Listening to the Call of God
Vocations are about celebrating and using our different gifts, talents in order to live and proclaim the Joy of the Gospel.
Pope Francis shares that "the Lord gives each of us a vocation, a challenge to discover the talents and abilities we possess and to put them at the service of others." He further encourages us to "join in prayer and ask the Lord to help us discover his plan of love for our lives, and to grant us the courage to walk in the path that, from the beginning, he has chosen for each of us."
People of God from the Catholic Diocese of Auckland share their reflections on their response to God's call.
For Catholics marriage is a Christian vocation. The Church teaches that the couple’s relationship is more than simply their choice to enter a union which is a social and legal institution. In addition to these things, marriage involves a call from God and a response from two people who promise to build, with the help of God, a lifelong, intimate and sacramental partnership of love and life. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis writes:
Marriage is a vocation, in as much as it is a response to a specific call to experience conjugal love as an imperfect sign of the love between Christ and the Church. Consequently, the decision to marry and to have a family ought to be the fruit of a process of vocational discernment (no. 72).
The Second Vatican Council teaches that “all Christians in whatever state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity” (Constitution on the Church, n. 40). The call to marriage is a particular way of living the universal call to holiness given to every Christian in the Sacrament of Baptism. The calls to priesthood or to the vowed religious life are other Christian vocations (see St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, no. 11). Along with marriage, all of them equally though in different ways, are a response to the Lord who says, “Follow me.”
The call to love is “the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.” In the vocation of marriage – something which “is written in the very nature of man and woman,” we see that “the love of husband and wife becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1603 and 1604).
A vocation is a personal call. It is offered freely and must be accepted freely. Attraction to a certain way of life or to a specific person can be a good sign of being called. Most often a person comes to recognize and accept a vocation gradually. This process, sometimes called discernment, is an opportunity for growth. It can be helped by prayer and guidance from trusted mentors, friends and family.What begins as attraction must deepen into conviction and commitment. Those who are called to the married life should be ready to learn what their vocation means and to acquire the virtues and skills needed for a happy and holy marriage.
The vocation to marriage is a call to a life of holiness and service within the couple’s own relationship and in their family. As a particular way of following the Lord, this vocation also challenges a couple to live their marriage in a way that expresses God’s truth and love in the world.
Nuns, brothers, priests, monks, religious priests. All the same but different so...
What is a religious?
A religious is an ordinary man or a woman who has given their life to God in the service of others. They live, pray, and work in community according to the guidance of their particular religious congregation.
Their choice of ministry is dependant on how the congregation sees it's response to the needs of the world, a prayerful discernment of their own gifts, and an assessment with their community of the signs of the times. A religious and their community together look at how they might live and proclaim the Joy of the Gospel to determine where best to place their energies.
Making a decision about the religious life is a process of discovering, with the help of the Holy Spirit, what God’s will is. Spiritual directors call it ‘discernment’. As an individual works through this process, they are in dialogue with two persons – themselves and God Hopefully during the process the seeker will have confirmed that they themselves and God ultimately desire the same thing - happiness. As an individual strives to make an intelligent and informed decision, God is with them.
How one actually becomes a religious varies according to the practices and traditions of the religious congregation the individual feels most at home with and that they suspect they might be called to belong to.
Acquaintance: An interested individual will know religious and might start by visiting their community, getting to know them, hanging about with them and maybe getting involved in their ministry if they are not already.
Application: After a process of self reflection, a formal application period might occur which could include: interview, physical and psychological tests, and gathering input from reference which helps both the individual and the community to further discern whether they are called to join that community.
Postulancy: This is sometimes called by other names such as pre-novitiate but it is a time to live the life of a religious, enter more deeply into prayer and further discern the call.
Novitiate: For most religious congregations there is a formal period of up to two years that are used as a time for more intense discernment, study, and preparation for first Vows. This often occurs at a particular place referred to as a novitiate.
First, Simple or Temporary Profession: (What they are called depends on the congregation). If the individual and the community discern that the novice is ready to enter fully into the life of the congregation, they invited to make their First Profession.
Final Profession: Three to five later, when the religious and the community discern that they are ready, the religious makes Final Profession. This means they commit themselves to God and the order forever.
Discerning a Vocation to the Priesthood
A man who is serious about discerning his true vocation needs to begin with prayer. Prayer is the only way to discover what God has planned for us. It is impossible to know God’s plan without prayer.
Ask others to pray for you as the power of prayer cannot be over-estimated.
When the time comes that one needs to seek some advice, contact the Vocations Director: Fr Sherwin Lapaan, Make arrangements to have a chat. No one can discern ones vocation without the assistance of other people. The Vocations Director offers support, answers questions and assists in discerning God’s call.
Go to the Vocations Website: aucklandpriests.org.nz
Meet with a Spiritual Director regularly. If you need assistance finding a Spiritual Director, contact the diocesan Vocations Director. Your Spiritual Director will assist you in discerning what vocation God is calling you to.
Meet with your parish priest. Let him know what your hopes and dreams are. Ask him questions about the priesthood. Take the opportunity to meet other priests in the Diocese and get to know them. Ask them to tell you about their call to the priesthood. Each priest has a unique call from God.
Become actively involved in your parish. Offer your assistance to your parish priest, to help out in some kind of ministry. For example, assist with the Youth Group or caring and liturgical activities in the parish. It is said that a man called to diocesan priesthood normally finds himself attracted to parish life. God often speaks through others. People, parishioners, friends, family members, the parish priest may have encouraging words. God often speaks through others, to encourage and reinforce a vocation. Hearing others talk about their calling to the priesthood or religious life may provide the inspiration to explore the possibility for oneself.
Learn about the diocesan priesthood by reading good and accurate information, so you become well informed. Discover what the Church and the saints have to say about the priesthood. One suggested book “To Save a Thousand Souls” by Fr Brett A. Brannen.
A TV show, a movie, an interesting book, the lives of the saints, joy and or tragedy may open a pathway to begin discerning a vocation to the priesthood. The death of a loved one or an event in your life which has changed or moved you, may highlight a change in your thinking, that perhaps you are being called to do something extra ordinary, a vocation to the Priesthood.
A call may happen over a period of time. One may become aware of God’s call to something which may or may not seem comfortable. This may not be part of one’s plan for the future.
A calling may start off as a feeling or a desire which over time may get stronger and stronger and continue to persist.
Against huge odds
Some men have been called to the priesthood against huge odds and opposition. A calling does need to be tested in order to discern that this is a genuine call from God.
Call to holiness
A desire to be holy and striving to live a life of virtue are healthy signs for a man discerning a call to the priesthood.
Initiative and risk
A man discerning his vocation needs to be driven, he can’t be lukewarm. He needs to be motivated and determined, and willing to take the initiative to test his calling. A motivated man who is willing, keen and determined are healthy signs of a call to the priesthood.
God calls men of different ages, abilities and talents to the priesthood. It takes courage to respond to God’s invitation. It is about taking a risk and trusting in the Lord to believe in his call. God can’t drive your car, send an email or call you up on the phone. It is up to you to respond, discover, search, question and particularly pray that you may learn what your vocation for life will be.
Order of Deacons
There are Permanent Deacons, usually married men who remain deacons for life, unlike those that are ordained Transitional Deacons. Transitional Deacons who are studying for the priesthood and the diaconate is a step on the way towards ordination to priesthood.
The ministry of the Deacon is one of service and charity, of witness and proclaiming the Good News, and of leadership in prayer and liturgy. The Deacon is committed to the Bishop and the local Church through ordination. His ministry is established to reflect the ministry of Christ, so that strengthened and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he serves and enables others to serve and thus become actively involved in the faith community.
At Mass, the deacon is the ordinary minister of the proclamation of the Gospel. In fact, a priest, bishop, or even the Pope should not proclaim the Gospel if a deacon is present.
The Permanent Diaconate was introduced to the Auckland Diocese in 2009 by Bishop Patrick Dunn and 14 men were ordained in 2012 after three and a half years’ formation. Other permanent deacons minister in the diocese who were ordained overseas.
The Deacon Co- Ordinator is Deacon Mark Riverland.