Friday, June 12, 2015

You Are Not A Rock, You Are Not An Island

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Within the last six weeks or so, I have attended a diaconate ordination, a priestly ordination, a Mass of Thanksgiving for a newly ordained priest, a wedding, and a Mass for the tenth anniversary of priesthood.  For several of these Masses, I noticed something while standing in the back with our squirmy, chatty 16-month-old: I wasn’t alone.

I’m not sure at which event the back of church was more populated.  At the ordinations in the cathedral, babies were walked back and forth on the marble tile.  The wedding Mass had a virtual second world in the back of the large church, where babies were nursed in back pews and introduced to every statue.  And at the Mass of Thanksgiving, the back carpet was covered with crawlers and climbers, intrigued by the baptismal font.

Many of us, perhaps, have heard that the vocation to marriage and the vocation to celibacy are complementary, but it can be easy to forget that we are not set in opposition or relegated to our own corner of the ecclesial room (as it were).  

As I looked around the back of the various churches, I saw more than just mothers, fathers and babies.  I saw the communities from which these new vocations were born.  Attending the diaconate ordination were members of a young adult group that one of the young men, a convert, had attended.  Likely, his discernment of the seminary was occurring at the same time as the dating and engagement of many couples in the group.  The newly ordained priest was surrounded by couples, who, a decade earlier, were at the same college, asking where God might be calling.  And even the newly married couple were surrounded by deacons and priests as they professed their vows to one another.

Photo is licensed under creative commons
No vocation is born in isolation.  We seek our specific path in the call to holiness along with so many other saints-in-the-making.  Some are called to marriage, others are called to be priests or religious, but each person is called to holiness and to eternal communion with God.

Once we have begun living our state in life, said our vows and commenced the day-to-day actions, we live out our vocation, not in isolation, but in the community of others, both married and celibate.  The married couples reveal something of the exclusivity and totality with which God loves every human person.  Those who have embraced celibacy for the Kingdom reveal something of the abundance of God’s love and the promise of eternal communion with Him in heaven.  

There isn’t a competition to see who can rack up more “holiness points” or who has chosen a more difficult path.  The cloistered nun might pray a Holy Hour for her friend with a family, and her friend might offer up middle-of-the-night diaper changes.  The prayers, the sacrifices, the witness are mutually given and received by those within both states of life.  

It was a matter brought home to me in a very real way as I watched young mothers and fathers pacing, patting, and swaying while a friend (or friends) were promising vows of obedience and celibacy.  The parents and the priests (and everyone else filling the pews, of course) are called to a vocation to love, to serve and to draw closer to the God who created us.  

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