Is God calling you? – British Columbia Catholic

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C
First Reading: Acts 13:14, 43-52
Second Reading: Rev 7:9, 14b-17
Gospel Reading: Jn 10:14

This Sunday is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations to consecrated life. (Words in italics are necessary because marriage is also a vocation or calling.)

For many people, “consecrated life” simply means “celibacy”. Without celibacy, they say, they could become priests or nuns.

I’m afraid they don’t understand marriage or consecrated celibacy. “The sacrament of marriage and virginity for the Kingdom of God come from the Lord himself,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “The Kingdom’s esteem for virginity and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable and mutually reinforcing.”

Unfortunately, Bishop Harry Flynn said at the 1990 Vatican Synod, many people have a negative image of celibacy, seeing it as “a harsh form of self-denial imposed by the Church”. On the contrary, he said, consecrated celibacy is “a way of loving”, showing that “the reality of Christian love” is “distinct from sexual expression”. It is the sign of a “devotion which commits so deeply” that no other commitment is possible.

In fact, he said, defining celibacy as simply giving up sex is just as unrealistic as defining marriage as giving up all but one woman. The truth is, both require “a loving commitment so deep it makes someone want to give up everything else.” Indeed, “the best qualities found in a married man must also be characteristic of a single man”.

Much attention is being paid to priests’ breaches of their celibacy promises, Bishop Flynn said, and people suggest the Church could solve the problem by removing the celibacy requirement. However, he said, “it is not a solution any more than the abolition of marriage is a solution to infidelity or divorce”.

“The real problem,” he said, “is an inability to commit fully and permanently, an inability to grasp the reality of God’s love, and a lack of the solid formation so necessary to live the celibacy”.

I would say those are exactly the problems with marriages today. As I heard an experienced priest say recently, “It’s not a vocations crisis that we have; It’s a family crisis!

How do you know if you have a vocation to consecrated life?

Don’t expect a “sign” telling you what to do. God has subjected you to your free choice, so that you can seek it of your own free will and thus “freely attain” your own perfection, says the Catechism. He made you a rational person, giving you the power “to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions” on your “own responsibility”, shaping your own life by your free will.

Instead, consult your abilities, desires, and ideals, just as you would any other profession. Ask yourself what you can do well, what you like to do, what the world needs you to give, what your ideals and dreams are, and what you hope to have done with your life as you approach its end.

If you present yourself to a bishop or a religious superior, he will overlook miraculous signs or supernatural messages. He will seek the answers to more prosaic questions. Do you find consecrated life attractive and fulfilling? Do you have the necessary physical, academic and spiritual qualifications? Do you have the disposition to become a saint in the consecrated life? Are you ready to take responsibility?

Regardless of the answers, no vocation comes to fruition, definitively and fully, until your bishop has ordained you or you have pronounced your vows before a priest or your religious superior. In the case of marriage or the priesthood, God calls you through a sacrament.

You cannot live a consecrated life (or any other life) fruitfully without the continued grace of God. However, you can be sure that whatever life choice you make, God will ratify it with all the grace you need.

Father Hawkswell again teaches the Catholic faith in simple English. The entire course is available in written form and sessions 1 to 31 in YouTube form at beholdvancouver.org/catholic-faith-course. Session 32, “Catholic Spiritualities,” will be available on YouTube from May 8.

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