Prayer for the Pope

Don’t forget that CS also has their 40 Days of Prayer for the Seat of Saint Peter posted on our Facebook fan page. There we post a brief prayer every day – from February 22 (Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter) through April 1. Won’t you join us in praying for Pope Benedict XVI and his successor? You might also be interested in reading our Open Letter to Our Beloved Papa, where the Ink Slingers share their thoughts, prayers, and admiration of this wonderful pope who has given us so much in his eight years as our Pontiff.

May we never forget the good done by this gentle German Shepherd of ours!