Category Archives: Vocation Stories

A few addenda to yesterday’s Potpourri post

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta and Bl. John Paul II (photo credit: Gianni Giansanti/Corbis)

Two of my heroes: Bl. Teresa of Calcutta and Bl. John Paul II (photo credit: Gianni Giansanti/Corbis)

I posted yesterday about the world needing heroes, and wouldn’t you know, four more links came my way this morning that fit that theme so well, I just had to share them:

First, this sweet post about fatherhood from Catholic blogger Matthew Archbold: Some Things Moms Can’t Do. For me, this is one of the simplest answers to the question: Why no women priests? Priests are men because they are fathers, and only men can be fathers. (Of course, that answer doesn’t satisfy people who no longer recognize authentic fatherhood…)

Speaking of fatherhood, I’ve been meaning to recommend my friend Fr. Jeff’s new blog about his day-to-day experiences as a joyful young priest determined to find God in the “little things”: A Priest Life. (Here’s one of my favorite posts of his.) Fr. Jeff is a fantastic writer and more importantly, a wonderful priest who deeply loves Our Lord and His Church. His reflections inspire me to live my own vocation with greater dedication every day! You should also check out his recent interview with CatholicMom.com’s Lisa Hendey. I just loved what he had to say about his vocation story:

“I’m a ‘kindergarten vocation,’ so to speak. One of my earliest memories is wanting to be a priest. Well, that and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. In my baby book, my mom kept little facts about us: favorite food – pizza; favorite color – blue; favorite sport – soccer; what [Jeff] wants to be when he grows up – priest. That desire never left.”

I feel like I know more than a few priests who wanted to be Ninja Turtles or superheroes when they grew up. The world needs heroes, right?

And while we’re on the topic of priesthood, I also wanted to point out another article about the chaplain on the sinking Costa Concordia cruise ship. There are heroes among us, but we don’t always hear about them in the mainstream media.

For example, I’ve been meaning to “introduce” you guys to one of my personal heroes (well, heroines): my high-school classmate Megan, who moved to Haiti last year to work full-time in a non-denominational missionary apostolate called Respire Haiti (which she founded). Her blog, Blessed with a Burden, continually calls me to be more authentically committed to loving Christ in His poor.

I continue to be inspired daily by the people in my life who live out their vocations with such humility, passion and joy: my married friends, who are such beautiful examples of the Father’s totally selfless love for His children; my friends in formation for priesthood and religious life, who have gone out of their way to support and encourage me with their kind words and prayers; my single friends, who help me to be authentic as they ask the tough questions and work out their own vocations (sometimes with more than a little fear and trembling). Most of all, I’m thankful for my parents and my little brothers and the priests who have taken it upon themselves to “father” my soul and my vocation. How very good our good Lord is to those who love Him, whom He calls to do His will (c.f. Romans 8:28).

Who are your heroes? Who in your life has inspired you to pursue your vocation and live it to the full?

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Potpourri: I love the Pope, Dominican Vocations, Happy Priests!

Inspired by my incredibly creative friend Maggie and her beloved “Clippings” posts over at Ten Thousand Places, I thought I’d try out a similar series of posts on this blog. Each Potpourri post will consist of a list of miscellaneous links, photos, videos, quotes, and/or other tidbits I came across during the week that I thought might interest you all. Let me know what you think!

  • I just now got around to reading the Holy Father’s address to young women religious at World Youth Day in Madrid. LOVE this quote (emphases mine):

“Gospel radicalism means being ‘rooted and built up in Christ, and firm in the faith’ (cf. Col 2:7). In the consecrated life, this means going to the very root of the love of Jesus Christ with an undivided heart, putting nothing ahead of this love (cf. St. Benedict, Rule, IV, 21) and being completely devoted to Him, the Bridegroom, as were the saints… Your lives must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter. … In a world of relativism and mediocrity, we need that radicalism to which your consecration, as a way of belonging to the God who is loved above all things, bears witness.”

– Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with Young Religious, 19 August 2011
Nuns at World Youth Day in Madrid

There were LOTS of young nuns at World Youth Day in Madrid!

  • More good news from the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, TN: 1 sister recently made final vows, 15 novices made first vows in July, 24 received the holy habit and began their novitiate (including a friend from my hometown, now Sr. Malia Grace!), and 16 new postulants entered in August. Deo gratias!
  • A spunky young blogger reflects on the journey that led her to enter the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, MI: “Why I’m Joining the Habit-Wearing, Rock Star Sisters” (Ha!) And just for the record, this is yet another proof that in the Young Catholic Church, “six degrees of separation” do not apply; it’s always more like one or two degrees. Exhibit A: Meris has just entered the same convent where a dear, dear friend of mine from college (Sr. Mary Martha!) just began her novitiate. Exhibit B: Meris’ high school friend, Brother James Claver, was a missionary with me in Honduras back in 2008. In both cases, it’s just one degree! Crazy!
  • Meris’ friend Carolina, who also entered the Sisters of Mary this fall, has shared a beautiful “glory story” on her blog about the generous donors who paid off her student loan debt so she could enter the convent. Praise God!
  • Clergy are ranked #1 on a list of the “Ten Happiest Jobs,” based on a survey conducted by the National Organization for Research at the University of Chicago. I always love to hear the clergy that I know describe their job as “being a happy priest!”
Happy Seminarians

Happy Seminarians. I have no idea who took this photo, but I just love it!

That’s all for now. Look for another I’m-so-excited-about-vocations! linkfest next week!

Charity

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Continued Prayers for Seminarian Philip Johnson

Some of you may remember my asking you to join me in praying the Immaculate Conception Novena for Philip Johnson, a seminarian with an inoperable brain tumor, back in December. In case you haven’t been keeping up with his blog, I thought I would let you know that Philip is still in need of our prayers. Due to the demands of his chemotherapy treatment, he did not return to seminary this semester and will instead continue his studies with a private tutor.

Philip is truly an extraordinary witness. Take a look at what he wrote about his call to the priesthood back in 2008:

“As I deal with a brain tumor, I am not sad that it may eventually cause me to suffer and die. …  The single worry I face every day is that because of various circumstances – some of which are beyond my control – I may never know what it is like to serve God as the alter Christus I desire with all my heart to be. It brings tears to my eyes to imagine departing this world without pronouncing the words of Christ at the Last Supper, ‘This is My Body; This is My Blood’ … I pray fervently that I may one day have the privilege of absolving sins… I offer my suffering from this illness for the intentions and sanctification of all bishops, priests, and religious, and for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.”

And when you’ve got a half-hour to spare, check out this video of a talk Philip gave to students at a Catholic school in Raleigh. Powerful stuff!

(HT to Fr. Z and my friends at The Catholic Underground)

Please join me in continuing to pray for Philip, particularly during the upcoming season of Lent. You can follow his blog at: philipgerardjohnson.blogspot.com

Mother Mary, be his comfort and his joy! Teach him how to suffer with Our Lord. Keep him always close to your Immaculate Heart!

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Vocation Stories: Fr. Juan, O.C.D.

Young Man Praying

(image source)

“It was as though something had taken hold of my heart, at once powerfully and lovingly, urging it to choose the priesthood in order to share with others the Good News of the love of God…”

My vocation story would not make much sense if I did not mention the transforming encounter with Christ that I experienced at age eighteen. At a moment in my life when I felt alone, unhappy, and unsatisfied with myself and with my life, I made a Cursillo retreat. There I experienced Christ as a real person who was alive, who knew me totally and loved me unconditionally. I understood that He was the answer to my deepest aspirations and desires. Only in Him could I fulfill the purpose for which God, in His love, had brought me into existence. After this experience, I resolved, with the help of the grace of God, to live according to His will, and I made a commitment to live a live of personal prayer, frequent reception of the sacraments, and service.

My call to religious life and to the priesthood did not emerge until months later. As I prayed before the Blessed Sacrament one afternoon, I asked Our Lord to show me what I ought to do with my life, which road He wanted me to take. I was a first-year university student, but still did not know what career to pursue. While I was praying, I saw the pastor of the church pass by as he prepared to celebrate Mass. I thought: “This man is so fortunate! He has no occupation, job or profession other than God and His work. What better cause is there to live and work for?”

At that moment, I felt a very strong attraction to the priesthood. It was a desire that did not come from me; it was as though something had taken hold of my heart, at once powerfully and lovingly, urging it to choose the priesthood in order to share with others the Good News of the love of God in Christ Jesus. This took me completely by surprise, since I had never before felt the desire to be a priest.

I felt stunned and excited at the same time. One part of me wanted to say “yes” immediately. Another part reasoned that these desires were merely the result of the powerful spiritual experience I’d had on my Cursillo retreat. Besides, I wasn’t holy enoughto be a priest! I thought about my weaknesses, the many ways in which I was inadequate, and other reasons why my sudden desire could not possibly be from God.

Other experiences followed which confirmed that God was truly calling me to the priesthood and to religious life. No longer doubtful, I went to the other extreme, wanting to know immediately the specific religious community that God was calling me to join… But there were so many religious orders! How was I going to find the right one? And so I proceeded to wear myself out going from one place to another, from one religious community to another, trying to discern and to find the place where I was being called, but with very little success.

During this process, I began getting to know the Discalced Carmelite Friars. I fell in love with their spirituality, and my spiritual life began to be guided and formed by it. Several years passed. I finished my degree at the university and landed a job as a teacher in a Catholic school, a job which I enjoyed very much. Nonetheless, I knew that God was calling me to religious life.

One day I decided to contact the vocations director of the Discalced Carmelites, Oklahoma Province. I had already contacted him years before, and he had invited me to visit them, but at the time I did not have the necessary funds to do so. This time, I was able to accept his invitation. I visited the friars at the Basilica of the Little Flower in San Antonio, Texas. While there, God allowed me to see in simple but clear ways that this was where He was calling me. I entered as a postulant in 2001.

I have now spent eight years as a Discalced Carmelite friar and a little less than two years as a priest, and I have no regrets. Quite the opposite; I feel very grateful. It has not always been an easy journey, but Jesus has always been faithful to me, even when I have not always been faithful to Him.

As a Discalced Carmelite, God calls me to a life of intimate, loving union with Him through contemplative prayer, following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every ministry I participate in must be the overflowingof this loving encounter with God. I give Him thanks for his mercy toward me, and I beg Him to give me the grace of fidelity and total self-giving, that I might follow Christ until the end, all the days of my life.

Fr. Juan, O.C.D., is a member of the Discalced Carmelite Friars, Province of St. Thérèse. He is currently studying Carmelite Spirituality in Ávila, Spain.

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Vocation stories from the Dominican Sisters of Mary

Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist 2010 Aspirants

Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist 2010 Aspirants (From the Sisters' Web site)

I was browsing the Web site of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, looking for a photo of a friend who entered that order last fall, when I saw that the Sisters have posted the vocation stories of all the aspirants (sisters in their first year of formation) who entered in 2010. What an inspiring group of girls! Just listen to these words from Sr. Hannah’s story:

“I came to understand in a very real way that God loved me more than I had ever comprehended. In realizing that, I recognized my call to a vocation of love. I longed to give my all to live for God, who so willingly gave all of Himself in the desire for my love. My fears and self-doubt have been replaced by peace and the desire to serve Him with all that I am.”

You can read all the girls’ vocation stories on the Sisters’ Web site, www.sistersofmary.org – and when you do, say a prayer for each of them!

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Nashville Dominicans on NPR, Sisters of Mary on Oprah (again!)

A couple of weeks ago, NPR profiled the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, better known as the “Nashville Dominicans.” This vibrant congregation is growing by leaps and bounds, and I’m always glad to see them getting positive attention from the media. Actually, the tone of the article is remarkably positive, which I suppose reflects the shared attitude of those lovely sisters. Take, for example, these wise words from Sister Beatrice Clark:

“The day-to-day is hard. … The day-to-day can be mundane in little stuff. But in the large choices, this [vocation] is the most freeing thing I could have chosen, because everything else would have been trying to find this — this defining relationship that would give value to everything.”

Read (or listen to) the whole story on NPR.org. For more information on the Nashville Dominicans, visit their Web site: http://nashvilledominican.org

And in case you didn’t hear, another flourishing order, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, recently appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show for the second time. You can watch clips of that episode here and segments of their first appearance (in February 2010) on YouTube. I’ve posted one segment below. (Parts of the video are a little jumbled, but I suppose that can’t be helped.)

For more information on the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, visit their Web site: http://www.sistersofmary.org

God bless you, sisters, for your joyful, courageous witness!

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An Unlikely Vocation: Tessa Dahl Enters Benedictine Convent

Recovering addict and former British socialite Tessa Dahl, daughter of the celebrated children’s author Roald Dahl, plans to live out the rest of her days in an abbey of Benedictine nuns. What a testament to the power of God’s love and mercy!

I’ve enjoyed Roald Dahl’s books since I was a child, but when I re-read them recently, I noticed that they don’t have quite as much substance as I once thought they did. They’re imaginative and whimsical and a whole lot of fun to read (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory being the best of the lot, in my opinion), but they’re also a bit… gruesome and dark, and with the exception of Charlie, they lack the sense of redemption that I consider necessary to make a children’s book “good.”

Reading the story of Tessa Dahl’s life, I realized that it should come as no surprise that her father’s books lack any sort of redemptive message – his personal life was a wreck! And sadly, he didn’t do much of anything to help his daughter find the inner peace she sought so desperately. Praise God, Tessa’s had an experience with grace, and the good Benedictine sisters have graciously taken her in as a late-life vocation.

Naturally, many are skeptical of Tessa’s sudden turnaround, but her words in the Daily Mail interview sound sincere enough to me:

“Monastic life is about discipline. I am excused Matins, but each time the bell rings during the day, I join [the sisters], starting with Mass at 8am. I have to show up for everything on time, including meals. … I’m not up to working in the fields because I have two herniated discs and I suffer from colitis. But I help the Lady Abbess clean the chapel with a mop and a pail. This is saving my life.”

(HT to Maggie)

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100 Years in the Priesthood

Twin priests in Argentina will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their ordination on December 18, ZENIT reports. When asked what inspired them to pursue vocations to the priesthood, the brothers cited several key influences: the example of a “self-surrendered, generous, and always cheerful priest” whom they knew as a child, a personal invitation (from a different priest) to enter seminary and discern a priestly vocation, and the prayers and faith of their mother.

“Once we had been ordained priests, we learned that our mother, in the midst of her bereavement at the loss of her daughters [who died in infancy], had said: ‘If God gives me sons, I will consecrate them to become priests.'”

The brothers also offered the following advice to young people discerning their vocation:

“They should believe that the Lord will not fail; He is always faithful! He does not abandon the task He has undertaken. We, poor sinners, can fail, but Jesus does not withdraw His love.”

Get the whole story on ZENIT.org.

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Chiara Badano Beatified 20 Years after Her Death

Bl. Chiara "Luce" Badano

Blessed Chiara, pray for us!

Chiara “Luce” Badano was born in Italy in 1971, to devout parents who had waited 11 years to welcome their first and only child. From a young age, she was active in the Focolare Movement, and her joyful witness earned her the nickname “Luce” (Light).

As early as age 12, Chiara expressed a desire to give herself totally to Jesus, to take Him her spouse — and she set out to “give Him to others” in the ordinariness of her daily life. Full of zeal for God and souls, Chiara was eager to reach the heights of holiness — never guessing that her opportunity to be united to Christ would come much sooner than she expected.

At age 17, Chiara was diagnosed with bone cancer, and an unsuccessful surgery left her paralyzed from the waist down — but this did not dampen her spirits. Throughout her excruciating illness, Chiara remained cheerful and offered up her suffering for souls, even refusing morphine because she wished to remain alert and to offer her pain to Jesus. She often said, “It’s for you, Jesus; if you want it, I want it too.”

Chiara died in 1990 at age 19. Her last words to her family were, “Be happy, because I am happy!” This weekend she was proclaimed “blessed,” and her very proud parents were present at her beatification.

Read more on Zenit.org.

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Vocation Stories: Fr. Timothy

“Our Lady had indeed shown me my path to holiness.”

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Growing up in a faithful Catholic family, learning the Rosary from my parents and even praying it daily as a teenager, I was given the grace quite young to realize how much we are all indebted to God. Thanks to the encouragement of family and friends to consider a vocation, the inspiration of certain Scripture passages, and the examples of various priests, to me the priesthood always seemed to be a sure path to holiness.

During my college years, my faith in the Eucharist grew as I frequently attended daily Mass. In my senior year, I really only considered two options for my future: graduate school in chemistry (a wide open path), or pursuit of a priestly vocation.

The Holy Spirit convicted me, with time, that I had to consider the diocesan priesthood. It was not that I knew I was supposed to be a priest and therefore that I needed to go to seminary. I knew I needed to go to seminary simply because I thought I might be called to the priesthood.

I can only credit my application and acceptance to seminary to an invitation for a summer job extended by my diocese, and to the hidden work of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. To all men who may be discerning a priestly vocation, I will repeat what countless others have said: stay close to our Blessed Mother. I am convinced she inspired me to accept the possibility that I might be called to the priesthood and to make the decision to go to seminary.

It was during my years of seminary formation that I became certain that God was indeed calling me to the priesthood. Second thoughts about graduate school or religious life never troubled me, nor was I conflicted about the call to celibacy as a prerequisite for ordination. What caused me to hesitate about my vocation was my growing awareness of the great responsibilities of the priesthood.

The fear of “the unknown” that could await a person in his vocation can, at times, be overwhelming. The insistence, however, that God’s grace would be sufficient was clear enough in the message of my seminary formators and in Sacred Scripture. For each scenario that I could imagine as a reason why the priesthood might not be for me, my rationale ended up being that I didn’t know if I could sacrifice enough, if I could be humble enough or holy enough.

Answering that question became easier as it became more difficult to come up with excuses. How do you respond if you’re asked whether you want be holy? Thus, in the matter of my preparedness for the priesthood, I began to defer to the judgment of the seminary, and to the intercession of Mary.

The Blessed Virgin’s presence in my life had grown since my personal consecration to her, which I had made in my first year of seminary. By this point, the Blessed Mother and the Church had become so united in my understanding that I could not say “no” to one, without saying “no” to the other. If the bishop was the Church’s true representative in his desire to have me as a priest, then I figured that Our Lady had indeed shown me my path to holiness. I was ordained on May 30, 2009.

Fr. Timothy recently began his second year as parochial vicar at two parishes and as chaplain and part-time teacher at a small Catholic high school. He continues to be amused by the fact that his students are more impressed by his juggling skills than by his two masters degrees in theology or his knowledge of biblical Greek.

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