January 9, 2009

Religious Vocations Supplement

‘Hearing God’s Call’

By Fr. Eric Johnson

Director of the archdiocesan Office of Priestly and Religious Vocations

“I have called you by name, you are mine” (Is 43:1). These beautiful words of God to his people speak to the knowledge, intimacy and love that God has for each one of us. They serve as an invitation to trust in his promise, and to follow wherever he leads us.

They are words that summon us to come to know God’s will for us, and to see in that will our own life and happiness. God’s call is personal, addresses us by name, makes us his unique possession and, through this, leads us in service to other people.

It is from this original call that our own unique vocation is born.

Whether married, single, deacon, priest or religious, our vocation is a response to Christ’s word of salvation and promise.

It is a call that leads us into a deeper knowledge, love and service of God, and summons us to love and service of others.

At its heart, our unique vocational call is a reflection of who we are and who God intends us to be. It is a relationship with the one who calls us each by name, and desires our fulfillment and happiness.

This means that part of our task as Christians is to open our heart to hear God’s call in our lives. We need to humbly ask: “Lord, what are you calling me to do?”

This is true as we seek to discover our vocation, but it is also important as we strive to live our vocation. We are called to be people of prayer, seeking to discern God’s will in all that we do and to respond faithfully with all that we have.

God calls each of us by name and makes us his own. But while this call is deeply personal, issued to us in the silence of our hearts, I also believe that it often comes to us through the tangible help and invitation of others.

It was Eli who recognized the voice of God in Samuel’s experience and instructed him to respond: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sm 3:10).

In my own life, I am reminded of parents, family and friends who wrestled with how they were being called to live out their own vocation. I think of the example of so many priests and religious who lived faithful lives of prayer and service, and those who encouraged, supported and nourished my own vocational call to the priesthood.

Part of hearing God’s call is opening our hearts to the invitation of others, learning from their example, and allowing them to share in our discernment.

The following pages are filled with stories of men and women who have heard God’s call and responded by embracing a vocation to the priesthood, the permanent diaconate or the religious life.

Each of their stories is unique, a reflection of God’s personal invitation, shaped by their relationships with others.

These stories are still being written, as these men and women continue to listen, continue to trust and continue to joyfully respond to God’s invitation to service.

Such a response is a unique gift to the Church. Through their own lives and ministry, priests, deacons, and men and women religious help us to remember God’s call in our own lives.

It is good that we remember them. They teach us to listen, call us to service and witness to the God that calls each of us by name. Their vocation reminds us of the importance of discovering and living out our own. As we read, may we more faithfully strive to hear God’s call. †

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