I love hearing call stories. This is one of the greatest joys of being Vocation Director, you get to hear “call stories” almost every day. It’s great that we get time to stop and reflect on call stories in the Gospel when we hear of how the Apostles are “called” by the Lord. One thing we experience is that every call story is unique, yet beautiful and personal. The Lord is not calling a group, He is calling people, individuals to come and follow Him. We celebrate the Feast of St. Bartholomew today and even though there isn’t a lot we know about him, all we have to do is look around us to know he had an important part to play on the Christian faith we have. Just as we do. We too have an important part to play. We too have a call story.
As much as I love call stories, I know from my own experience and now working with other men discerning how quickly we dismiss the possibility that we might be called. We don’t see ourselves as special. We don’t immediately trust or value the stirring in our own heart. We are hard-pressed to truly discern. We often need others to help us see the authenticity of our own calling. We often need others to validate what is happening, helping us to see that we are not crazy or somehow mistaken.
Our call story begins with a personal invitation, just as St. Bartholomew’s did. Jesus invites us to come closer. We should not be afraid. We may not know what we are being called to, but we can believe that it is real and authentic if it’s “of the Lord”, He will give us everything we need. As we begin the discernment of whatever our vocation is to be, there may be a lot of “ifs” in our prayer life. I remember many of those “ifs” in my own life. As a “late” vocation, entering seminary after more than twenty years in the work world, I was not confident that I could do the extensive studies required for priesthood. I struggled with the initial philosophy studies and there were many visits to the Lord when I simply asked “if you want me to be a priest, you’re going to have to help me and show me that I can do this”. I can look back on that time and know that the Lord called me closer because He did not abandon me there. If I wasn’t able to do the studies, then it might have been a sign that I was called to something else. I think of others who struggle with the life commitment they will make and the chaste celibate life that is an integral part of the priestly vocation. Men and women are praying all the time for the Lord’s help and are shown the way, one way or another. Either they joyfully discover gifts of self-giving love – that they will always give and receive deep love in their chaste celibate (religious) vocation or they are shown that their self-giving love will be expressed within a three-way relationship of God and a spouse in the married vocation. There are some who are shown the way and they share their lives with others, again in self-giving love within the Generous Single Life in Christ. No matter what, our “call” story will be one which we offer ourselves as a total gift of ourselves for others. No matter what, we are “hard-wired” to a particular way of life, that is God created us for a purpose as He did St. Bartholomew. No matter what, when we sincerely, humbly, seriously and prayerfully approach the Lord and ask Him (and others appointed, anointed or placed on the journey to help) we can be assured that through our own vocation lived out, we too are called to be disciples and to change the world (as the Twelve did) by bringing Jesus Christ into it.