• We all must discover God’s call, His plan for our lives. It is a great responsibility. We all go through this discovery in one way or another.

    Each of us has a unique call — one only we can answer. Discovering our primary call from God isn’t easy. Unfortunately no one can do it for us. It takes hard work to find out the best way to live out our Christian lives. It takes prayer and reflection that includes serious discernment.

    When I did campus and vocation ministry, often I was asked how a person gets to know God’s will for his or her life. There are no easy answers, but there are some things that can help us discover where God might be leading us.

    First and foremost, it is important to remember that God calls everyone. You have a vocation. You received your most important call at Baptism. In that primary sacrament of our faith, you became members of Christ’s body, the Church and were called to help bring about the reign of God in this world. It is not just a role reserved for religious brothers and sisters or ordained ministers. Through Baptism each Christian shares in the priesthood of Jesus Christ and in His mission to reveal God’s love to the world. The challenge is to discern, or to figure out, how God wants you to help carry out His mission and to best use the gifts He has given you.

    The majority of Christians have a vocation to the sacrament of Marriage. They have a call to marriage and parenthood. Others are called by God to live the single, ordained or consecrated life as a religious brother or sister.

    One of the best ways to discover what God asks of you is for you to listen to the deepest desire of your heart. For instance, most persons have a deep longing to share their lives with one special person and to raise a family. Others have a passion to give their entire lives to the Lord through prayer, community and service. Some are conflicted. They feel a pull between Marriage and a Church vocation. (Actually many of the same qualities are needed in both vocations.)

    There are many ways God’s call is revealed. One primary way is through prayer, taking quality time to actively listen to God. Another way is to seriously take notice of what other significant people say to you. For example, maybe several people have asked you if you have ever considered priesthood or religious life, or observed that you would make a wonderful mother or father. Very often those comments plant seeds or confirm what you might already have been thinking and you should take them seriously.

    In high school one of the teachers asked me what my plans were after graduation. She suggested I consider religious life. At first it was a shock, but then I began to seriously reflect and pray about that possibility. And here I am many years later. I often wonder what my life would be like today had I just ignored her or didn’t really believe it was a possibility for me.

    There are some things you can do to make the good choice. One way to start is to list the pros and cons of each option, pray about them and listen to the ones that speak to you the most and give you a clear sense of peace. During a class in graduate school at Boston College I remember one of my professors saying that the deepest desire of our hearts is usually God’s will for our lives. Listen to what your heart tells you.

    Finally, once I saw a videotape about community life that I have always remembered. The presenter offered this advice: She said the key to discovering your vocation in life is to discern which lifestyle will make you happy, healthy and holy. To be happy really means having inner joy and peace. A spiritually healthy life is one that enables you to use your gifts and gives you the desire to grow into the person God wants you to be. A holy life is one that gives God a primary place in your life.

    My prayer for each of us is that we will discover our best way to live happy, healthy and holy Christian lives as we strive to live the Gospel.

    Posted on January 22, 2013, to:

  • I am not a Scrooge, but all the activity during this time of year depresses me. People are running around frantically buying things they often do not need or cannot afford. Stores play Christmas carols even before the Halloween decorations are taken down, and lots of people put up their Christmas trees before the turkey is cooked on Thanksgiving. The malls are crowded and some people will actually get up at four in the morning to stand in long lines for Christmas specials. And you probably can give other examples. I want to tell them whose birthday it really is and why we celebrate.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not against Christmas or gift-giving. Gifts are important expressions of appreciation and love. However, trying to outdo one another or giving gifts only because someone else is giving them to us seems ridiculous.

    You might wonder what you could possibly do to turn the tide. Every year I ask myself the same thing. The following are a few suggestions that might help us all.

    Examine your gift giving. Think of those who are on your Christmas list and why you give them gifts. Maybe you do it because you feel obliged or have always done so. Hopefully your giving is out of love and that more is not better than less.

    Reinforce with your family, especially your children and grandchildren, that the joy of Christmas does not depend on how many or what gifts we receive or give. Suggest to your children that gifts don’t always have to be things. They can give the special gift of service, like giving a card with a promise to shovel the person’s driveway and sidewalks this winter or offer a couple with little children some days of free babysitting. Let them use their imaginations. Emphasize that their time can also be a precious gift.

    Gifts also can be made. Giving baked Christmas goodies or homemade candy is appreciated by all. It is very special when someone takes the time to make something delicious to give to you.

    Send Christmas cards to people who live far away and won’t see during the holidays. Share the gift of your time by letting friends know what has happened in your life. It seems a waste of paper and postage to just sign your name. Also, remember that the Church’s Christmas season goes far beyond Dec. 25, so cards don’t have to make it to them by Christmas day.

    Changing our materialistic way of celebrating Christmas will not happen overnight, but each of us can do our part to bring into focus whose birthday we celebrate. It also will help us to more appreciate the meaning of Advent and relieve a lot of stress so we can truly enjoy this beautiful season of preparation for the birth of Jesus, not primarily Santa.

    Posted on January 2, 2013, to:

  • “I am called. I am called. I am called on a mission to love and serve the Lord.” These words, from the theme song of a conference on vocations, strike me as good ones for all of us, especially graduating students.

    Several weeks ago I saw one of the seniors at our college visiting one of our senior sisters. I asked her if she were counting the days until graduation? After a pensive pause, she said she did not even want to think about it.

    Have you ever felt as if one of your feet was in one world and the other in another? During the last days of the academic year, many students about to graduate can relate to this. The anxiety of graduating for college students, and even some high school seniors, is almost palpable. When I walk around campuses I can often pick out the seniors by the look on their faces. Most traditional students have lived in the secure, sheltered world of education and family. Thoughts of getting a job, being on one’s own and having to go into the “real world” can be extremely scary.

    However, one does not have to be a college student to experience transition. Most of us have been through the difficult stage of being “in between” things. Life is filled with transitions, some major and others minor. We experience it when we lose a job, get married or prepare to move to a new and unfamiliar location, etc.

    This stage between endings and beginnings can be very uncomfortable. Even so, it is a necessary part of life. Every transition is an ending that prepares the ground for new growth in our lives. Change is an integral part of everyone’s life. Try as some people may, it cannot be avoided.

    Letting go of the familiar is rarely easy. Our tendency is to hang on to what we already know. It gives us a sense of security. Some people try to avoid major change, like the perpetual students who continually work on one degree after another and delay starting a career. I am often tempted to tell them to “get a life!”

    William Bridges, who wrote several books on transitions, gives some points of advice to help people through this difficult stage. First of all, he advises that we take our time. No rational person expects you to have a 40-hour a week, well-paying job in your field the week after graduation.

    Another important suggestion is not to act for the sake of action. Reflect on what is meaningful to you. What are your goals and dreams? This requires discernment and prayer. Call upon God to show you the way. This is crucial for anyone who has to make a major decision.

    Also note that good closure is important. Starting something new requires letting go of the previous situation. Be patient. It is a process and doesn’t happen immediately. It is like when someone leaves high school and begins college. For the first few months the person, often refers to how things were done in their old school. I remember leaving a parish that I loved. In my new place I frequently caught myself saying what we did there. Finally, with the help of friends and my own realization, I had to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t at my former job anymore and I had to let go so I could really begin my new ministry.

    It helps to take the time needed to say your goodbyes to fellow students, faculty and all your favorite places on the campus. A suggestion is to sit and reflect on significant events and people who have touched your life. But it is important to remember that you and your fellow students are beginning a new stage in your lives.

    Recognize that it is uncomfortable and even painful during times of major transition and that you must take care of yourself in little ways. Don’t look for a job day and night. Take a vacation. Have some fun. Volunteer your time to a worthy cause. Once you land a full time job or get married your time won’t be completely your own.

    Finally, find someone to talk to. Choose a person who will listen with an empathetic ear. We all need spiritual guides, but especially when we are going through significant changes in our lives. Don’t try to go through it alone.

    And above all else, remember that God has a mission for you and your major task in life right now is to discover how you are going to best carry out that mission. You can make all the money in the world but you will be very poor if you do not answer the call to love and serve the Lord. At our final transition in life Jesus is not going to ask us how much we acquired while on earth or how popular we were. We will be asked how well we loved.

    Posted on May 30, 2012, to:

  • I don’t know about you, but I have often struggled with such common phrases and questions in our Catholic tradition (small “t”) such as, “He has strayed away from the faith” or “She is a woman of faith” or “Do you have the faith?”

    What do we really mean when we speak about “the faith?” In my experience rubbing shoulders with many Catholics over the years, it is obvious to me that we would have a variety of answers.

    For me, faith is primarily a relationship, a relationship with God through His Son Jesus. Too often we tend to limit faith to believing certain truths or teachings.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” (ccc150).

    Believing what the Church teaches is part of what faith is about, but faith is so much more than belief. Faith is not just what happens in our heads, but it is an ever-growing relationship with the One who loves us and has saved us. It is not enough to believe things about Jesus, we need to believe in Him and get to know Him in the many ways He reveals Himself to us.

    In the Hebrew Bible “to know” someone was to have an intimate relationship with that person. For example, when the angel appeared to Mary to say she was going to be the mother of the Savior she asked how that could possibly happen since she did not “know” man. It was obvious that she was thinking about something more than a head-trip!

    Sometimes I hear persons say that they received their faith at Baptism. That is true, but Baptism only plants the seeds of faith. They must grow throughout our lives. Just as in marriage, the wedding is only the beginning of a life-long relationship. If it does not grow, it will surely become stagnant. All relationships, including the one we began with Christ in Baptism, must be nurtured and sustained.

    In my ministry I have worked with Christians from other denominations who can tell you the exact time, date and place when they were “saved” or accepted Jesus into their lives. Those occurrences are memorable but they are only beginnings. The challenge is to accept and meet the Lord in the many people and events of our daily lives. We cannot earn salvation, but we are called to live the Gospel message with Jesus as our friend and guide.

    It would be sad to define myself as a Catholic Christian primarily because I go to Mass and believe the truths of our faith and NOT have a conscious, loving relationship with Jesus and His people. It would be like having a spouse that I knew a lot of facts about but didn’t really know him or her as a person.

    So, how do we develop this primary relationship and make Jesus a personal part of our daily life? It sounds very elementary, but it boils down to this for me. We have to communicate with God regularly and spend some of our precious quality time in prayer. Like other relationships we need to be with God. We need to read God’s Word in the Bible, talk to God in our own words, and listen to God in the quiet of our own hearts. And it means being fed on Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, which is the center of our faith.

    In this hectic, fast-moving society, it is crucial that we slow down and spend time with the Lord. Otherwise we will remain mediocre Christians without a strong foundation.

    Let us accept the challenge to examine our faith, to evaluate our relationship with Jesus and strive to know and love Him more deeply. He is always here waiting for us. Connect with Him today. Don’t wait until you “have time.”

    Posted on May 1, 2012, to:

  • Most people would find it difficult to get through a day without reading or hearing about some violent or painful situation. It can be about people being beaten or killed for protesting an unjust situation in their countries, or about the threat of nuclear bombs being used by an unstable ruler.

    There are stories about homes and lives being destroyed by natural disasters or of a company who has to lay off many of its employees due to the poor economy. A friend’s only child is killed or our brother gets a brain tumor in his prime.

    Often people wonder why there is so much suffering and why a merciful God does not intervene.

    Our faith in the Resurrection means that we believe God brings good out of suffering and evil and that the way to conquer sin is by love. This, of course, is not a popular stance in today’s environment where there is so much hatred and violence in our world and, sadly, sometimes in our homes.

    As we wrap up this season of Lent and celebrate the feast of Easter, it may be good to reflect on our own attitudes. Do we feel justified in wanting to punish hatred with more violence? What are our thoughts about the death penalty (which is what Jesus died under)? Do we ever pray for the conversion of our enemies, even cruel dictators and terrorists? Sometimes it can be easier to forgive people “out there,” rather than those who have hurt us personally.

    We must be willing to go deeper and discover the roots of evil and then use love to conquer it. On the feast of Easter we celebrate and proclaim that we believe, as in the case of Jesus, God can and does bring good out of suffering and that His life conquered sin and evil.

    Just imagine what our lives would be like if every Christian in the world would really live the commandment of love. There would be much less war, hatred and violence. People would ask for and offer forgiveness. No one would be hungry because people would share with one another. The only news to report would be good news.

    As Christians who believe in the Resurrection, we must strive to be models of love and hope. Our good works during Lent must continue throughout the rest of the year. We have a mission to make Christ known by our love. We must express our belief that, even in this gloomy, dark time, God will not abandon us — just like He did not abandon His Son, Jesus. Each of us is called to go out to all the people in our own little world and proclaim this good news.

    And if current events sometimes make it hard for you to believe that God is still present in all of this, ask Him to deepen your faith and to help you to remember when He brought you out of difficulties in your life. Easter tells us that God never leaves us in our pain and often brings good out of evil.

    Happy Easter season.

    Posted on April 4, 2012, to: