One of most deadly dispositions to any religious vocation (maybe every vocation in general) is having a general attitude of entitlement. This is something that I stress with the people I work with as a Vocation Director, most especially the seminarians and those who are close to becoming seminarians. Entitlement is a belief or attitude that you deserve something and it is problematic on many different levels but I share with you today two of my main difficulties with entitlement. Our Gospel today shows that this was a very human reality and stirring in the hearts even among the Apostles (and their parents).
First of all, it completely contradicts the proper attitude that most people have when they begin their vocational discernment. Usually we all start off feeling a tremendous sense that we are unworthy of what we are being called by the Lord to do, and that sense of unworthiness is important. It demonstrates a sense of awareness of the Divine Nature of our vocation and a healthy sense of unworthiness which I believe might be similar to what St. Peter felt when he said to Our Lord: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a weak and sinful man”. A sense of unworthiness to what God calls us to suggests that we understand to some degree, if even only somewhat, that God calls us to something that is profound, amazing and beyond our human capacity and capability to understand. As we grow in our vocation, we come to see that we will bring our humanity, hopefully in its best and most purified form, constantly seeking greater purity – and the Lord our God will do the rest. Our vocation is to participate in His Divine Plan. Entitlement happens when we rest in a sense that we deserve what we receive, and so thus pride and a lack of a true sense of ourselves dominate our thinking. It can be deadly, especially when we don’t receive what we think we’re entitled to.
I offer my other thought today as a priest, and this is something that I speak about with seminarians at times. People love their priests and religious. Even those, especially those who are called to different vocations (Holy Marriage, Generous Single Life in Christ) are so appreciative and thankful for what they receive that many times they will share of their abundance with their priests and religious. I know as a priest that people were very generous at Christmas time and they lovingly invited priests into their homes and lives and often lavish us with generosity and gifts. When a priest departs, the people he has served are also generous and I know that this was something I experienced as a seminarian first. When I was on my pastoral internship year and then when I was ordained both a transitional deacon first and a then a priest, the people who journeyed with me, prayed for me and supported me in every possible way were extremely generous. Knowing all of this, if seminarians feel a sense of entitlement in any way this will worsen for them as priests. If they love and serve with all their hearts and souls, they will gauge their successes and failures on “what they get” which will leave them feeling disappointed and isn’t what we serve for. Also, there will be a constant feeling of expectation of something more. Obviously, if this is coupled with other emotional issues; men could become bitter, resentful, hostile towards the people they serve. None of these things benefit Our Lord, His Church or getting ourselves to heaven as joyful and dedicated Christians.
The Good News is that while in our own examinations of conscience, we may come to see where we’ve acted entitled and developed a tendency that we know we need to overcome, God’s Grace is abundant. Go back to the beginning of your discernment…remember that sense of unworthiness because it was of the Lord and remember that while He gives us His generous gift of Himself and the tools we need to serve Him worthily – that it is in Jesus that we find all our own worthiness, not in ourselves and as He offered His Apostles, that if we want to carry His Glory, we need to carry His Cross as well. May God bless you.