An Invitation to be Fully Alive
October 2012 — Vol. 2, Issue 3
Fr. Drew Gawrych, C.S.C.
“Every man dies, but not every man truly lives.” That’s the great line at the end of Braveheart. Every single one of us is going to die. That’s not a question. The question, instead, is whether or not we are going to truly live.
What does it mean to truly and fully live? Well, we can start by saying what it is not. It is not living on the edge – bunging jumping, cliff diving, mountain climbing, etc. – no matter how exhilarating those things may be. To be truly alive is to be a saint. As St. Iraneaus said – and he was a saint, so he knows firsthand – “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” And what is the glory of God but His saints, the holy men and women who have followed Him and given their lives to Him?
So how do we become saints? Our vocations! God is calling all of us to holiness. It is a universal call, but our vocations are how God is calling us personally to holiness. They are how God is personally inviting us to come fully alive!
Our vocations are essential to our coming fully alive because there are two tombs that easily trap us and prevent us from being fully alive.
The first is the tomb of the false self. We become buried in this tomb when we buy into what others and the world say about us. We let them define us and who we are, rather than being who we believe ourselves to truly be. And if we are not our true selves, there is no way we can be fully alive.
The second is the tomb of our own individual lives. When we just live for ourselves, life is cramped. There is no prison – no grave – smaller than that of our own lives. Life becomes exciting when we live for others. That is when the adventure starts. If we are just living for ourselves, our lives are small, and we are not experiencing the fullness of life.
First, our vocations draw out our true selves. I grew up wanting to be married and have a family. I believed it would be the greatest dream of my life, yet this call to priesthood would not go away so I entered the seminary. I was surprised how my real self, my true self emerged during the seminary in ways I had never foreseen, and now I am so alive as a priest because it is who God made and shaped me to be. Yet we do not often think of our vocations this way. We usually see them as being something God imposes on us, rather than something that wells up from within us and is the truest part of ourselves. Yet that is what they are!
Second, our vocations draw us out of ourselves. Being a priest has been the most demanding thing I have ever done. It has forced me to live for others, even when I do not feel that I want to, such as answering a sick call in the evening or when I had other plans. That is similar to young parents waking up at night for their crying baby. It does drain us, but it also gives us life in a way we have never experienced before, because we are living for others and drawn out of our own little lives. Unlike our world that says commitments are stifling and cramp our style, the responsibilities our vocations give us to others are what help us get over ourselves and out of ourselves in ways that draw us into real life.
So are we going to truly live? God is offering us our vocations so that the answer to that question will be yes – for all eternity.
Prayer from the Tradition
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