HERE I AM: Responding to God’s Call

November 7, 2013

Those considering religious life often feel much anxiety. Beyond the normal anxiety present in making any life-altering decision, modern people also face the reluctance our society instills to making any definitive choices. Our culture exacerbates this problem. Modern Americans desire to keep their ‘autonomy,’ and are trepidatious about anything that would limit their future options. Many choose instead not to choose, and to lead a life of extended adolescence. They choose to live for themselves, seeking entertainment and money while avoiding significant responsibilities. We all know someone who at thirty is living essentially the same style of life as he did at twenty. To choose the default option of living a childish adulthood is not good for us—God made us to grow into adulthood and to lead a fully human life as an adult. That means accepting adult responsibilities. Those who refuse to choose a path in life are like the person who cannot decide where to travel for vacation, so he ends up going nowhere. Choosing a definite state in life certainly narrows one’s future options, but it also allows one to lead a full life. Leading that full life entails picking a particular form of life, and thus requires the renunciation of other states of life. Entering into adulthood requires making serious decisions about life, and the threshold decision is what state of life one will lead. That is where true adulthood begins. Christians grow in maturity and holiness by leading a fully human life. That means living in a state that leads to holiness. Each Christian state of life (the ordained life, the lay life—whether married or lay—and the consecrated life) can provide the framework in which one learns to live a life imbued with faith, hope, and love. The particular difficulties and rewards each state offers allow for growth and joy. But to respond to a call requires not choosing other forms of Christian life: to be a religious means not being a natural father. Yet it also means saying yes to a particular path in life, and then getting on with the work of living that life well. Choosing a particular state in life is the beginning of an adventure, not the end. Entering into a permanent state of life is an anxious moment regardless of which state one is entering. I have had the opportunity to be the best man for a few of my friends, and each one of these bridegrooms felt great anxiety before the wedding. That’s normal, and the same is true for entering the religious life. In the moment of anxiety, various seemingly plausible reasons enter one’s thoughts, pushing him to not make the decision he wants to make. This experience is so common that many of the great theologians of the past have written about the sudden objections that interfere with one’s choosing to enter religious life. A first objection to entering religious life is ‘How can I know that my desire to enter religious life is from God?’ Often vocational discernment degenerates into looking for supernatural signs—some kind of Christian divination. But God works through our nature, not against it. His grace perfects  our nature, pushing us beyond what we are naturally capable of. A desire to give oneself totally to God in service to the Gospel, a desire to live a life of prayer and preaching, working for the salvation of souls—this is more than a natural desire. To want to follow St. Dominic’s way of life is itself a grace. If you truly want to be a Dominican, then that itself may be  a sign that God is calling you to be a Dominican. What else could that desire be? The Devil does not call men to commit themselves to God by working for the salvation of souls! Discernment is easy—if you want to be a Dominican, apply to become a Dominican. Second, some worry that they are too weak to live religious life. They think that perhaps a few more years outside religious life would better prepare them. Speak with a Vocation Director about that, as sometimes Vocation Directors do ask people to wait. Also, know that vocations to religious life are  not for saints, but to make saints. The graces of growing within the religious life come from already living within it. Therefore, if you want to be a religious, apply to join an Order and trust that God will give you the grace to live that life well. Discover now what your heart truly desires. God created you for a particular purpose, and works through your desire to lead you to that purpose. If you believe that God is calling you to be a Dominican—if you know that is what your heart is pushing you towards—then you have already discerned. To wait longer, to wait for some supernatural sign, is only to delay answering God’s call. When God calls, follow the example of Moses, who, upon hearing God’s call, replied, “Here am I.” Bro. Boniface Endorf OP is a clerical student brother in formation at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC. See also:

Aspirancy Guidelines (what you can do now to possibly enter religious life)

Waiting to Enter Religious Life? Feed the Fire!

When Your Parents Don’t Support Your Vocation

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