Answering the Tough Questions
October 2013 — Vol. 3, Issue 3
The other day a high school student asked me if we could do an interview for a paper on the topic of vocations. Always happy to talk about vocations, I agreed. It was going along quite well when suddenly I was faced with one, and then another, question that I was not quite sure how to answer; I found myself stumped for the first time in quite a while.
The first stumper was a question about what I liked the most about being a Holy Cross priest. Now I have never been very good with the “what is your favorite…” type of questions. Though, in the moment, I am often able to come up with something that I prefer. Yet in this moment, I was stuck. It was not because I could not think of something that I liked about my life, it was because I could not sort through all of the goods fast enough to isolate just one. No one thing was rising to the surface.
I could have talked about the joy of being a part of a great band of men who have done wonderful things in service of the Church, here in the United States, and around the world. In this community I have been given great models of lives poured out in service, and lived in fidelity to the vows we have taken. In this community there are men that I know so well and care for so deeply that they have truly become my brothers. They continually challenge me to grow and develop while at the same time offer me a comfortable environment where I can be myself. Living as a part of this community is definitely a great aspect of my life.
Yet, are the blessings of this brotherhood greater than the reality that my life in Holy Cross offers me wonderful ways to serve the Church and the world? In this life there are opportunities to enter into the day-to-day life of the people of God, and to stand as a witness to the reality that God is with us in all our joys and our sorrows. Parish life yields these moments daily, and mission work offers them even more profoundly. As well there are the opportunities to work alongside the students and faculty in our colleges and universities as they seek to grow in wisdom and understanding. Here we are able to bear witness to the indispensable role of Truth incarnate in the academic endeavor. So many are the ways that we are able to bear witness to Christ in our mission around the world that I have no fear of ever running out of meaningful work to do. This too is wonderful.
Though is it more wonderful than the fact that my life serves to draw me deeper and deeper into the great mystery of God’s saving grace at work in the world? Through constant celebration of the sacraments, regular reflection on the scriptures, and the continual encounter with the human thirst for love, I have the opportunity daily to engage the most important realities of human life.
However, these things are just the tip of the iceberg, there is a great deal about my life for which I am grateful. To single out just one aspect is to short change the great grace that comes through them all.
Then there was the second stumper – what was it that I liked the least about my life as a priest in Holy Cross? Admittedly there are challenges and difficult aspects of my life, but again nothing surfaced that I could quickly offer as that which I would want to remove from my life.
There are challenges, frustrations and sacrifices involved in my life. Yet to remove any one of them would also potentially remove a source of great grace. There are the challenges of striving to live well the religious life among a community of imperfect individuals; though it is there that I am challenged to grow in patience, compassion and understanding. There are the frustrations of facing the many difficult aspects of our broken human life while not having all of the answers or solutions; yet it is there that I am pressed to trust more fully in the Lord as well as to become more aware of our deep need for His saving grace. Personally, the never-ending composition of homilies can be quite trying; but in this too I am continually pushed past my comfort zone to daily encounter Christ in the scriptures and consider how He is at work in our day-to-day lives. It is a discipline well worth undertaking.
I could go on about the challenges of my life in Holy Cross, yet with each challenge comes the hope of growth in God’s grace as I stand firm in my vocation. The Constitutions of Holy Cross speak of the reality that if we shirk the cross, then gone too will be our hope. It is in fidelity to our vows, our vocation, that we will find the dying and the rising equally assured. (8:121)
My thanks goes out to the high school student, who through a couple stumper questions, helped me to reflect on my life and recognize once again that the Lord has indeed given me a wonderful vocation.
Prayer from the Tradition
For Spiritual Discernment
From St. Benedict
Gracious and holy Father,
please give me intellect to understand you,
reason to discern you,
diligence to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
a spirit to know you,
a heart to meditate upon you,
ears to hear you,
eyes to see you,
a tongue to proclaim you,
a way of life pleasing to you,
patience to wait for you,
and perseverance to look for you.
Grant me a perfect end,
your holy presence,
a blessed resurrection,
and life everlasting.
Enter your email address to receive our monthly discernment e-newsletter: