My friend Benedictine Father Meinrad Miller told me about this essay, "The Vocation To Life" published in a recent issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review by Father Charles Klamut. I was "blown away by it" and offer it to you here. It is truly an excellent essay; it captures the heart of what it means to be a Christian --a follower of Christ and His Church-- and to be a true man or woman with a humanity. Recently, I've had this discussion with a dear friend about vocation and he can't seem to get it across his mind (and heart) that there are things we need as a human being before being a monk or a priest. Father Charles gets it; Scola gets it as does Albacete and Benedict XVI and before him Paul VI and John Paul II. Are we listening carefully to the Master. On this feast of Saint Benedict, I offer this essay for us to reflect on.
Like the apostles, I first said "yes" to Christ because of the total answer he provided for my human need, and only within this context did a specific vocation to serve as a priest gradually begin to reveal itself.
A few years ago, during a retreat for priests, Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete shared with us a story of his friend, Cardinal Angelo Scola. When asked by a journalist about the shortage of vocations to the priesthood in Italy, Scola replied that the problem stemmed from a deeper crisis: the problem, he said, was that life itself is no longer seen as a vocation.
Albacete reflected on this insight for the next few days, calling it very important, explaining to us what he thought Scola was getting at. The call to life is something given, something prior to our thoughts and schemes. It's even prior to the particular vocations like marriage and the priesthood. We did not choose it; it's just there. Within the human heart is a cry for life, real life, eternal life: life properly so-called. The New Testament, using a more nuanced Greek vocabulary than our modern-day English, used multiple words for "life:" bios to refer to material, physical life; zoe to refer to a more comprehensive, metaphysical, all-encompassing life, such as the kind promised by Jesus. The heart cries for infinite life, not just bios, but zoe. The heart cries for a freedom and happiness which, alas, we cannot give ourselves. In short, the heart cries for God.
This call to life which our heart always hears, even if we don't (affected as we are by reductionist cultural forces), is awakened and answered by the exceptional presence of Christ. Jesus Christ is the infinite made visible and historical, the answer to the heart's cry for life: "I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).