Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Culture of Vocations

June is a month of celebrations, a time for weddings and ordinations. I've been to several such celebrations this month. And I gathered with other Jesuits from my Province to celebrate anniversaries. One man celebrated 80 years as a Jesuit, two celebrated 60 years of priesthood, and others celebrated golden anniversaries of priesthood and religious life. Some good friends of mine in St. Paul celebrated 50 years of marriage and I sent a remembrance to them of how we first met 38 years ago when I was a Jesuit novice.

All of these are celebrations of vocations, God's call to individuals and couples.

It's been said that there is a "vocation crisis." When we hear that expression we usually think of the call to priesthood or consecrated life, but this is a crisis that also affects the vocation of marriage. Many people are choosing to live together outside of marriage and many marriages break up.

I think what's needed is to foster a "culture of vocations." The word culture comes from a word meaning "to cultivate" or "to till." Basically a culture is the environment within which one grows or develops. It's the soil, as Jesus pointed out in the Parable of the Sower, within which the seed of the Word of God is received. It's the soil in which a vocation is planted.

One way to develop a "culture of vocations" is to practice the Daily Offering and to teach it to the young. Notice: we need to "practice" the Morning Offering prayer; we need to really pray it and not just say it. When we pray the Daily Offering we offer ourselves with Jesus for the salvation of the world. Doing this creates a habit of offering, a mind-set of giving as opposed to taking.

With this habit of offering the seed of a vocation is more easily planted and can grow. This is true for all vocations. Certainly those who receive a call to the priesthood or consecrated life will more readily respond because they have been developing, over time, a spirituality of offering themselves to God and His service. But this is also very true for the vocation of marriage. Individuals who practice the Daily Offering will be more ready to commit themselves whole-heartedly and, in the living out of their marriage vows, will be in the habit of making a total offering of themselves to the other. Finally, this is true for the single vocation. Those who are called to this vocation are not following it because they are selfish or afraid of commitment or afraid of losing their independence. Those who are called to the single vocation find in it a way to offer themselves to God's service in ways that the other vocations do not allow.

The key is that every true vocation involves a call and a response, a gift of oneself. Every vocation involves an offering of oneself. God does not call people to be self-serving, to look out only for themselves, or to take and keep. God calls everyone who is baptized to a particular vocation which requires making an offering of oneself. By using the Daily Offering to foster the habit of making an offering of oneself, we will address the crisis of vocations and create an environment in which every vocation can flourish.

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