All posts tagged: charleskestermeiersj

Three Views on ‘Having a Vocation’

When I was in grade school, the whole idea of having a vocation seemed rather clear to me: I learned that I had a vocation either to the priesthood or to marriage, and that was it. Anyone not choosing to be a priest (or brother) or a nun was definitely not taking the high road, in some way being less than generous with God or failing him somehow, but marriage was still an acceptable option. We had the choice of a moral life in the standard married state or in the deluxe consecrated life. No one really talked about why there was a difference in value between the two acceptable states, but it was clear that anyone not choosing one or the other of these states of life was somehow a moral shirker. Once I had met the young Jesuits teaching in my high school I chose to become a Jesuit, and becoming a priest was simply one way of living that life. I am certainly grateful for that, but over the years I have …

Prayer Heart to Heart

The Baltimore Catechism (1891) says, “What is prayer? Prayer is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God” (§1099). I believe that these words, taken by themselves, are the heart and soul of what prayer is, but since prayer can take many forms we might look at two of the ways that people pray. Among the many forms of prayer are such practices as formalized prayers, for example: the Rosary, a novena, the Divine Office, or the holy Eucharist. These are all good in different circumstances and for different people. The fact is, though, that they are all predetermined in terms of the words and the sequence of ideas. Their value comes both from the fact that the one who prays is faithful to actually doing the prayer and from the formation that the repetition of these prayers works on the one who prays. Such prayers basically praise God and tell him what we want him to do for us, while the Baltimore Catechism points more to a simple opening of our minds …

The Way of the Pilgrim

When I teach Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in my literature survey course each semester, I need to take a certain extra amount of time to explain to my students just what these characters are doing by going on a pilgrimage: it is not something that younger people are often familiar with or find attractive, and yet I think that for Christians the idea of living the pilgrim life can be a very rich way of looking at the way we move through our days. In medieval times people undertook religious pilgrimages for a reason, ordinarily supplication or thanksgiving, although some people went out of simple piety. Whatever the reason, people wanted to show God or one of the saints how serious they were about their prayer for this or that. Depending on whom they were praying to or honoring, the pilgrims would choose a particular shrine from among dozens of possible sites, from Santiago de Compostela to the shrine of St. Ursula in Cologne, or even the Holy Land. They would ordinarily travel on foot, without …