"A pure gift…not a trophy."

"A pure gift…not a trophy." August 31, 2009

A truly terrific video

I especially love the words of Archbishop Timothy Dolan, “This is a pure gift from God, and not an earned trophy. . .His grace lifts up our nature.”

A simple-sounding yet profound mystery. And what he says about the priestly vocation is true for all of our vocations, including the vocation of marriage, the vocation of the single life, even the vocation of the “necessary other,” called to live in an altogether different way than most, with a great deal of sacrificial suffering that -one trusts- may lead to gladness. Our lives are not accidents; we are all of us born for a specific purpose, we are called to particular lives, any and all of which, to be honest, involve service to others before ourselves. We are born who we are. His grace lifts up our nature, and makes living out the lives we are called to live both possible and fruitful, if we let him. If we trust.

Trust is huge. We all think we do it; that we “trust” God. In truth “trust” is difficult and unnatural and something we need to work on, ponder, surrender to, every single day – sometimes every five minutes.

Dolan says, “you will have the very Character of Christ, the High Priest, the Good Shepherd, branded on your heart, as your very identity” and we Catholics understand this to be peculiarly so for our priests. But truly, if we accept our individual callings to live out the vocation unique to each of us – whether that be as a spouse or parent, as a consecrated person or a layperson whose life might even seem to be kissed from the cross with loneliness – and live them out in trust, in faith, and hope and gratitude – but mostly in challenging, difficult, absolute trust, then we will be the people we were meant to be.

And as Catherine of Siena told us, “if you are who you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire.”

This was actually the message of the Second Vatican Council,
but it got rather lost in the translation -instead of people understanding just how serious is the call to vocation for each of us, it got mistaught “in the spirit of Vatican II” until it was understood that the priesthood and the consecrated life were “nothing special, no better than being a layperson, or married or anything else.” In fact, what we were supposed to learn was that marriage and the single life were every bit as much pure gift, pure vocation, pure calling, as the priesthood and religious life. Somehow, instead of all being lifted up, together, in the powerful notion of call-and-response, adventure, gift and destiny, the message got garbled until there was instead, diminishment, in everything.

May God, who has begun this good work in all of us, now bring it to fulfillment. And may be pray for each other, and for all of our priests, as we journey.

UPDATE: I noticed a commenter at Greg’s place snarked about how desperate the church must be for priests, to ‘start making a “recruiting video” worthy of an NCAA sports program.’

Actually, I just read something recently, that there are more seminarians worldwide today than their were in 1961 – we in the West may miss sight of it, since the bulk of priestly vocations are not coming from post-Christian Europe (except in Poland and some parts of Eastern Europe), but from Asia and Africa and the American South and Midwest -they’re coming, in fact, from the same place they’ve always come from: places with a familiarity with need, rather from the overabundance of material wealth.

But that is precisely why we need videos like these, well-produced and “worthy of a sports program” or -more correctly- ready to compete with the savvy and sophistication of mainstream media technology and artistic sensibility, which does so much to distract and distance us from our interior lives, overwhelming the senses and making it so very difficult to hear that “small still voice,” that is God, calling each of us.

God is still calling men and women to the priesthood and the religious life, as well as to other vocations. He has never stopped calling, never stopped offering his invitation and his gift. But we are mightily set upon by nonstop noise and giant images – it is not easy for God to break through, not because he can’t. God could knock you upside the head any time he wants to, but because his way is to stir, to call, to invite.

As one seminarian at Redemptoris Mater Seminary, in Colorado puts it, “I think the Lord, he is always a gentleman,” Garcia says. “. . .he knew I was new, in a way, rediscovering my faith. He didn’t push me.”

The still, small voice. If a commercial like this is one way for the invitation to be heard, than go for it, says I.

It’s much easier to just be cynical about it all; cynicism is the easiest thing in the world to cultivate and it brings forth a bumper crop of mostly nothing; a bit of anger, a bit of bravado, a bit of smugness. Who the hell wants to live on that?

A priest smiles in death. What an expression of contentment, like a child who has just been fed, burped and rocked to sleep.
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