This is Vocations Awareness Week. Sunday, the priest at Mass encouraged us all to pray for vocations. Some years back, I preached this homily, which reminded everyone that if you think you don’t have a vocation, you are wrong:
It’s impossible to say where exactly vocations come from, or how the Holy Spirit does His work. Who can say what divine chemistry causes a spark to catch flame?
But I can say this much, which may surprise you: if you think you don’t have a vocation, you are wrong.
The fact is that everyone in this church today has a vocation. Every one of us is called.
How we choose to answer that call – or choose not to – defines us not only for this life, but also for the next. For a lot of us, it may be marriage and raising a family. It may be living in the world as single man or woman. But for some of us, it may even involve a religious vocation – and it just might sneak up on you and alter your life in amazing ways.
I am here today to tell you that if you think you couldn’t possibly have a religious vocation, if you think that is utterly beyond the realm of possibility and its downright laughable…think again.
I used to think the same thing. So did a lot of people who have found themselves drawn into an unplanned love affair — a love affair with God that upended their world.
This is a phrase I heard a lot when I was in formation, and it’s worth remembering:
“God doesn’t call the perfect; He perfects the called.”
I like to tell the story of a young man from Douglaston. He was born Protestant, and spent much of his life riding back and forth on the Long Island Rail Road – in a sense, waiting for God to reveal to him what he would be. For a while in college, this young man was a communist. While studying overseas, he fathered a child out of wedlock. He later underwent a profound conversion. At the age of 23, he was baptized a Catholic. Three years later, he entered a monastery in Kentucky, where he went on to become one of the most influential and brilliant spiritual writers of the last century.
His name, of course, is Thomas Merton.
Or consider a young woman who graduated three years ago summa cum laude from Harvard. She could have gone to graduate school, or to work for a Fortune 500 company, or to teach and study at any university in the world. She gave it up for a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. Today, she is a novice with the Dominicans in Michigan.
She also grew up in Queens – in this very parish, in fact. Her name is Mary Ann Marks or, as she is known today, Sister Mary Veritas.
To paraphrase an old saying: sometimes a vocation is what happens to you when you are making other plans.
And pray for vocations!