Only the best for God
I spent most of high school and college assuming I would never marry or have children. God had set me on fire with faith, and I wanted to give him my absolute best. In Catholic terms, as far as I knew, that meant entering religious life.
For a couple of years I attended campus ministry meetings for wanna-be nuns and priests, and my weekends were often scheduled with "come and see" retreats at various religious communities.
And then I met a guy. . . .
This guy, David, was different from others I had dated. He loved life, he loved God, and he knew God wanted him to be a father. Not a priest-father, but a father-father. At church one day, before we met, David had a prayerful encounter with Jesus: he felt a very clear and joyful calling to serve God by getting married and raising a family.
Honest to God, I never knew that was a thing. I never heard anyone describe marriage as a holy vocation.
I heard David testify to his calling to married life, and my world view expanded. Could God possibly be excited about calling hearts to marriage just as much as to religious life and priesthood? I definitely felt called to spread the faith, but my search for a religious community kept coming up dry. Was that because God had a different path for me to evangelize?
I went on retreat to mull this all over, and encountered John 14:23:
Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
All at once I realized God wanted to make a home in me. My own path for discipleship, then, would be to imitate God by making a home for a family. On retreat, I felt great peace about this exciting vocation.
As I returned to daily life, I kept reflecting on the graces of my retreat. I sought the advice of one of my favorite professors. This professor had encouraged me in my long-time plan to continue my studies, working for a PhD in Medieval Literature. Sensing that, for me, a family would come before a PhD, I trembled to distance myself from that dream. As food for thought, my professor sent me these lines from G.K. Chesterton's What's Wrong with the World:
How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.
God had proposed the perfect triple-threat: personal witness from a faith-filled man called to marriage; a scripture passage written just for me; and personal support from a wise mentor. I heard my call, and God gave me the grace to say yes. (We just celebrated our 20th anniversary!)
I am joyful and grateful for my discernment process. Surely because people were praying "for vocations," and for me, I wholeheartedly welcomed the idea of entering religious life. When I discovered God's alternative plan for me--marriage--the prayers of others strengthened me to accept my vocation. Both David and I take seriously our vocation, and we encourage our children to do the same. A constant theme in our home is that God has a plan for each of us. Discovering that plan will lead to freedom and joy. We do not know if our children are called to marriage, priesthood, or religious life, but we enjoy praying for their vocations.
Make room, boys
Certainly, the Church prays faithfully for "vocations," but we almost always mean "priests." Not even religious brothers and sisters, if we're honest about it. Really, we're gunning for priests.*
The thing is, every single human person has a vocation. God has a beautiful plan for each of us, and he calls us all to be disciples. We become our best, and give our best to God and others, when we follow God's call.
I pray for vocations all the time. When I pray, I ask the Lord to open our hearts--every heart--to see what he sees, to go where he wants us to go. I don't obsess over priest shortages or seminary surges because I'm a big-picture person.Everyone has a vocation, and the world will be a better place the more we encourage our children to discover their highest dignity in the call of the King.
Pope Francis asks us to pray for vocations this month.
We pray that the personal encounter with Jesus may arouse in many young people the desire to offer their own lives in priesthood or consecrated life.
Amen! Let's join together and pray. We sorely need the beautiful, radical witness of priests and consecrated religious.
Moreover, we need 100% of the people on this earth to respond to God's personal call to discipleship. Chances are, if we're all listening, our hearing will improve.
*Please keep praying for priests!
©2015 Grace Mazza Urbanski