Day 12: 50 Day Lenten Giveaway: Discernment Book

Lauren is one the students considering a year long volunteer program to help her discern where she ultimately wants to be in life. So I thought this awesome Fr. Jim Martin book would provide her with some help.

And if you’re one of the people considering Lauren for your volunteer program: Don’t blow it! She’s awesome!

Feeding Thousands with a Tiny Morsel

During my examen today, I thought about a consolation moment from today and this scripture quote came to me from this weekend’s gospel which was read at our staff meeting.

“For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.” — Luke 13:30

I was discussing this at a staff meeting and a story from Nicaragua came flooding back to me. I’ve blogged it before but it’s worth re-telling.

I was asked to “monitor lunch” for the children at the orphanage. In fact, one child was given to me as my responsibility: Maria Delores, a child with cerebral palsy. Maria Delores had a bad right hand, clawed, for lack of a better term. The staff was giving her serious physical therapy, hoping that they could rehabilitate the hand for at least partial use.

So I was told that I needed to get her to eat with that same hand. But Maria Delores was stubborn. Or so I thought.

A staff member saw that Maria Delores wouldn’t eat for me. But then she helped me understand why she wouldn’t eat.

There was no plate for me.

And when the staff member returned with a plate for me, Maria Delores took her clawed hand and shared her chicken and rice with me.

That week, we all helped to feed Maria Delores and the other orphans. We brought lots of resources and dollars to the organization. But I think I got the most sustaining meal of all—a meal that Maria Delores was fed by for ages.

Poor people often teach us much more than we offer to them. And while we’ve fed a lot of orphans, the stories that we come back home with, often provides spiritual food that continues to feed many others.

Can you be open enough to allow your heart and mind to be touched by someone that you were sent to help? Could you be humble enough to consider that there may indeed be something that might be calling you?

In any event, it is often the tiny morsel that gives the most feeding…a kind word…a small expression….a poor child in Nicaragua.

Indeed all are gift and so I wait, for God to come again…and show me more.

Does Vocation Equal Happiness?

At the Collegeville institute this question took center stage for some time. I think many young people often think that living out one’s vocation means that they are happy in doing what they are doing, or worse, perhaps it means that their lives are EASY because they have found a vocation that suits them.

Both thoughts are complete hogwash.

One colleague at the table offered the following nugget that I’ll paraphrase here:

“My dad was a manual labor worker and I had the great fortune of working in the summers alongside him. It was there that I’d hear the words ‘Your Dad is a great guy and is always so helpful to everyone.’ Or ‘Your dad doesn’t treat me any differently because I’m black.’ Or, ‘Your dad always goes the extra mile for all of us.’ Or even, ‘Your dad works really hard for his family.’

Now going to work was not a day at the beach for my Dad. But it was there that I know he truly lived out his vocation. He was the best version of himself and lived each day according to the way that he felt God was calling him.

Beautiful. I could say a lot of the same things about my father, a school custodian, who worked so hard to give me just about all that I have.

Vocation, you see, is not the easy way out or a magic happy pill. Vocation is much more. Vocation is living in a way that allows us to be all that we are, all that God calls us into being. We cannot fight our vocation and when thrust into situations that are less than ideal, can we follow that same call that allows us to express the best version of ourselves.

So while we may not have the best job, or even the one that we hoped for, there is much to do and even more to become. Vocation is all about living the present moment and asking ourselves where is God calling me to be? Is there a Word from the Lord to be spoken here? How can God lead me to be the person I am called to be–nothing more–but more importantly, nothing less.

Where did God call you today?

How Do You Make Decisions?

I just returned from the Collegeville Institute in Minnesota where we discussed “vocation” in reference to college students. We’re not merely, talking about religious vocations to the priesthood, religious life or ministry fields. Instead we are talking about a common vocational call, or an awareness of that discerning voice within all of ourselves.

We discussed the issues that face college students and a thought came to us. How DO college students make decisions? Is there a person or institution they turn to first when it comes to making a life decision? Such questions could include: Where should I work? Does this job sound good to you? How can I develop skills and be more in touch with my own gifts and desires? Is there a place you go to sort things out and try to gain clarity? Each one of these questions carries much weight in making life’s decisions. So what do you do?

I’d like to start a discussion on this and carry it out over the course of this week. Asking different kinds of vocational questions, especially of those of you who are presently on campus: studying and ministering to those who do study. What do you experience?

Many have weighed in on this on facebook already so I place their posts below.

Grant Peace to Desme


Oakland Athletics prospect Grant Desme is trading in his glove for a collar. So says this article.A snip:

The A’s prized prospect exited the season with a head-turning presence, accompanied by a bat that produced 31 home runs and a speedy 6-foot-2 frame that stole 40 bases in Class A ball — making him the only player in Minor League Baseball to enjoy a 30-30 campaign.

An exceptional performance and MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League followed, so surely Desme was close to getting a call, most assumed — if not for a trip to The Show, then at least for an invitation to Spring Training.

Yet, Desme insists he’d already received the call long before his final at-bat in the fall came and went — the one that would take him to bigger and better places.

It just so happens it wasn’t what the A’s organization — or anyone else, for that matter — had in mind.

The call, Desme announced Friday, came in the form of priesthood in the Catholic church.

“Last year before the season started, I really had a strong feeling of a calling and a real strong desire to follow it,” the 23-year-old said. “I just fought it.”

Thus, Desme chose to play out the season as a test of sorts, “just hoping and praying about it.”

“As the year went on,” he said, “God blessed me. I had a better year than I could have imagined, but that reconfirmed my desire because I wasn’t at peace with where I was at. I love the game, but I aspire to higher things.”

I kinda know how he feels.

While not being good enough to become an athlete, I was good enough to be a broadcaster. For 10 years of my life I tried to give broadcasting a go, with limited success. I produced a lot behind the scenes, did some small on-air things for the stations that I worked for and felt like I was just spinning my wheels. I was a snotty 20 something who thought that I was better than some on the on-air staff (and I can honestly say that I was in certain cases) and didn’t need to go an earn my dues somewhere outside of the world’s biggest media market. Still, that limited success was enough to earn me a spot as a minor league broadcaster in my hometown for the Yonkers Hoot Owls.

And I was pretty good. My partner and I had good banter and people who showed up at the games would tell us that we did a good job. I sent tapes to major league broadcasters for advice and they liked what they heard and advised me to just be patient that my time would come. At the end of that season, I believed that I was a good broadcaster. I had proven to myself that I indeed could be a solid broadcaster.

But I wasn’t excited about it. I complained through most of the season and when one of my high school coaches showed up to take in a game he noticed my negativity. “You look like you could use a break from this season,” he said to me.

He was right.

Even other radio colleagues noticed my lack of enthusiasm, despite a lot of talent. One even mentioned that he saw my energy rise after a returned from a weekend retreat that I had led with my parish and that he had never seen that side of me before.

So I searched my heart and I found much peace after admitting that I was scared to leave one career for what might lie ahead. Friends encouraged me to seek the advice of others and after meeting with many other ministry professionals my fears began to subside. After meeting with a bunch of major league broadcasters, I found myself less envious of their stature and more excited about making a choice for ministry rather than for something for which I just lacked passion.

So I hope that Grant Desme has a great life in the seminary. I hope he discerns well and that he becomes a good priest. Because we need good priests and more importantly, we need men and women with a passion for ministry.

Let’s all pray for that today.

UB Students Rock!


A capacity crowd came over for dinner on the North Campus last night and a good deal of students stayed to hear lil’ ol’ me talk about discernment. Great insights were shared around the tables and I felt good about it…this was an abbreviated version of a talk I’ve been giving for the past 9 years but I felt like people were attentive and engaged.

In particular, there is a small group of students from the South Campus who made their way over to the North side who stayed to hear me, their campus minister. Now that’s dedication and a nice vote of support. I can tell that they’ve been waiting for someone to start ministering on this campus. So we’ll hit the ground running this weekend.

My job is going to be challenging as the folks who come regularly will need to be accentuated by others who can bring different gifts and help provide us with some different activities. Then we start to get a critical mass. But the folks who are already engaged are so nice and so dedicated to being part of the ministry that I know that they will be a great help in helping me to engage the rest of the campus.

There are 27,000 students on UB’s campus. 50% of them are Catholic. Take another 50% and that makes about 6750 Catholics on one campus which is a huge pool to shoot for. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

I loved the fact that the students asked me what possessed me to come to Buffalo from NYC. I replied that the job was open and the great Patty Bubar Spear who is our youth minister encouraged me to apply. Another friend Ann Marie from the Center for Ministry Development also has an office at our church, so I was enthused by the possibility of working with them and then when I met the rest of the staff I just knew it was a good fit.

But the real answer is that I’m here for them. That God has led me to realize that I’m called to be a pastoral minister for young people. To guide them in their prayer, to give them opportunities to serve others, to lead them on retreat and to simply give them an opportunity to socialize with people they are proud to be associated with.

We’ll start feeding people soon and then the numbers will start to jump. It will take some time to learn the place but that’s not an excuse. The Spirit waits for nobody and I think it’s already beginning to flourish here. A huge hat tip to Katie Trapp, my colleague over on North Campus who has done such a great job and whom I will have much to learn from and much to share with as well.

Sunday is a big day. I get to do a reflection on the Gospel and on World Youth Day.