In one of my favorite movies of all time, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King", Elrond (the King of the Elves) tells Aragorn (the rightful albeit reluctant King of Gondor) to "Put aside the Ranger. Become who you were born to be." It is the moment in the trilogy in which Aragorn finally starts to accept his bloodline, his heritage, his position as King. It is the moment where he becomes that which and who he was created to be.
The Gospel reading from this upcoming Sunday, the first Sunday but the beginning of the second week of Ordinary Time, follows a similar theme (John 1: 35 - 42). Jesus meets Andrew and his brother Simon for the first time. After one look at Simon he changes not only his name (Peter) but also his role in the world. Putting aside the fisherman, Peter is to become the Rock upon which Jesus will build His Church. While Peter's path to fulfilling his potential after this moment is anything but rock-solid, in this moment Jesus changes Peter's course. It is the moment that Peter starts to become who he was born to be.
Tomorrow marks the end of the Church's Vocation Awareness Week, a week to focus on and pray for an increase to priestly and religious vocations within the Catholic Church. Incarnation Catholic School had a priest, Fr. David Toups, come to speak to our students about vocations. We prayed the Prayer for Vocations as a school community every day during morning prayer. At Mass on Wednesday another class was given the Vocations Cross, beginning their week-long focus on praying for an increase in vocations (this, by the way, is a weekly practice with the Cross rotating among the different classes of the school).
But, every week in a Catholic School should be Vocation Awareness Week. Our goal should be threefold: to evangelize, to catechize and to educate. In accomplishing this mission, we should be able to ignite the faith and cultivate the intellect in such a way that young people give serious thought and consideration to a priestly or religious vocation. If Catholic Schools are doing what they are supposed to do, priests, brothers, deacons, sisters and nuns should naturally result because of our efforts.
Vocations should be a natural result because our goal should encompass helping all students to become who they were created to be. The truth is, everyone has a vocation. Not everyone is called to priestly or religious life; but everyone is called. Jesus is giving all of us a new name and a new role. He is calling out to us. He is giving each of us a vocation.
Vocation, from the Latin vocare, meaning "to call".
Are we listening? Do we even know how to listen? Do we recognize His voice? Can we hear it above the incessant noise of the world? Do we have the courage to answer His call? Especially if the call is to the priesthood or religious life?
If Catholic Schools are doing things right, the answer to the questions above should be an irrevocable and resounding yes. Our students should know that God's vocation for them is beyond their hearts' greatest desire. They should believe that following this vocation will give them greater fulfillment than they could ever imagine.
They should be taught to listen for God's call. Make vocation, in the broad and general sense, yet intimately connected to priesthood and religious life, a constant refrain.
They should be taught how to listen. Teach them scripture and examples of others- Mary, Joseph, Peter, Paul, Moses, Noah, Samuel- responding to God's call. Teach them how to pray and that prayer must not always be us barking at God. Teach them that praying also needs to entail sitting in God's presence listening. Teach them that listening means unplugging and does not require a controller or earbud.
They should be encouraged to boldly go where and do what God is asking of them. This is counter-cultural. It may not bring fame. It may not bring fortune. It may not be easy. It may not make sense to others. It will, however, bring fulfillment to themselves, to others, and to establishing the Kingdom of God.
Be who God created you to be.
Become who you were born to be.