By Fr. Steve DeMaio, SDB, Province Vocation Director
Jesus calls us to Himself.
He gives us His life.
He sends us on mission.
This should really be the daily experience of every Christian. God calls us to Himself every morning and throughout the day, we receive the grace we need for the journey, and then we are sent into the world to give witness to this encounter. Vocation is a calling, but a calling without a response is useless. We can’t remain stagnant in our listening. According to Pope Francis, we must live with our hearts on fire and feet on the move because there is “no vocation without mission.”
Pope Francis continues in his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations that “we were created by love, for love, and with love, and we are made to love.” It is here where we find the recipe for vocation animation. All of the events, promotional material, and well-developed plans fall short if there isn’t a daily encounter with God, which is both a call and a response. Vocation Awareness Week is November 5-11, and it’s a good moment to think about where we are personally and as a province when it comes to our friendship with God. How well are we listening, how much are we receiving, and how radically are we responding?
We need a simpler life.
Less things. Less ego.
More encounters with the poor.
More gift of self.
Pope Francis goes on to write that “God’s call to the gift of self tends to make itself known gradually: in our encounter with situations of poverty, in moments of prayer, when we see a clear witness to the Gospel, or read something that opens our minds.” Our vocation is not a moment in time but a life-long journey.
We must walk patiently, but always with a clear understanding of where we are going. The hardest part about working in vocation animation for me these past two years has been feeling like a used car salesman. It’s been like trying to sell somebody something that you don’t seem to want at times or pitching the ideal when you’re not living it and neither are many people around you. No wonder a high percentage of vocation directors eventually leave their Order. This is not meant to be pessimistic or a “woe is me” moment but a real encouragement to reflect on how we are living this call and response with God. If we live our vocation well and with joy, people will be attracted. As Salesians, we are meant to do this as a family. We are called to live and work together in a way that allows each one of us to encounter Christ on a daily basis and then “regard ourselves as ‘sealed, even branded,’ by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising, healing, and freeing.” (Evangelli Gaudium, 273).
Yesterday we celebrated All Saints Day. We won’t be saints if we don’t live every day in this communion of Love who calls us, gives us life, and sends us out on mission; Pope Francis reminds us that “the heart of our Christian vocation is to imitate Jesus Christ, who came to serve, not to be served (cf. Mk. 10:45).”
As vocation director, I will continue to plan, travel, organize events, and create promotional materials, but hopefully with more of a desire to surrender every morning, to receive the love that the Father has for His Son, and to accept the mission generously and joyfully to love the people whom God sends my way.
If each of us does this well and as a family, vocations will come.