Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Vocational Discernment 101

Just last night I was having a conversation about vocations discernment in which I recalled the words of Matt Maher during a concert at Franciscan University ten years ago. He said, "Sometimes people make finding their vocation their god." It becomes this all-encompassing thing to obsess over and spend every waking moment contemplating.

Exhibit A: "An attractive guy/girl sat in front me during Mass today. Maybe I'm called to marriage! Or, maybe it was an invitation from God to give up this good for the greater good of priesthood/religious life."

So, it was rather good timing that The Culture Project reposted an article from July entitled, "Your Vocation is Not About You." Benjamin Mann has some thought-provoking insights into how we view our vocation (whether in the future or the present).
Our expectations are wrong. Consciously or not, we sometimes expect a vocation to solve all of our problems, answer all of our questions, and satisfy all of our desires. But these are not the purposes of a vocation. Discernment, likewise, does not consist in finding the choice that will meet those expectations.

Your vocation will not live up to these unrealistic hopes. Nothing in this world will answer all your questions, solve all your problems, or satisfy all your desires. These are impossible, immature ambitions, and the spiritual life consists largely in realizing that they are impossible and immature.

The purpose of life is the unitive devotional service of God, which includes the love of our neighbor (in whom God dwells). This is the real purpose of any vocation. Some forms of life, such as monasticism, are ordered directly to this end; other states of life are oriented toward it indirectly. But these are only different versions of the one human vocation: to love and serve God, and become one with him in Christ.

A vocation – any vocation – is a school of charity and a means of crucifixion. Your vocation is the means by which your self-serving ego will die in order to be resurrected as the servant and lover of God. This is all that we can expect; but this is everything – the meaning of life, all there really is.

My vocation is where I will learn to let go of my questions, carry the cross of my problems, and be mysteriously fulfilled even when I am not happy. We have some choice as to how we will undergo that process; we do not – so long as we abide in the grace of God – get to choose whether we will undergo it.

Read it all here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A most succinct summary of the human person

When the hundreds of pages of Theology of the Body need to be summarized in a minute or two, it's difficult to know what to say.  How to say enough without saying too much?

In the current issue of the "National Catholic Register," Katie van Schaijik fulfilled the task admirably.

To be a human person is to be made in the image and likeness of God. It is to be absolutely unique and unrepeatable. It is to exist from love and for love, with others and for others. It is to be embodied, incomplete and in need. It is to be called to a life-giving union and communion with God and others — or, with God through others.

Read more of her thoughts on "Personalism and Pope Francis" and the recent Synod at  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Forgetting Jerusalem

Have you heard what happened in Jerusalem yesterday?  Perhaps you have not.  It is likely that you know that the "first openly gay NBA player is retiring" or that Buffalo has six feet of snow.  But Jerusalem?

I came across too references to "something" happening in Jerusalem on Catholic news, so I figured it must be a big deal.  A quick check of Google News came up empty.  But tomorrow, President Obama will be making a speech, and a Bill Cosby show might not air due to allegations he is facing ...

I checked a couple of other national news sites.  Nothing on Jerusalem.  But a baby with four arms and four legs is attracting interest in India and "Transgender People Push for Greater Acceptance" ...

So, back to Google News I went, thinking that whatever cryptic references to Jerusalem I heard must have been misunderstood.  This time I typed "Jerusalem" in the search bar.  And then I saw the news.

This morning in Jerusalem two Palestinians, armed with butcher knives and a rifle, entered a synagogue and brutally killed five men, including four rabbis.  

In the heart of the Jewish faith -- Jerusalem -- in the location they hold so dear -- a synagogue -- four leaders of the Jewish faith -- rabbis -- were attacked.  

And here in the United States, we barely heard a whisper.  Sure, it probably was a top story when it first happened, but after a few moments, more important things took the stage ... like Disney's new "Cinderella."

News is now entertainment.  We need to know what the latest celebrity kerfuffle is, but all of the injustices to human dignity and attacks on religious liberty and atrocious treatment of men, women and children around the globe?  Well, those only merit attention if they drive ratings and spike website visitor counts.  

Why aren't we stopping to mourn the loss of life in a synagogue in Jerusalem today?  Why aren't we praying for our Jewish brothers and sisters who, whether or not they were physically present in the synagogue during the attack, were attacked today?  

If you did not know about the attack in the Holy Land today, I hope you'll take a few minutes to read the story and to pray for those killed, those present and for all Jewish people.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Vatican conference from the comfort of your home

It isn't too often one has the opportunity to partake in a Vatican conference.  Fortunately, the event occurring right now -- the Humanum conference focusing on the complementarity of men and women -- is open to all of us.  The conference features the presentation of short films on a number of topics, followed by live witnesses and brief presentations from people of various faiths.  The short films and the presentations are available on the Humanum website and are being posted soon after they occur live in Rome.

Be sure to take a look ... and to be truly authentic, perhaps you'd like to watch with a cappuccino or gelato in hand.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Quote book

"We are led to believe that success in life lies primarily in our being able to bring credentials, and yet, who would dream of saying to another person: ‘I love you because you are the most efficient secretary I have met in my life,’ or because ‘you are the teacher who best organizes the material.’ Love is not concerned with a person’s accomplishments, it is a response to a person’s being: This is why a typical word of love is to say: I love you, because you are as you are."
-- Dietrich Von Hildebrand

Friday, November 14, 2014

What do you know about China's one child policy?

I frequently hear people dismiss China's one child policy as something that is in the past.  They talk of it as if it's no big deal.  An entire nation forcing its women to be injected with Depo Provera or to have babies aborted all the way up to nine months of pregnancy is tragic, inhumane and something we cannot continue ignoring.  

In college, I was able to read "A Mother's Ordeal: One Woman's Fight Against China's One Child Policy," which I would recommend to anyone who would like to know what the "policy" is really like.  It reads like a novel, but it is tragically non-fiction.  

Rep. Chris Smith, who has long fought for the rights of the Chinese people, recently wrote about current United States legislative efforts to fight the one-child policy, which he describes in part as:

For more than three decades, most brothers and sisters have been illegal. And the price for failing to conform to the limit of one child per couple is staggering. A Chinese woman who becomes pregnant without a government permit will be put under mind-bending pressure to abort. She knows that “out-of-plan” illegal children are denied education, health care, and marriage, and that fines for bearing a child without a birth permit can be ten times the average annual income of two parents. Families who can’t or won’t pay are jailed, or their homes are smashed.

If the brave woman still refuses to submit, she may be held in a punishment cell. If she flees, her relatives may be held and, very often, beaten. Group punishments will be used to socially ostracize her. Often, her colleagues and neighbors will be denied birth permits. If the woman is, by some miracle, still able to resist this pressure, she may be physically dragged to the operating table and forced to undergo an abortion.

The result of this policy is a nightmarish “brave new world” with no precedent in human history, where women are psychologically wounded, girls are the victims of sex-selective abortion, and children grow up without brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, or cousins. The United States government must take active steps to fight this atrocity.
Rep. Smith goes on to outline his efforts in Congress currently, as well as the support for the one-child policy given by the current administration (and, by extension, our taxes).  It's important to read and to know what is happening in China. 

It's not just China, however, that is choosing who should have children and how many.  Kenyan bishops recently drew attention to a puzzling tetanus vaccine campaign in their country (emphasis added):

According to reports from CISA agency in Nairobi, during a press conference in Nairobi, His Exc. Mgr. Paul Kariuki Njiru, Bishop of Embu and Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Catholic Health Commission of Kenya, questioned why the national tetanus campaign is aimed at girls and women aged between 14 to 49, excluding girls under the age of 13, in addition to the male population. Mgr. Kariuki Njiru reported the church had conducted laboratory tests on the vaccine used in the Tetanus campaign of March 2014 and found out that it contained the Beta HCG sub unit. HCG according to the findings is necessary for pregnancy. This substance, combined with the tetanus vaccine, actually becomes a vaccine against pregnancy. A similar methodology was used in previous tetanus campaigns in the Philippines, Nicaragua and Mexico.
This morning, I learned that in India this week ten women died and dozens more were critically injured during a government-sponsored sterilization campaign.  The women were pressured by the promise of $23 if they agreed to be sterilized.  The medical conditions were unsanitary, rushed and not remotely patient-centered.  And women died.

Why don't we hear more about this very real "war on women?"  Why instead are we as a nation concerned with who is going to pay for women's birth control pills, when women around the world are being mutilated and their children destroyed?  We have been silent for years as families suffer.  We turn a blind eye rather than learn what is really occurring.  It's uncomfortable to know.  But we really must ask what is really happening in China, India, Kenya and other nations.  And then we must ask what we can do to stop it.