As Man or Woman
Two pairs of brothers – Simon and Andrew, and James and John – are going about their daily tasks as fishermen. In this demanding work, they had learned the laws of nature, yet at times, when the winds were adverse and waves shook their boats, they had to defy the elements. On some days, the catch of fish amply repaid their efforts, but on others, an entire night’s work was not sufficient to fill their nets, and they had to return to shore weary and disappointed.
Much of life is like that. Each of us tries to realize his or her deepest desires; we engage in activities that we hope will prove enriching, and we put out on a “sea” of possibilities in the hope of steering the right course, one that will satisfy our thirst for happiness. Sometimes we enjoy a good catch, while at others, we need courage to keep our boat from being tossed by the waves, or we are frustrated at seeing our nets come up empty.
As with every call, the Gospel speaks of an encounter. Jesus walks by, sees those fishermen, and walks up to them… The same thing happened when we met the person we wanted to marry, or when we first felt the attraction of a life of consecration: we were surprised by an encounter, and at that moment we glimpsed the promise of a joy capable of bringing fulfilment to our lives. That day, by the sea of Galilee, Jesus drew near to those fishermen, breaking through the “paralysis of routine” (Homily for the XXII World Day for Consecrated Life, 2 February 2018). And he immediately made them a promise: “I will make you fishers of men” (Mk 1:17).
The Lord’s call is not an intrusion of God in our freedom; it is not a “cage” or a burden to be borne. On the contrary, it is the loving initiative whereby God encounters us and invites us to be part of a great undertaking. He opens before our eyes the horizon of a greater sea and an abundant catch.
God in fact desires that our lives not become banal and predictable, imprisoned by daily routine, or unresponsive before decisions that could give it meaning. The Lord does not want us to live from day to day, thinking that nothing is worth fighting for, slowly losing our desire to set out on new and exciting paths. If at times he makes us experience a “miraculous catch”, it is because he wants us to discover that each of us is called – in a variety of ways – to something grand, and that our lives should not grow entangled in the nets of an ennui that dulls the heart. Every vocation is a summons not to stand on the shore, nets in hand, but to follow Jesus on the path he has marked out for us, for our own happiness and for the good of those around us.
Some of our feelings of fulfillment come from doing wonderful things. The section “Serving Together” includes some ways and means that our parish can provide to help bring fulfillment as men and women. On a more permanent level, God draws each man and woman to fulfilling vocations: to married life, to diaconate and priesthood, to consecrated religious life, or to single life (dedicated or leaving possibilities open). Although Pope Francis rightly emphasizes courage in making commitments, he also (as will be indicated below) recommends prudence; rash/hasty decisions could lead to serious problems and unhappiness. The Church is here to help everyone with their process of discovery (we call it discernment) of their calling from God; then to actualize, bless, and strengthen them through the sacraments; and to then help those who encounter difficulties, confusion, and/or crosses in the living out of their vocational commitments.
If you wish to contact someone about possibly becoming a priest, nun, or other consecrated religious man or woman, please see our Archdiocese’s vocation page. There are many fantastic types, missions, and communities of priests and nuns.
Our Archdiocesan vocations director would be glad to give you information, and help you get to where God is calling you. He can also help arrange for you to meet with an excellent spiritual director.
By all means, also research the different orders of priests or nuns and request information from them.
If you wish to get married (praise God!) at St. Peter Parish, please know that the couple (not parents) must contact the parish office at least six months in advance, before setting a wedding date or making any wedding arrangements. In order to ensure a happy marriage, reading the popes’ helpful writings on the topic together, the most recent being On the Joy of Love in the Family, is highly recommended.
A Marriage Preparation Program must be taken at Catholic Family Services (306-525-0521) or through Catholic Engaged Encounter (306-586-0934). Please confer with our pastor to ensure that songs you choose for your Catholic wedding are liturgically appropriate.
If you feel called to remain single, there are also many sorts of missions, possible commitment levels, and even organized communities of laypeople (such as Regina’s Marian Center, part of Madonna House).
Some Catholics seem to recommend that those who think they are called to single life make a solemn, life-long commitment to God, without, however, speaking of a discernment process. For most people, it would be rash to make such a vow or promise without the Church’s help with discernment. Please get to know a good priest or spiritual director (see our Archdiocese’s spiritual director page) and speak with him or her before making hasty promises.
Every kind of lifelong commitment must only be made freely, wisely, in accordance with one’s abilities, maturely, and out of love. In most cases it is a two-way decision that must be made, a mutual discernment. And not everyone has to make a permanent commitment. God inspires every kind of holy and generous life; in which type would you be fulfilled? As we pray, learn and consider, some are surprised to learn which way would bring them joy.
Discerning One’s Vocation
Pope Francis recently summarized upon some essentials that everyone should know:
“Your own personal vocation does not consist only in the work you do, though that is an expression of it,” the pope said. “Your vocation is something more: It is a path guiding your many efforts and actions toward service to others.”
Finding one’s vocation “has nothing to do with inventing ourselves or creating ourselves out of nothing. It has to do with finding our true selves in the light of God and letting our lives flourish and bear fruit.”
God’s personalized gift of a vocation “will bring you more joy and excitement than anything else in this world. Not because that gift will be rare or extraordinary, but because it will perfectly fit you,” Francis wrote. “It will be a perfect fit for your entire life.”
Following a vocation, he said, “is a very personal decision that others cannot make for us,” which is why it requires “solitude and silence,” as well as serious discussions with friends and wise guides.
Francis offered basic questions each person should ask him- or herself: “Do I know what brings joy or sorrow to my heart? What are my strengths and weaknesses?”
But since a vocation isn’t about serving oneself, he said, those questions lead to others: “How can I serve people better and prove most helpful to our world and to the Church? What is my real place in this world? What can I offer to society?”
And, then, he said, one must ask: “Do I have the abilities needed to offer this kind of service? Could I develop those abilities?”
Discovering one’s vocation, even in the deepest prayer, is not like finding the exact road map for one’s life with all the stops and starts and obstacles and detours clearly marked, he said. Instead, it is more like being invited on an adventure.
Our Archdiocese, religious orders of men and women, Madonna House, etc., frequently offer retreats, opportunities for day/weekend/extended visits, etc., to those who are interested in learning more and trying out different kinds of communities and mission work.
Commiting for Life
In his message for the 2020 World Day of Vocations, Pope Francis wrote:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
…After the multiplication of the loaves, which had astonished the crowds, Jesus told his disciples to get into the boat and precede Him to the other shore, while he took leave of the people [Mt 14:22-33]. The image of the disciples crossing the lake can evoke our own life’s journey. Indeed, the boat of our lives slowly advances, restlessly looking for a safe haven and prepared to face the perils and promises of the sea, yet at the same time trusting that the helmsman will ultimately keep us on the right course. At times, though, the boat can drift off course, misled by mirages, not the lighthouse that leads it home, and be tossed by the tempests of difficulty, doubt and fear.
Something similar takes place in the hearts of those who, called to follow the Teacher of Nazareth, have to undertake a crossing and abandon their own security to become the Lord’s disciples. The risk involved is real: the night falls, the headwinds howl, the boat is tossed by the waves, and fear of failure, of not being up to the call, can threaten to overwhelm them.
The Gospel, however, tells us that in the midst of this challenging journey we are not alone. Like the first ray of dawn in the heart of the night, the Lord comes walking on the troubled waters to join the disciples; He invites Peter to come to Him on the waves, saves him when He sees him sinking and, once in the boat, makes the winds die down.
The first word of vocation, then, is gratitude. Taking the right course is not something we do on our own, nor does it depend solely on the road we choose to travel. How we find fulfilment in life is more than a decision we make as isolated individuals; above all else, it is a response to a call from on high. The Lord points out our destination on the opposite shore and He grants us the courage to board the boat. In calling us, He becomes our helmsman; He accompanies and guides us; He prevents us from running aground on the shoals of indecision and even enables us to walk on surging waters.
Every vocation is born of that gaze of love with which the Lord came to meet us, perhaps even at a time when our boat was being battered by the storm. “Vocation, more than our own choice, is a response to the Lord’s unmerited call” (Letter to Priests, 4 August 2019). We will succeed in discovering and embracing our vocation once we open our hearts in gratitude and perceive the passage of God in our lives.
When the disciples see Jesus walking towards them on the sea, they first think that He is a ghost and are filled with fear. Jesus immediately reassures them with words that should constantly accompany our lives and our vocational journey: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” (Mt 14:27). This, then, is the second word I wish to offer you: encouragement.
What frequently hinders our journey, our growth, our choosing the road the Lord is marking out for us, are certain “ghosts” that trouble our hearts. When we are called to leave safe shores and embrace a state of life – like marriage, ministerial priesthood, consecrated life – our first reaction is often from the “ghost of disbelief.” Surely, this vocation is not for me! Can this really be the right path? Is the Lord really asking me to do this?
Those thoughts can keep growing – justifications and calculations that sap our determination and leave us hesitant and powerless on the shore where we started. We think we might be wrong, not up to the challenge, or simply glimpsing a ghost to be exorcized.
The Lord knows that a fundamental life choice – like marriage or special consecration to his service – calls for courage. He knows the questions, doubts and difficulties that toss the boat of our heart, and so He reassures us: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear!” We know in faith that He is present and comes to meet us, that He is ever at our side even amid stormy seas. This knowledge sets us free from that lethargy which I have called “sweet sorrow” (Letter to Priests, 4 August 2019), the interior discouragement that hold us back from experiencing the beauty of our vocation.
Continuing the same message, Pope Francis wrote,
In the Letter to Priests, I also spoke about pain, but here I would like to translate the word differently, as fatigue. Every vocation brings with it a responsibility. The Lord calls us because he wants to enable us, like Peter, to “walk on water”, in other words, to take charge of our lives and place them at the service of the Gospel, in the concrete and everyday ways that he shows us, and specifically in the different forms of lay, priestly and consecrated vocation. Yet, like Saint Peter, our desire and enthusiasm coexist with our failings and fears.
If we let ourselves be daunted by the responsibilities that await us – whether in married life or priestly ministry – or by the hardships in store for us, then we will soon turn away from the gaze of Jesus and, like Peter, we will begin to sink. On the other hand, despite our frailty and poverty, faith enables us to walk towards the Risen Lord and to weather every storm. Whenever fatigue or fear make us start to sink, Jesus holds out his hand to us. He gives us the enthusiasm we need to live our vocation with joy and fervour.
When Jesus at last boards the boat, the winds die down and the waves are calmed. Here we have a beautiful image of what the Lord can do at times of turbulence and tempest in our lives. He stills those winds, so that the forces of evil, fear and resignation no longer have power over us.
As we live out our specific vocation, those headwinds can wear us down. Here I think of all those who have important responsibilities in civil society, spouses whom I like to refer to – not without reason – as “courageous”, and in a particular way those who have embraced the consecrated life or the priesthood. I am conscious of your hard work, the sense of isolation that can at times weigh upon your hearts, the risk of falling into a rut that can gradually make the ardent flame of our vocation die down, the burden of the uncertainty and insecurity of the times, and worry about the future. Take heart, do not be afraid! Jesus is at our side, and if we acknowledge him as the one Lord of our lives, he will stretch out his hand, take hold of us and save us.
Even amid the storm-tossed waters, then, our lives become open to praise. This is the last of our vocation words, and it is an invitation to cultivate the interior disposition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Grateful that Lord gazed upon her, faithful amid fear and turmoil, she courageously embraced her vocation and made of her life an eternal song of praise to the Lord.
Dear friends, on this day in particular, but also in the ordinary pastoral life of our communities, I ask the Church to continue to promote vocations. May she touch the hearts of the faithful and enable each of them to discover with gratitude God’s call in their lives, to find courage to say “yes” to God, to overcome all weariness through faith in Christ, and to make of their lives a song of praise for God, for their brothers and sisters, and for the whole world. May the Virgin Mary accompany us and intercede for us.