All posts tagged: vocation

Sailing the Unknown Ocean: Vocation and Pilgrimage in Moana

This past week saw the DVD release of the latest addition to the canon of Disney animated films: Moana. Not since The Lion King has a Disney film presented such rich thematic content: Moana is a beautiful depiction of the link between the discovery of one’s vocational identity and the pilgrimage that results from that discovery. Its imagery and language contain deep scriptural resonances that make it arguably the most theological Disney film to date. From the opening moments of the film, the audience is invited to “put out into deep water,” if you will, as the narrator begins the story not with the traditional phrase “Once upon a time,” but with the words “In the beginning.” What unfolds is a creation narrative of sorts: the world is at harmony and all is well until the demigod Maui steals the heart of the island goddess Te Fiti, which holds within it the power to create. As a result, darkness enters the cosmos, gradually spreading a deadly blight throughout the lands and seas. Those with even …

Vision for Young Adults: A Summer Retreat for 20- and 30-Somethings

The goal of Notre Dame Vision for Young Adults (YA) was simple. Bring together a group of individuals for a week of prayer, reflection, and rest. The idea was to set a simple schedule where people gather together to pray Morning and Evening Prayer and attend daily Mass together, to listen to and reflect about professionals living out their faith, and to delight in the company of others and the quiet of a summer on campus at Notre Dame. If I am totally honest, my expectations were pretty modest. Perhaps the modesty of my expectations was due to my doubt about the saints. One of the many spiritual pitfalls is treating the communion of saints as (and only as) historical Christian giants who have made it possible for me to consider the different roads that lead to Christ. Ignatius taught me to consider the experience of God; Francis led me to constant material critique; Blaise to be careful when eating chicken wings; and Cecilia to make music part of my prayer. The litany of the …

Joy and Parenting

There is a common sentiment, one which I shared as a single person, that the place where you live is simply a practical location to store food and clothing, sleep, charge your cell phone, and relax away from all the tasks and commitments of life. This was how I felt about my dorm room in college, a cinder block cube where I seldom worked and where I would certainly never have invited anyone for dinner. Until recently, I never actually owned a home, so many of the spots I dwelled in were temporary and shared. This did not negate the possibility of experiencing these places as a kind of home, but I lived more of my life away from the home than in it. It was not until I married and we started our family that I started to treat the place we lived as a place that meant something more than a cozy nook to eat and sleep in. The phrase “domestic Church” coined in the Dogmatic Constitution of the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium, §11) establishes the home of Christian families as “the first school of Christian …

Advent and Discernment

The Vocation of Discernment It strikes me how frequently opportunities for discernment become moments of crisis in life. As an undergraduate in my senior year, the impending future after graduation is a popular topic of discussion amongst my friends and classmates. The various dimensions of how life will look after graduation have been coming together like the pieces of a puzzle for the past four years. Yet for many seniors, a few pieces of that puzzle have yet to be found—the image of the future is incomplete. When we realize that we cannot gaze at our future selves with clarity, a sense of urgency and anxiety can set in. This often seems like the appropriate time to employ a spirit of discernment by asking God what he wants us to do with our lives and how we can proceed forward. The process of discernment involves not only listening for the words of Jesus, “Come, follow me” (Mt 1:7; Mk 4:19), but also preparing to go where he beckons. Disposing ourselves to hearing these words often …

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 …

Motherhood as a Path to Sainthood

Saints throughout the ages have lived lives of heroic virtue in every imaginable context, as martyrs, missionaries, and mystics; doctors, lawyers, and teachers; workers, cloistered contemplatives, and itinerant beggars. There are also plenty of canonized saints who were married, at least for some part of their life, and many of them were mothers and fathers. One cannot help noticing, however, that the life circumstances of these married saints look rather exceptional in comparison with the mundane reality in which most Christian parents are called to holiness. To become a canonized married saint, it would seem imperative to either found a religious order later in life (St. Elizabeth Anne Seton, St. Bridget of Sweden), die under especially painful or tragic circumstances (St. Gianna Beretta Molla, Bl. Elisabeth Leseur), or be of noble birth and from a family of wealth (Bl. Elizabeth Canori Mora, St. Frances of Rome). The most notable exception to these rules would be Sts. Isidore and Maria of Spain, simple peasant farmers and faithful spouses, but their choice to live a celibate marriage …

“Single by Default” by Jessica Keating

Last week, Jessica Keating wrote for Church Life on three insights into marriage from a single person. This week, America Magazine published another piece by Jessica Keating on singlehood. In this piece, she makes an argument that whatever a “single vocation” consists of, it is really just a concrete way of living out a vocation to holiness in the world. And even if she is among the many young women and men who have not chosen this vocation, she is still called to live with holiness in the world: Things do not always work out the way we expect. Life is precarious. We are thrown into situations over which we have no control. Married couples experience infertility. The person one falls in love with may not return that love. A religious order may ask a member to leave. We are all vulnerable. Yet we are called to holiness precisely in the circumstances of reality as it is, not as we would like it to be. But I did not discern a call to single life. In …

The Universality and Idiosyncrasy of Sainthood

Every saint is idiosyncratic. On the face of it, this seems so self-evident that we might wonder why it even needs to be said. Of course, St. Ignatius of Antioch is different from St. Ignatius of Loyola. Obviously, St. Teresa of Ávila is not St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Even when saints bear the names of the holy men and women who preceded them, they are never carbon copies of their namesakes. Each saint’s radical particularity deserves special attention, because it tells us something vastly important about the personal character of every individual’s pathway to sanctity. It should not surprise us that God calls everyone to embrace the vocation of sainthood, because each person is destined for union with God—an everlasting intimacy that the Holy Spirit enacts in us through the process of sanctification. Sainthood’s universality entails its idiosyncrasy. If God wishes for all of us to be saints, there must be as many ways of being a saint as there are people whom God transforms into them. Thomas Merton, famed twentieth-century Trappist contemplative and social …

The Marriage Begins

The Book of Revelation does not contain a series of esoteric predictions about the end of the world. Rather, Revelation presents a world in which the final union of God and humanity is taking place in the presence of the slain Lamb. This ultimate union is described as a wedding: “I . . . saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21:2). This bridal tradition has a long history in Israel. In the Song of Songs, Israel can meditate upon God’s love through a secular bridal song, functioning as an image of God’s courtship: “You are all-beautiful, my beloved, and there is no blemish in you” (Sg 4:7). God desires with passion to be with Israel. The prophet Isaiah goes further, imagining God as dressing Israel as his beloved bride: “For he has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, Like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked …

A Culture of Encounter: Root and Fruit of Human Dignity

It happened on November 6, 2013. At the end of his weekly general audience with approximately 50,000 attendees, Pope Francis caught sight of a man in his fifties. He was sitting in a wheelchair and accompanied by his aunt Lotto who recalled: “We didn’t think we would be so close to the Pope, but the Swiss Guard kept ushering us forward until we were in a corner in the front row. When he came close to us,” she said, “I thought he would give me his hand. Instead he went straight to Vinicio and embraced him tightly. I thought he wouldn’t give him back to me he held him so tightly. . . . We said nothing but he looked at me as if he was digging deep inside, a beautiful look that I would never have expected.” Vinicio, accustomed to stares of shock and fear because of a disfiguring disease, was initially confused by the Pontiff’s lack of hesitation. “He didn’t have any fear of my illness,” he said. “He embraced me without speaking …