Saturday, February 4, 2012

Freedom and Obedience, Vocation and Choice


"If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! 17  If I do so willingly, I have a recompense, but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18  What then is my recompense? That, when I preach, I offer the gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 19  Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible." (1 Cor. 9:16-19)


Again the other day I ran into a dear bishop who half apologized for taking young men into his seminary. We just don't think, do we? Why is it that we find it hard to see that the Old Testament Prophet Samuel, the little boy to whom God spoke directly in the Holy Place, turned over to the Lord by his mother shortly after she weaned him, is only a radical story because there is no ambiguity whatever in this woman, neither regarding to Whom she needs be grateful for her son nor concerning how she should show her gratitude to the Lord and her love for her son. God calls us to His service from our mother's womb. We are made for Him. We belong to Him.


If you challenge people on their hesitancy to allow a young man or young men from boyhood to pursue a vocation to priesthood, if you ask them what is to be gained by leaving a young man to aimlessly shift for himself (which is what happens when you postpone allowing him to make a commitment proportionate to his age), they cannot really have a cogent reply. The delayed or belated vocation of long ago does not become better for the use of euphemisms like "adult" or "mature". Rarely do these men tell you their vocation story without admitting that they had fled what they had known to be the case probably since the age of reason. How can there be virtue or merit in postponing your response to God's call?


Thanks be to God that older men do respond and become great priests. That is not the issue. The matter is spurning or scorning the enthusiasm of youth; at issue is our neglect for not seeking to identify and call forth from youth those who could potentially make good priests. Some people at this point might have issues about freedom and choice, as if a vocation to celibate priesthood or marriage and family life was like trying to decide between becoming a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon. "He's got it all together! He can be anything he wants to be!" she says... Maybe so, but God calls us out of knowledge and love. Better than the old village matchmaker who had a much better record than any computer dating service, the Lord knows us through and through and invites us to share in His saving work. How often when it comes to good do we choose better when we say "no"?


Obedience to God's call is ultimate self-actualization. If I'm stretching it by affirming such, then take St. Paul's understatement:


"If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! 17  If I do so willingly, I have a recompense, but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18  What then is my recompense? That, when I preach, I offer the gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 19  Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible." (1 Cor. 9:16-19)

I'm reading a marvelous book in Italian these days written by a young priest who just completed six years of service here at the Nunciature, Fr. Pavlo Vyshkovskyy, OMI.  The book documents the martyrdom of the Catholic Church in Ukraine under Communism. The chapter on the witness of priests and bishops touched me profoundly. Who but God alone, in His great and mysterious love, could ask such sacrifices, such suffering? These men fought really to stay with their people and be available for their people, never counting the cost. Is it love to try and delay or deprive a boy or a young man of his share in the sufferings of Christ? 


We must pray for vocations, yes, and by praying steadfastly for generous hearts in the young men and in their parents. 

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI

 

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