In our diocese, we are privileged to have our own College Seminary—Bishop White. Unlike other seminaries that have a variety of full-time staff serving as vocation directors, formation advisors, teachers, etc., our local seminary is staffed largely by volunteer adjunct staff. Priests and lay people throughout the diocese volunteer to serve in one capacity or another, which allows us to continue the mission of our own local seminary.
A little over two years ago, I was asked to serve as one of these volunteers. Shortly thereafter, the bishop invited all those serving in the seminary to consider joining a three-year training program for Seminary Spiritual Directors held at the University of St. Mary in Mundelien, IL. After prayer and reflection, I accepted the invitation, beginning the program last May. It has been excellent and I look forward to sharing the fruits of this experience, not only with our local seminary but with our community here in Walla Walla.
To that end, I want to introduce to you a little book which we were asked to read as part of our program. It is called “Discovering Your Personal Vocation,” by Fr. Herbert Alphonso, S.J. When we hear the word “vocation,” we immediately tend to think of either secular professions or vocations such as marriage, holy orders, and religious life. These familiar kinds of vocations are not the theme of Fr. Alphonso’s book.
Fr. Alphonso suggests that the above-named vocations are, in some sense, generic. Over the years, countless people will be called to enter marriage, the priesthood, or any other well-known vocation. However, he suggests that in addition to these broader vocations, there is a truly personal vocation for each of us.
This uniquely personal vocation is not a call to action—a specific way to serve God in this world. Rather, it is an individual call to us as a person, a unique self. It is our name—that is, not our given name, but the one by which God knows us—the name which corresponds to our singular identity, our truest and deepest self.
This theme is present throughout the scriptures. It begins in Genesis when every creature is brought to Adam to receive a name. It is not a random conglomeration of sound, but a word which somehow corresponds to each creature’s individual nature. We see it when God imparts a new name to Abram, Solomon, and Simon. Elsewhere, the prophets promise a new name to God’s faithful and, in Revelation, the Spirit says: “To the victor I shall give some of the hidden manna; I shall also give a white amulet upon which is inscribed a new name, which no one knows except the one who receives it.”
This is the idea of a PERSONAL vocation, how God “speaks” to us, and we will spend the next few weeks reflecting on this “call. ”
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!