When I talk to those thinking about becoming a Franciscan, I sometimes hear them express a thought similar to, ‘I’m not ready yet, in a few more years I will begin my vocation.’ To that idea, I wish to respond: ‘You do not have to wait to start your vocation. Your vocation can start today!’ Yes, it may be that if one is to enter Religious Life, that will be a few years down the road, but one can (and should) already be living as a Religious before entering a Religious Order. God leads each of us, step by step. When one enters a Religious Order (or gets married for that matter), it should be just another small step in a long journey. For those considering Religious Life, and for all of us, my advice is to start living your vocation today.
This is after all, the message of Advent. The Gospel of the first Sunday of Advent says, “Be watchful! Be Alert! You do not know when the time will come.” Jesus is telling his disciples, and us, do not wait until tomorrow to start living your vocation today. During Advent, the liturgy and prayers of the first weeks remind us of the two comings of Christ. The first was over 2,000 years ago, and the second, is yet to come, when Jesus returns in power to establish the fullness of the Kingdom of God. But the Church Fathers also spoke of a third coming. Do you know when that is? It is today! All that we have is today. The past is in our memories, and the future is only a possibility in our imagination. The only time we can encounter God is now, in the present.
So how do we start living our vocation today? I advise to start today to PSSS! That is, start today to Pray, receive the Sacraments, Study the faith, and Serve! Like an athlete preparing for the big game, or a musician for a concert, we as Christians should exercise the discipline of structuring our life with PSSS.
|P||Pray: We should Pray every day.When Jesus called his disciples, he walked with them for three years before he sent them to minister. The bases of every vocation is listening prayer. For Saint Francis, and for Franciscans, this prayer should emphasize the Gospels. A disciple of Jesus learns about Jesus, encounters Him, and receives his mission from Him. One of the best ways to do that is by praying with the Gospels. Read a passage (scene) in one of the Gospels and put yourself in the scene. Let it come alive by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we pray in this manner, Jesus truly can become present to us, and guide us, as he once led his disciples. (See more on praying the Scripture in a previous post here.)|
|S||Sacraments: Receive the sacraments regularly. We grow in our faith and vocation not by our power, but by the power of Christ living in us. In baptism we received the Holy Spirit, the indwelling of Christ. In the Eucharist that indwelling increases and matures as we grow and mature. In the regular reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, we confess our sins and our shortcomings, this removes the barriers that can block our receiving God’s Grace in prayer and sacraments.|
|S||Study: We must grow in our faith through study. Many of us, especially those raised in the Catholic Faith, have received catechesis when we were children. We teach children the faith in a child like way. When that child grows into adulthood, if they still remember only the faith as they were taught, as described so that a child can understand, one will likely think the faith no longer applies in an adult world. Because we fail to relearn our faith in an adult way, many adults now see The Faith as a belief system that is immature and that does not stand up to critical thinking. In truth, nothing is more profound than the teachings of our faith, and the greatest thinkers and saints have found our faith to stand up to critical thinking, and our adult world. As adults, we must relearn our faith as adults, and perhaps in so doing really learn it for the first time. I recommend reading an adult catechism. The Catholic Church has an official catechism. This is meant more for reference. Other catechisms, based on this catechism, take more time to develop and explain the reasons for the teachings. I have found The Teachings of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults, edited by Donald Wuerl, Ronald David Lawler, and others, very helpful.|
|S||Service: Even the best intentions of prayer and study, can lead to selfishness if we are not also serving one another. We were created to love. That is, we were created to give ourselves to others to help them grow. Service is an essential part of authentic spiritual growth, and has a way of transforming us to become more Christlike. There are many ways to serve, but one that I like to suggest is direct service to the poor, e.g. the homeless, or those you might feel the most uncomfortable, or prejudiced, towards. (This was a big part of the spiritual growth of Saint Francis who as a youth despised lepers, but responding to a challenge from God received in prayer, he began to serve and care for lepers.)|
Your vocation can, and should, start today. Start today by structuring your life to include more PSSS; Prayer, receiving the Sacraments, Study and Service. By doing this, God will guide you, step by step, as He did His disciples. Jesus Himself will form you to be more like Him, and send you out to serve Him in your vocation. If that leads to Religious Life, that will be just the next small step in your journey. May I suggest you watch the following video of Wayne describing the daily life in our Postulancy Program. (Postulancy is the first year Franciscan.) The life of a postulant is just to: PSSS. This really is something you can live today. Peace and All Good. Happy Advent.
Video of Postulant Wayne Mulei describing the life of the First Year Franciscan Formation: