“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Is. 43:1-2
Last week I introduced the idea of a personal vocation as presented by Fr. Herbert Alphonso. The heart of this call is rooted in the radically unique way in which God both created and relates to each of us. In the words of Fr. Alphonso: “This reality I may certainly characterize as my ‘personal identity,’ or my ‘personal orientation in life.’ or my most profound and true ‘self.’”
As an example of this, in his book, “Discovering Your Personal Vocation,” Fr. Alphonso describes an experience with a brother Jesuit, a friend, whom he knew well. His friend shared with him that he had long since fallen away from the practice of prayer. On the infrequent occasions in which he tried to pray, he felt himself “present only bodily, materially.”
Fr. Alphonso responded: “Tell me, have you at any time in your life felt spontaneously close to God?” His friend responded quickly, indicating that this occurred every time he reflected on God’s goodness to him. As you might suspect, Fr. Alphonso asked if he had ever spent time praying over that experience of God’s closeness. Somewhat surprised and a bit defensively, his friend responded that he had not and that such a simple theme could not hold his attention for long.
Fr. Alphonso suggested that, since he had never done so, it might be worth a try. His friend agreed and left. Three weeks had passed when his friend returned and enthusiastically shared the good news that he found himself constantly able to pray, meditating upon and responding to God’s goodness.
Though three weeks of solid prayer is not insignificant, anyone who has seriously undertaken the spiritual life knows that it is far from indicative of a complete conversion and a new dedication. However, this change in his friend was sustained as he continued to center his prayer upon God’s goodness such that, five months following their initial conversation, the two found themselves discussing this theme once again.
Fr. Alphonso shares that his friend, “began to share in touching depth all that the goodness of God had come to mean for him: not merely the secret of his prayer, but the secret of his apostolate as well, of all his relationships within and outside his Jesuit community, indeed of his relaxation and recreation.”
The idea of the personal vocation is more than a concrete expression of one’s identity in relation to God. It is even more than a focal point of prayer. The personal vocation is a source of integration, meaning, and discernment—themes upon which we will discuss after our upcoming celebration of Thanksgiving.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!