Tag Archives: called by name

We’re Called

We may think our relationship to God is a personal affair that doesn’t depend on anybody but ourselves, but that’s not so. Others help us on our way to God. Our gospel reading for this Sunday, for example, tells us that John the Baptist told some of his disciples to follow Jesus and Andrew brought his brother Simon to him. More than we know, others lead us to God.

Instead of a lonely journey, we go to God together. Another way of saying it is that we belong to one body, a church.  Much of our knowledge and faith in God comes from others. We’re not lonely believers.

Our first reading is about the young boy Samuel whom God has chosen for a special mission among the Israelites. His mother senses this and sends him to spend some time in the temple; she hopes the priests there will help him understand what his calling is.

The young boy hears God calling in the night but it’s a very indistinct call; he’s a young boy and he doesn’t know what to make of it. The old priest Eli doesn’t help much at first. He tells the young man there’ s no one calling, go back to sleep.

Finally, the old man recognizes that God is calling the young man. This isn’t the first time someone from an older generation doesn’t understand someone younger.  An early example of the “generation gap?” The story, we learn, is not just about a young boy finding what God wants him to do, but it’s also about someone from an older generation helping him find out.


After awhile, the old priest gives Samuel the right advice: “Go to sleep, and if you are called say ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’”

That’s wise advice. The old priest is telling him, first of all, believe God speaks to you. Then, listen humbly as a servant, without letting your own ideas intrude. Become a listener and hear what God wishes to say. Pray.

An elderly man from California calls us every few months to ask for copies of a little prayer we publish called “Be With Me Today, O Lord,” which he distributes to schools and churches in his area. It’s a simple prayer you can find over at Bread on the Waters, where a lot of prayers like this can be found.

The prayer says that God has something for us to do today and everyday; we have a mission in life and it asks God to point that mission out so that we can do it.

“I have a mission…

I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.

God has not created me for naught… Therefore I will trust him.

Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.

God does nothing in vain.

He knows what he is about.” (J.H. Newman)

We’ re links on a chain, a good image of how we fit into life’s larger picture. God hasn’t created us for nothing. We all have a mission in life, but we need people to help us know it.

Our Sunday readings might suggest one particular calling we need to think about and pray about and promote today–vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We need good priests and religious for our church and our world. God calls young men and young women. But they need others, like Eli, to support them in their call.

Next Saturday in our monastery in Jamaica, New York,  the Passionists are having a “Called by Name” weekend for young men who may be called to our community. I’m part of it. Know anyone who might have a call? Pray, and like Eli could you also encourage them to listen to God’s call?



Called by Name

Last weekend I was over at our monastery in Jamaica, Long Island, to participate in a program: Called by Name. It’s for young men who might be interested in joining our community.  No one came. Maybe the weather had something to do with it, but I don’t think it had that much.

Afterward,  three of us who were there to offer some input sat around and talked about vocations to the priesthood and religious life; our conversation gradually went beyond those callings to the whole question of vocation itself.

The word “vocation” comes from the latin word, “vocatio,”  meaning a call, an invitation. The first vocation we have is God’s call, God’s invitation to life in this world. We have been invited to life on earth by God, and he calls us to do certain things in our time here. We have been called by name, individually. The human family has a collective destiny here on earth, but each of us has something to do.

Then, God invites us to another world, we’re called to another life when our years here are done.

It’s important to remember this, because we tend to believe that we choose life and everything involved in it, and God has nothing at all to do with it. That’s not so; God has invited us to live, and our happiness depends on how we accept the call we have received.

One of the priests I was with last week told us the story of his own vocation. He’s a young priest, who was raised in a Catholic family that gave him the best of everything.  “But I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life,” he said, so his parents persuaded him to study to be an engineer.  It’s a good job, good pay. So he studied and got an engineering degree and landed a good job. But he said he wasn’t really happy with his life; he felt it wasn’t what he was meant to do. Finally, after praying about it and discerning about it, he became a priest. This is where he belongs, he told us.

Our call by God is not just a one-time call. God calls us over a lifetime It’s important to remember this. A vocation unfolds over the years.  I decided to become a priest 52 years ago. But I have to answer God’s call today. God’s call is ongoing, so I must ask continually: “What do you want of me now, Lord? Let me hear your call.”

The tragedy that’s just occurred in Tuscon may remind us of the on-going nature of a vocation.  A congresswoman goes out for an ordinary meeting with her constituents, her assistant goes along in her company, a federal judge in her community stops by to say hello, a husband and wife join the group, a little girl interested in politics also joins them. You never know the consequences of your life.

That day they had to live their lives in exceptional circumstances.

I suppose that 9 year-old Christina Taylor Green was one we noticed particularly in the tragedy. It wasn’t just because she was so young, but because she was so alive with so much promise, so much spirit. There was so much of a calling in her. She seemed to be someone our world needs.

She makes us aware that vocation is a mystery. It’s important to remember that too. So much of it is in God’s hands. That’s why we must pray about it. In the Our Father we say  “Your will be done,” We must try to know God’s will, to hear what God is calling us to do now, and to accept it.  “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.”

That the theme of today’s scripture reading at Mass. Our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah says that that we called from the beginnings of our lives, from the womb, to serve God. That call from God goes on to the end of our lives. It’s not something small or negligible that we’re called to do. “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.” We have a role to play in the mysterious plan of God.

Every few months, a man from California calls and asks for 1,000 or 2,000 little leaflets that we distribute from our place in Union City. It’s a leaflet entitled “Be With Me Today, O Lord.” He gives them out to kids in school and puts them in the back of churches. It’s a simple little reminder that God calls us. We have a vocation.

“Today is new unlike any other day, for God makes each day different.

Today, God’s everyday grace falls on my soul like abundant seed though I may hardly see it.

Today is one of those days Jesus promised to be with me, a companion on my journey, and my life  today has consequences unseen, my life has a purpose.

“I have a mission…I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. God has not created me for naught…Therefore will I trust him. Whatever, wherever I am I can never be thrown away. God does nothing in vain. He knows what he is about.”

May all I do today, begin with you, O Lord. Plant dreams and hopes within my soul, revive my tired spirit: be with me today.

May all I do today continue with your help, O Lord. Be at my side and walk with me; Be my support today.

May all I do today reach far and wide, O Lord. My thoughts, my work, my life–make them blessings for your kingdom; let them go beyond today, O God.

Maybe someone will hear that message someday and say, “I think God is calling me to be a priest.” I hope so.