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?

Like Bees in the Honeycomb

St Benedict says that the Monks should be “as busy as bees in the honeycomb” and that is exactly what has happened these past few days here in Collegeville, MN where I am participating in a seminar study on young adults and vocation. This is the back wall of St. John’s Abbey which has taken that honeycomb image to new and beautiful heights. The Collegeville Institute is our sponsor and a bunch of people from different denominations have gathered to discuss vocation, not neccessarily in the usual parlance of religious life, but rather we have discussed vocation in broader terms.

How am I to live? And how will I make those decisions on what I will do with my life? Do young adults explore this and with whom?

I’ll have a bunch of questions regarding this in upcoming days for you, dear readers, to weigh in on. But know that this ha been good reflective time for me and for us collectively to explore the questionsnof vocation. And it ain’t hard to get in that mode here. Some breathtaking shots are below:

Advent: All About Commitment

I recently did an evening on discernment at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee which about 40 young adult attended. I mentioned briefly that fidelity was a virtue that we can use to give ourselves a self-check on our desires. That when we think we’ve landed on the thing that we are called to be we might want to ask ourselves if this is “all about us” and what present commitments we might have to maintain before we head off to take on this new venture, or even if we should.

A young person in the audience asked a great question: “What if you’re married and you’ve discovered that you want to head career wise in a new direction but your partner doesn’t support your decision? “

Wow! It gave me pause to just think about that possibility and also provided me with my moment of grace for the day. When I decided to start to pursue some new options my wife, Marion was so supportive. She was afraid to be sure because BustedHalo┬« and the Paulists were so generous to us over the past 9 years, that indeed that made any decisions very difficult. But Marion knew that I was called to minister to young people. She would watch me come alive on retreat or when I’d be through with a spiritual directee or when I’d preach a reconciliation service. She knew that this was what made me feel most alive and that “most alive” person was the man she fell in love with.

Talk about someone who knows about what it means to be committed to someone else. Fortunately for me, Marion was also able to re-capture some of her desires in her new job teaching deaf children again after years of teaching special ed.

But what if you are not in the same boat? What if your partner thinks that you are not called to your vocation or to an avocation? I think there are two schools of thought here:

1) Perhaps you are not called to what you think and this person who knows you intimately can see that better than you can? Perhaps they are providing a wake up call and that this calling is only about your selfish needs? Maybe you failed to take into account how your actions would impact your partner? All this is good fodder for reflection.

Or 2) Maybe your spouse doesn’t have your best interest at heart? Maybe they never did! Maybe they don’t understand what it means to be committed to someone else and they have only their interests at heart? Maybe they don’t want someone who is fully alive because it makes them look bad or “less than”. Perhaps they don’t want to share the spotlight?

Regardless, in both cases an examination of commitment comes into play and advent is the perfect time to re-examine our commitments. God re-commits to humanity at Christmas by giving us Jesus. God indeed chooses to give His very self to us in the person of Jesus, who in turn, experiences all of our humanity, including death. But many times we forget about what a great commitment that is. We get caught up with our own feelings of how cute the Christ child is in the manger but we often forget that the wood of the manger also comes along with the wood of the cross.

What evidence has my partner giving me that they are indeed committed to who I am becoming? Do they want what’s best not just for me, but for US as a couple? What do i have to compromise to maintain a healthier marriage relationship and yet retain an individual identity as well?

To not make that commitment, or to not take it seriously is to not understand the sacrament of marriage and may even be grounds for Annulment, depending on the case.

For those of us who do understand marriage and who live it, each day….

May this Advent be a time where you rejoice not only in your commitment to one another but also in God’s commitment to all of us.