By: Rev. Paul Scalia
An archangel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Angels visited St. Joseph in his dreams. A light blinded St. Paul and knocked him to the ground. The Lord spoke to St. Francis from a crucifix and appeared to St. Catherine in her childhood. Like many events from the lives of the saints, these should be revered but not desired. In the end, such extraordinary callings are precisely that – extraordinary.
A vocation is really a simple thing. But we tend to complicate it. We expect God to intervene in extraordinary ways. Short of a bolt of lightening or an earthquake, many young men and women will not believe that God calls them to the priesthood or religious life. So it helps to review the basics: God calls, man responds.
First, the call is simple. The Lord says to Peter and Andrew, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” No echoes. No booming bass voice. No thunder. All they saw and heard was a man standing on the shore. He spoke to them as a man to men. He called them in His humanity. This is the pattern for all vocations: God uses human means to communicate His divine will.
Most priests and religious can tell you about the moment someone – a parent, teacher, priest, sister or nun – first suggested a vocation. It may have been the initial calling; it may have been the confirmation of what they already knew. Either way, it was God using a human instrument for His divine purposes.
The first step, then, is to pay attention to God’s human instruments. Those discerning a vocation must take such suggestions seriously, for they are God’s ordinary means of communicating. Just as the Apostles had faith that this carpenter from Nazareth was in fact God Himself calling them, so today men and women must trust that God calls them through others.
And the rest of us should not be shy about encouraging and suggesting a vocation. Much of the so-called “vocations crisis” lies certainly not in God’s failure to call, but in our unwillingness to cooperate. We do not want to seem “pushy” or forceful. But if we do not propose it to the young, they will never strive for it. God used the Sacred Humanity of Christ to call the Apostles. He now desires to use our humanity – our voices and words – to call people today.
Second, the response is simple. The Apostles “abandoned their nets and followed him…[T]hey left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.” No hesitations. No questions. No complaining. Their response was simple, although certainly not easy.
More importantly, for discernment purposes, the fishermen’s immediate and total response reveals their prior willingness to do God’s will. Without this abandonment to His will – whatever it is, and even before we know what it is – we cannot hear His voice. Like defiant children who stop their ears, we close ourselves off to the Lord’s voice when we are unwilling to do His will. To hear, we must first be willing to respond.
God’s simple call demands a simple listener. Someone who complicates his response – “I will do God’s will if it is x, y, or z” – cannot hear God’s voice. Someone who desires to hear God’s voice should pray, as Samuel did, with a will already abandoned to His: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:10).