The following piece is by Deacon Raymond (Tucker) Cordani, who will be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts on June 4th. It originally appeared at Catholic Lane and is reprinted here with permission.
In the 1980 film Oh, God: Book II, 11-year-old Tracy Richards believes that God is talking to her. In fact, God (played by George Burns) wants Tracy to tell everybody she knows that he is real. So she does. She drafts a slogan and message, just two words, is conclusive and clear:
She posts the slogan on bumper-stickers, t-shirts, park benches, and carves it into tree trunks. But when Tracy’s parents find out what she is doing they think she’s crazy and they order her to stop. A prophet is not without honor except in his or her hometown (Mark 6:4). They didn’t believe John Denver either when he told them that God was talking to him too in the first Oh, God! movie. Continue reading Think God; Trust God; Thank God!→
Every year at Easter Wednesday Mass we hear St. Luke’s account of Our Lord’s appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
This Gospel passage brings to mind the Eucharistic “amazement” that Pope John Paul II sought to rekindle in the faithful through his final encyclical letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia: Continue reading The Road to Emmaus→
Here is a translation of the sermon delivered by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., preacher of the Pontifical Household, at the Good Friday liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica in 2008.
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“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was without seam, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, ‘Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,’ in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says: ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots'” (John 19:23-24).
“A religious vocation is a special grace that God gives to certain persons, calling them to a life of the evangelical counsels.”
While he stressed the fact that vocations are a special grace or gift from God, Fr. Hardon pointed out three typical features of a vocation to the religious life: (a) a strong faith in the Catholic Church and her teaching, shown by a firm loyalty to the Vicar of Christ; (b) a love of prayer, or at least the capacity for developing a desire for prayer; and (c) a readiness to give oneself to a life of sacrifice in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
For the full text of Fr. Hardon’s insights on this subject, click here. And be sure to check out other of his meditations that are archived at the IRL site.
I spent a couple wonderful years with a religious community in the 1980s as I was discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood and religious life. One day, they brought in a well-known retreat master to give the two dozen or so seminarians a day of recollection.
The first words of the priest to begin the day of recollection really startled me. He bluntly said, “None of you are called to the priesthood.” I looked around the room at all the postulants and said to myself, “Boy, Father Tom (the community’s vocation director) sures knows how to pick ‘em!”
The priest then explained that our vocation is “now,” that we must respond wholeheartedly to the Lord right here, right now by being holy seminarians. In five or six years, God willing, the bishop will lay hands on some of us, and then–and only then–would we truly be called to the priesthood.
As it turned out, I wasn’t one of the men called to become a priest. Yet, this important lesson has always stayed with me as a lay Catholic.
“Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”
This excerpt from today’s Gospel beautifully depicts Our Heavenly Father’s love for us and His desire to give us every good gift.
As a human father, I generally try to give my children bread and fish, and not a stone or snake. In other words, I try to give them good gifts.
At the same time, I don’t give them something just because they ask for it. Perhaps instead of “bread” and “fish” they want to fill up on candy and soda before dinner. Of course I have to say no to that. Similarly, I may have to say no to entertainment choices that are more harmful than uplifting.
Through this common experience, it’s clear to me that in giving good gifts, a father (as opposed to a “sugar daddy”) must exercise wisdom and discretion.
We have a Father in heaven who wants to bestow on us gifts that are infinitely beyond our limited imaginations. Yet what seems “good” to us right now may in fact be harmful to us. Thankfully our Father’s beneficence to us is above all a matter of divine wisdom, not passing human fancies.
During this season of Lent, as we strive to grow in our own personal vocation in Christ, may we seek to purify our desires, so that we may want only what is truly good for us.
After all, when young people are presented an uninspiring version of “American Catholicism” rather than the real deal, it’s an uphill battle to keep them Catholic, let alone willing to dedicate their lives as a priest or religious.
Yet the problem also suggests the solution when it comes to vocations.
Now, of course we need “vocation awareness” programs and resources for those on the threshold of making life decisions. Fr. Longenecker’s piece, however, reminds us that we also need to back up the bus a little further.
Specifically, if we can do a better job of transmitting the faith in our parishes, schools, and above all in our families, then more young people will make the faith their own in adulthood. We all need to be laborers in the vineyard, even if we’re not around for the harvest (see Matthew 20:1-7; John 4:37-38; 1 Corinthians 3:6-9).
And many of these convinced, young adult Catholics will generously respond to vocations to the priesthood and religious life–including the many men and women featured on this blog!
It’s all about laying the foundation, as the Catechism teaches in its challenging presentation on the duty of parents to provide for the Catholic formation and education of their children:
“A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life” (no. 2225).
Here’s what St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast the universal Church celebrates today, had to say on the excellence of the vow of obedience:
The vow of obedience is the chief of the three religious vows, and this for three reasons.
First, because by the vow of obedience man offers God something greater, namely his own will; for this is of more account than his own body, which he offers God by continence, and than external things, which he offers God by the vow of poverty. Wherefore that which is done out of obedience is more acceptable to God than that which is done of one’s own will, according to the saying of Jerome (Ep. cxxv ad Rustic Monach.): “My words are intended to teach you not to rely on your own judgment”: and a little further on he says: “You may not do what you will; you must eat what you are bidden to eat, you may possess as much as you receive, clothe yourself with what is given to you.” Hence fasting is not acceptable to God if it is done of one’s own will, according to Is. 58:3, “Behold in the day of your fast your own will is found.”
Secondly, because the vow of obedience includes the other vows, but not vice versa: for a religious, though bound by vow to observe continence and poverty, yet these also come under obedience, as well as many other things besides the keeping of continence and poverty.
Thirdly, because the vow of obedience extends properly to those acts that are closely connected with the end of religion; and the more closely a thing is connected with the end, the better it is.
Taken from the Summa Theologiae, IIa IIae, q. 186, a. 8.
In the coming months, we will periodically return to the name of this blog, as the desire to love God with “an undivided heart” is at the core of a religious vocation.
Today, let’s simply examine two passages from Vita Consecrata (“Consecrated Life”), the 1995 apostolic exhortation of Pope John Paul II that magnificently sets forth the beauty and depth of loving God with an undivided heart:
First, from section one:
“In every age there have been men and women who, obedient to the Father’s call and to the prompting of the Spirit, have chosen this special way of following Christ, in order to devote themselves to him with an ‘undivided’ heart (cf. 1 Cor. 7:34). Like the Apostles, they too have left everything behind in order to be with Christ and to put themselves, as he did, at the service of God and their brothers and sisters. In this way, through the many charisms of spiritual and apostolic life bestowed on them by the Holy Spirit, they have helped to make the mystery and mission of the Church shine forth, and in doing so have contributed to the renewal of society.
Later, from section 21:
The chastity of celibates and virgins, as a manifestation of dedication to God with an undivided heart(cf. 1 Cor. 7:32-34), is a reflection of the infinite love which links the three Divine Persons in the mysterious depths of the life of the Trinity, the love to which the Incarnate Word bears witness even to the point of giving his life, the love ‘poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’ (Rom. 5:5), which evokes a response of total love for God and the brethren.
Praise God for the call to love and serve Him with an undivided heart!