An Invitation to Enter His Joy
May 2012 — Vol. 1, Issue 7
Fr. Jim Gallagher, C.S.C.
Do you consider the call to the religious life or priesthood as a gift or a burden?
Since I was young there was a voice in the back of my mind that indicated a possible call to the priesthood. One of the things that held me back from paying much attention to that voice was the fact that the call seemed to be something that was being imposed on me.
It wasn’t something that I wanted; it was something that God wanted, something that He was asking me to do for Him. Of course, I was open to a vocation since it is pretty bold to tell God that you are not going to do what is asked of you. Yet it was a big ask. It is a big sacrifice to offer the whole of one’s life in service to the Church. So for many years I resisted the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood because I was putting off shouldering the burden that the Lord was offering.
Thankfully, along the way, my understanding of God’s call was reshaped. When I entered the Holy Cross Candidate Program, it was still not completely something I wanted. I was open to where it might lead, yet in my mind I was heading in this direction because it was something that the Lord wanted me to do. In time, though, I began to realize exactly why God was calling me to the priesthood.
God’s call was less of a demand and more of an invitation. The call was coming because the Good Lord knew me through and through. He knew what my skills and abilities are. He knew what I needed to grow in holiness. He knew where I might develop in the potential that He placed in me, and He was inviting me into a life where all of this would bear fruit. He called because He knew where my greatest joy would be and where I would be at the greatest service to the needs of the Church and the world.
Recently Msgr. Stephen Rossetti of the Diocese of Syracuse did a study on the happiness of priests. He found that priests had a higher rate of happiness than the general U.S. population. He reports:
The findings are strong, replicable, and consistent: priests, as a group, are very happy men. They like the priesthood. They are committed to it. They find much satisfaction in their lives and ministries. In fact, the satisfaction rates of priests are among the highest of any way of life or vocation in the United States. (Rossetti, Why Priests are Happy, p. 10)
One of the things that I found most interesting about the results of his study is that a large number of these same priests felt that they had an overwhelming amount of work to do. Yet even with the great amount of work on their plate, they were satisfied with their life.
This might seem counterintuitive to a popular culture that leads us to believe that we will be happiest when we have a life of luxury and ease. Yet the reality is that our greatest joys are not going to come from the material world. Our greatest joys will come through our participation in the mystery of the Kingdom of God.
In seeking out one’s vocation, whether it is to the religious life, priesthood, married life, or single life, we turn to the Lord and ask how we might use the life that has been given to us to participate most effectively in His Kingdom. Our call then is the Lord’s invitation for us to enter into His joy. It is one of the great gifts that He offers to us. Yet for us to receive it well, we must first come to recognize it as a gift.
Prayer from the Tradition
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