Thursday, February 22, 2024

What is Your Vocation?

by Mary Lovee Klipp

Test your vocation know-how by taking the quiz…

1. True or False: Only priests, nuns and those chanting monk guys have vocations.

2. The definition of a vocation is:
a. a specific ministry each of us is called to do by God-either as a priest or religious, a married or a single person
b. a very long trip
c. the calling by God to be a priest or religious

3. How do you know if a particular vocation is right for you?
a. just if you feel God is calling you to that ministry
b. if you are a holy and devout person
c. the desire and ability to do it and proper motivation

4. True or False: Every Christian has a vocation of holiness.

5. Those called to the religious or priestly life:

a. are automatically zapped by God into saintly people
b. know right away that religious life is what they want to do
c. often must do a lot of thinking and praying before they discover their vocation

6. True or False: Having a religious vocation is better than being married or single.

Here’s where it all comes down, here’s where it all ends, where the truth of your future is, look no farther (ok, I’m going a little too far). Now tally up your score, then check which category you fit in.

1. False,
2. A ,
3. C,
4. True,
5. C,
6. False

1-2 Vocation Deficient
Vocations include more than just becoming a nun or priest. For more information check out these Bible verses: Gen. 12:1-4; Ex. 3:1-10; 1 Sam3:1-18; Acts 9:15; Matt. 9:9; 1 Corinthians 12:4-5.

3-4 Vocation Genius
Congrats!!! You’ve got a healthy knowledge of vocations. To fine-tune the facts, check out the Bible references above.

5-6 Vocation Ordinaire
You rock! You realize that each Christian has a vocation, whether to the priestly, religious or lay life. Each is equally important and necessary to the life of the Church. Good job!

What is God trying to tell me?
Dear Brother Augustine,

I read your story (in the March ’97 issue of YOU! Magazine). I am thinking about entering the priesthood and a lot of what you said and experienced kind of related to me.

I don’t know any other young people who are entering the religious life. I have a spiritual director, but I still feel a bit too young. I suppose I won’t really find a lot of guys my age who would be considering the priesthood as a vocation. I’m only 19! How old were you when you entered the monastery?

You talked about the inner peace you had while you were in the monastery. I can relate to that.

Last year, I attended a youth evangelization camp, and ever since the camp, I’ve felt changed.A LOT! Sometimes it overwhelms me. My life seems to be yearning for something more than a woman or money can ever give. Right this moment, I feel all I need is God and His love.

This desire to serve is so special that sometimes I cry and beg God to call me now, no more tests! I also realized that marriage and relationships can limit the way I want to serve Him. I guess you can relate to this, too, since you had a girlfriend prior to your entrance into the monastery. How did you deal with that, especially promising to remain celibate? Even with my doubts, being close to the Lord is all I want! And, I love those robes!

I’ve visited a monastery here in British Columbia. It’s very quiet there, but I love it. The peace just penetrates through me. Right now, I feel becoming a priest or monk is really for me. God bless! You’re in my prayers! –Teo Ugabar

Dear Teo,

Thanks for the letter! It’s greatly encouraging to hear that other “younger” folks are also thinking about the religious life. No, you (and I) are not the only ones. I was amazed at the response to the March ’97 article. Many young men and women seem to be on their way…

Sounds to me like you actually may have a vocation to the contemplative life. I was struck by the number of times you repeated the phrase “searching for God” which happens to be a Benedictine motto. St. Benedict said, “Above all other things, the monk must be a man who seeks God.”

Not all monks are completely cloistered. The ones near you sound a bit isolated (perhaps they are Trappists or Cistercians) but we, for example, run a school and two parishes.

I understand your enthusiasm and take courage from it. Pray like crazy! You’re right about the robes, too! The robes – more properly called “the habit” – are pretty nice fringe benefits. But, I think it has some practical value as well. I almost never take mine off because I’ve noticed that I behave differently when I’m not in it. I just don’t have the strength to NOT dress the part.

Concerning celibacy… I’m still learning how to deal with it, I’m afraid. It involves a lot of pain (but then, so does marriage.) Mother Teresa said, “Love, to be true, must hurt.” She’s got a point. In the meantime, we pray… Keep up the good fight. And please keep me in your prayers.

Br. Augustine

A Voice From The Cloister
by Brother Augustine

The mind cries out, explains, demonstrates, protests; but inside me a voice rises and shouts, “Be quiet mind; let us hear the heart!” Nikos Kazantazkis.

I was going to write a story about how I finally decided to become a monk, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that I never really did decide. It was decided for me by God.

But my friends keep asking me, “How did you ever decide to do this?” So last week, I went looking through my old diaries to see if there were hints of a vocation hidden in my thoughts. I was surprised by what I found.

March 20
What will I do with my life? I want to BE something! I have all this energy. I’ve prayed to find my place, I’ve searched for it, but I can’t find what I’m looking for. I have this feeling and I don’t know what to do with it. Sometimes I try to channel it into my studies, but as soon as I sit down with a book, I lose it.

April 28
Today I met some Benedictine monks. I was very impressed. I remember this girl just stared at them as they walked down the street. The policemen on their motorcycles looked downright silly next to them. I still sometimes feel like I would like to become a priest. I would love to belong to the Church in that way. I would love to wear those robes! They say Vespers at 7:15. Perhaps I’ll go.

May 19 I just got a job in a monastery! I can’t believe it. It’s such a quiet place. I must remember to be quiet. That will be hard for me – a good thing, though… I think. I wonder if I’ll like it. This is such a foreign experience.

May 20 The monks keep asking me what brought me here, well, I just don’t know. Perhaps it was God… These guys are cool, but I could never be a monk. And yet, living and praying and talking with them makes me so happy.

May 21 The monks wear a long black tunic with a hood and a piece of black cloth hanging down the front and back. I still can’t figure out how they go to the bathroom… I could dig being a monk. I think I could dig being a priest too. It’s just that I like girls way too much. I mean it.

June 14
You know, I’ve changed a lot in the last few years, but something has happened here in this monastery that has changed me in a profound way. I’m not too sure what it is, but I feel as if a seed has been planted. I am beginning to feel what some people call “inner peace.” The funny thing is that it hasn’t exactly made me happy. As I learn about myself, I am more aware of what I don’t know… the more peace I find within myself, the more I realize the parts of me that are not peaceful.

Is the monastic life really for me?

April 11

Is the monastic life really for me? I have a girlfriend! Things get so complicated. I was at peace no more than three weeks ago. Now what? Why, if I am to be a monk, would God send me a woman I could care about?
A Benedictine! To spend my life in search of God! To wear the black habit! To perform the Eucharist, hear confessions, preach sermons! To vow my life into bonds that free my soul! To live each day in prayer, close to the heart of our Savior, close to his holy presence in the Blessed Sacrament!
Am I to be a priest? Please, God, be more specific in your directions.

April 16
I am still in love with my girlfriend… but more confident that the monastery is my calling. As much as I really do care for her, I still see the priesthood as the answer to my question of what to do with the rest of this life.

April 27
I have such an awesome decision before me. I have come extremely close to entering this monastery… but I just can’t make that final leap. If I knew it was what God wanted, I would certainly trust Him to work things out. But I’m just not sure.

June 15
I’m sitting in my room wondering what I just did with my life. I walked into the monastery this morning, found the abbot, and asked him if I could join his community. I’m tired of messing around. Very well. I’m leaving for the monastery. I’m taking a risk. I’m going for it – all out!

Look, I want to do the right thing. Christ will not abandon me if I seek him honestly. On second thought, I like my life the way it is. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I am really happy – or at least I have been. But all of a sudden, I feel so sad. No, I have chosen to begin. I have chosen to stop making circles of my life and to begin the search.

There comes a point where you’ve got to move from fun to joy. That’s what I’m doing now. I’ll miss my girlfriend. I will miss dance clubs and parties, but there is a chance that something infinitely bigger and more beautiful is waiting for me. Now I have to empty my heart. Now I have to put my trust – all my trust in Jesus Christ. If I seek him, he will not abandon me.

Am I strong enough for this? No. Is He? Yes. He will not give me a burden I can’t carry. The celibacy part is going to be tough. Really tough. And obedience ain’t gonna be no piece of cake either.

“Will this be my home for the rest of my life? Oh my God. I’m scared…”

June 19
My first night in the monastery. Will this be my home for the rest of my life? Oh my God. I’m scared again. I’m depressed. Can I be bound into this monotonous cycle of living? PRAY-EAT-WORK-PRAY-EAT-WORK-PRAY-EAT-WORK…. I’m tired. And I want a girlfriend.

June 28
I hope I have the strength to do this. Lord, give me the strength.

June 29
Last night I had a dream. I don’t remember the details of it, but I know that in it, I met, or spoke with St. Augustine and decided to name myself after him. When I woke up, I pulled out his autobiography and read the following passage: “So my two wills, one old, the other new, one carnal, the other spiritual, were in conflict with one another, and their discord robbed my soul of all concentration… I was split between them.” This is exactly what I’ve been going through. But St. Augustine gave up everything in the end. Will I?

August 28
My first day in the habit. People call me “Brother.” The title feels strange. Like I don’t deserve it. The habit feels strange. Like I don’t fit it. I don’t know whether or not I’ll stay here more than a year, but I’ll try. I am not so happy as I am at peace. Does that make sense?

January 7

Tomorrow I begin my novitiate. Does it scare me? It does. But no matter what path I choose it will have pain. Deep, agonizing pain. If I have a girlfriend, it might be jealousy, if I have a wife, it might be boredom or fear for my children. If I am celibate, it may be loneliness. Whichever path I choose, pain is an inevitable consequence. Because I am human.
I can’t spend my life running away from suffering. Even God felt pain. Jesus felt pain and loneliness and rejection. Just like me. “He who wishes to follow me must drink from the same cup as I.” The cup of loneliness. The cup of emptiness.

January 11
I’ve made it through the first three days of novitiate. So far so good. Only 363 days to go (It’s Leap Year!). For once in my life, I have no say in what happens to me. I am no longer in control. For one year, I will shut up, keep my head down, and listen…

March 20
From the very last window at the back of the cloister I, a new monk, hear the highway hum. Two hundred cars a minute packed with busy people grind past at unimaginable speeds. Where are they running, and from whom? What is so important to so many people that they must get there so quickly? Beyond that line of trees is the World of which the Wise Man warned me. I am tied to it forever, and yet it is leaving me behind. In a monastery behind a row of trees.

May 29

I dreamt about surfing last night. Surfing and having a girlfriend. I can’t figure out which I miss more. Still, I suspect I’ll stick around when my novitiate is up. I am beginning to really love the silence.

July 4
Sometimes I pray that I am not called to be a monk. At moments like this I ask, “Why me? Did I not have enough pain in my life that I had to go and add celibacy to my list of struggles? I’ll tell you what: nothing short of God Himself will keep me in this monastery. Fortunately, I think God Himself is keeping me in this monastery. You can consider my presence here proof of His existence. August 8 Lately, my doubts have grown more serious. I told Mom and Dad I wasn’t’ going to stay. There are other things I would like to do. Go off to L.A. Be a real writer.

August 15

Is ambition really such a bad thing? Even after 14 months in a monastery, I still want so many worldly things. My thoughts are all questions these days….

August 21
How many days have I wasted away in sin? This monastery seems to have brought out the worst in me. But then, that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? To flush out the demons so I can meet them head-on.

August 24
I have been here over a year and I am still not used to waking up at five a.m. I need something to end this torturous indecision. Faith, perhaps. But since I obviously don’t have enough of that, I’ll ask for a miracle instead.

August 26 Still no miracle.

August 28
The Feast of St. Augustine I had a dream this morning while I was meditating. I dreamt that I was standing in the middle of a small room I was surrounded by vicious, snarling monsters – anthropomorphic and grotesque. They approached me on every side, poised to devour me. But instead of defending myself, I lifted my hands to heaven. And the monsters were whisked away. Weird.

September 8
Today, the novices had a talk with Patrick Barry, the abbot of Ampleforth. He warned us against constantly “looking over the wall.” “The modern world is such a world of options,” he said, “that we find it almost impossible to commit to anything. But doesn’t it all boil down to trust? Isn’t that the most fundamental thing expected of us? Some day, you will think of changing your mind, but will trust Him instead. Stick to the facts. Forget your imaginings about the future. Picture yourself the blind man before the Pharisees: ‘All I know is that I was blind, and now I see.’ Stop arguing with God and trust Him.”

October 1
The Feast of St. Therese of Liseux Over the last week, I have received three roses: a red rose, a white rose, and today, a yellow rose. What can they mean? I have made my decision. I will join the monastery.

October 21
A beautiful day. The air is so cool and clean. Our trees are starting to blush. It will be winter, then Christmas, and then I will vow my life to God. I trust Him and I will live for Him. I feel good, It’s not the kind of good you feel when you tell a funny joke. It’s not the kind of good you feel on a first date. It’s not the kind of good you feel when you hit a home run, or catch a clean wave, or ace a test. It’s the kind of good that sort of wells up slowly from within so that you hardly realize how good you’re feeling. Sort of like how Jeremiah found God not in a thunderstorm or earthquake, but in a gentle breeze.

October 29
We had a motivational speaker in our church two nights ago. He asked, “Is there anyone here who is truly happy? Is there anyone here who just cannot imagine being any happier? Of course not.” I was a little embarrassed because I had almost raised my hand. I am truly happy. I can’t imagine being any happier. As far as I can tell, I am doing God’s will. What more could I want? This story is over. The end of my novitiate. The end of my beginning. As my Latin prof used to say, “Now there’s a story with a happy middle.”

Br. Augustine is currently finishing his studies in Oxford, England!

For more info on the Benedictines write to:
Saint Louis Abbey
500 South Mason Road
St. Louis, MO 63141