This week's reflection is written by
Rev. Michael S. Murray, OSFS
In the closing pages of his book entitled American Church, author Russell Shaw describes “New Evangelization”:
“The key to new evangelization as a high priority of a new American Catholic subculture isn’t institutions and programs. Where to begin? It must start with the idea of vocation: with preaching and teaching and writing and broadcasting in every available forum the message that God intends each of us to play a unique, unrepeatable role in his providential, redemptive plan. Every life is a vocation. Today, it is not merely desirable but imperative that we acknowledge the reality of unique, personal vocation as preached and taught by such figures as Saint Francis de Sales…”
Note the distinction that Russell Shaw makes in the above quote: he does not say that every life has a vocation – he states that every life is a vocation. The long-established notion of “having” a vocation implies that we cannot play a “unique, unrepeatable role in God’s providential, redemptive plan” until we find a niche in which to do that. The notion of “having” a vocation suggests that there is something missing in us until we acquire something that gives our lives meaning. The notion of “having” a vocation infers that in order to serve God and others you need to “get a life”.
By contrast, the notion that every life is vocation underscores the fact that we already “have a life” by virtue of the fact of being created in the image and likeness of God. Salesian spirituality challenges us to be grateful for the gift that is life itself and to make the best possible use of that gift in the service of God and others. Whether married, single, divorced, widowed, religious, ordained, young, old, middle-aged, working, retired and/or lots of other states in between, every life isvocation. Jesus himself said it best in the Gospel of John (10:10): “I have come that you might have life and have life in abundance.”
Having life, living life and sharing life is our common vocation, our common bond – it is, in fact, the bond of love. In his Introduction to the Devout Life – perhaps one expression of the “new evangelization” of his day – Saint Francis de Sales wrote: “Consider the nature God has given you. It is the highest in this visible world; it is capable of eternal life and being perfectly united to his Divine Majesty.” Nearly three centuries later, Blessed Louis Brisson put it this way: “Every individual person represents something great.”
From a Salesian perspective, vocation is not about doing more. Vocation is not about finding an “add-on” to life. Since very life is a vocation, pursuing a vocation is simply being true to the unique person that God called into being. Francis de Sales wrote:
“I persist in always telling you that you ought to serve God where you are and do what you are doing. Not that I would wish to hinder the growth of your good works nor the purification of your heart, but do what you are doing, and do it better wherever possible. Take my advice and remain where you are. Do faithfully all you can do honestly, and you will experience – if you believe – the glory of God.” (Living Jesus, p. 412)
One, then, can make the case that the clarion call of Salesian spirituality is to spread this message far and wide: You matter. Your life matters. Do your part to make this world a better place, even if it’s only in your little corner of it. Look for all the God-given goodness – even greatness – in yourself and place it at the service of God by bringing out the goodness – even greatness – of others. Be who you are and be that as best you can.