As it’s vocations Sunday today, it seems appropriate to post Robin’s talk on vocations given at 3 Masses at a parish in the diocese.
This is my second time discerning a call to ministry. My experience of vocation began as a child within the Church of England. I remember discussing this sense of being called with people in my church when I was about eight. It wasn’t clear cut, but a sense that there was something about my experience of being in church and watching our parish priest at the altar that drew me; that said – maybe this was something that I was supposed to do with my life. As I grew older I wanted a really clear message from God, perhaps an angelic visitation. I prayed about it for some years and when I was about fourteen and attending the ordination of a deacon coming to our parish had a spiritual experience. It seemed that the sermon at that ordination mass, which was all about accepting God’s call to service, was speaking directly to me as if I was the only person in Church. It was actually quite scary, and I thought and prayed it over wondering if perhaps God really wanted to give me some other vocation than priestly ministry. But I came to the conclusion that this was what God wanted and that if I didn’t pursue it I would always be nagged by the feeling that there was something missing in my life. So I took all this to my parish priest and began the formal process of discernment within the Church of England. I was selected for ordination while at university and spent 13 years as an Anglican priest before becoming a Catholic.
That’s a story for another time. Suffice it to say that having been a Catholic for a year and a half that sense of vocation has not gone away. So here I am, asking the Church if God is calling me to fulfil that original sense of vocation. Asking if God is calling me to a more complete ministry of priesthood within the Catholic Church.
My story isn’t very unusual and contains a number of elements that would be recognised by others exploring a vocation to priesthood.
- I was already in the Church, worshipping, praying, seeking to develop my Christian life when I heard this call from God. If we are to hear God speaking to us we need to be first and foremost living a fully Christian life and listening to him in prayer.
- Although it took a while to become clear my sense of vocation was specific. For me, seeing the priest at the altar, at the Eucharistic heart of his ministry, made it clear that this was where I should be. If God is calling you to a specific ministry he will make it clear.
- The call was persistent – that sense of vocation lasted over the years while I was discerning, even when I wasn’t sure what God wanted from me – or that I wanted to say yes!
- I took my personal sense of calling to the Church so that others could help me discern if this was really God’s will.
That’s some of my story but how does this affect you?
Firstly, I ask you to pray for all those who are exploring a vocation to priesthood at the moment and that all those God calls will be enabled to say yes. We often hear about a crisis of vocations. I firmly believe that God is calling men to the priesthood, we need to help and encourage people to respond.
Secondly, I ask you to practically encourage young men you think could have a vocation to priesthood. I might never have offered myself for priesthood either within the Church of England or the Catholic Church without the encouragement of others.
Thirdly, I would encourage any young single men here to ask themselves what God wants from them. So many of us drift through life without asking ourselves that all important question. Maybe God is calling you to marriage, which is a holy and wonderful vocation. But maybe instead he is calling you to the priesthood, to a different sort of Fatherhood. Whatever his call God is knocking at the heart of each one of us. We need to listen and discover how he wants us to respond to his loving call.