the Examiner Articles

Five Signs that Religious Life is calling you

Sr. Colleen Therese Smith, ASCJ

The purpose of Vocation Sunday is to publicly fulfil the Lord's instruction to "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2). Many parishes and religious institutes continually pray for vocations throughout the year, and conduct vocation promotion events regularly. Considering that 73 per cent of women and men professing final vows participated in one or more parish activities, and 88 per cent served in one or more parish ministries before entering religious life, the celebration of Vocation Sunday is very pertinent and essential. As a climax to a prayer that is continually offered throughout the Church, Vocation Sunday affirms the need of ordained ministers for the plentiful harvest of the Lord. While appreciating all vocations, the Church concentrates its attention this day on vocations to the ordained ministries (priesthood and diaconate), consecrated life in all its forms (male and female religious life, societies of apostolic life, consecrated virginity), secular institutes in their diversity of services and membership, and to the missionary life.

Does God send us tangible signs that we are indeed being called to the religious life? Often, young men and women are hoping that God will show them an obvious sign that will confirm where God is leading them. The simple truth is that you cannot really calculate the exact "sign" God should send nor expect God to answer "on cue." Nonetheless, our faith assures us that God is always communicating His will to us. God's message is consistent, sure and irrefutable. The Letter to the Ephesians summaries God's intentions for us: "God has given us the wisdom to understand fully the mystery, the plan to be decreed in Christ in the fullness of time: to bring all things into one in Him, in the heavens and on the earth" (1:9-10).

Here are five of the "signposts" that may indicate a vocation:

1. A peace like no other

St Ignatius of Loyola teaches in his Spiritual Exercises that when your own will is aligned with God's will, you shall know great consolation. God's will is completely directed towards allowing you to know God and being able to love God in return. Thus, Ignatius writes, "Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God's deepening life in me" (no. 23).

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Friendship with Jesus – Young People called to Holiness

Fr Joseph M. Dias, S.j.

With great affection, Pope Francis addressed his Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit (Christ is Alive), on March 25, 2019, to all Christian young people. He said that he intends to remind them of certain convictions born of our faith, and at the same time, to encourage them to grow in holiness and commitment to their personal vocation. The whole Church ought to become aware of the problems faced by our youth due to the prevailing confusion brought about by conflicting ideas, ideologies and values in today's world, largely under the influence of the mesmerising mass media. In such a situation, the young need reliable guidance to find their way ahead and lead a meaningful life. The best compass they can access to navigate their journey through the perplexing problems and challenges they face, are the life and teachings of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who continues to dwell amongst us and speak to us through the teachings of the Catholic Church. Youth are naturally motivated best by inspiring role-models. The role-model, par excellence, which the Church must always present to the world, in season and out of season, according to Pope Francis, is "Jesus Christ, the companion and friend of youth, whom it is always possible to encounter in the Church."

Young people in peril

Millions of young people today are living in war-torn regions—their lives, hopes and aspirations completely shattered by bombings, killing and terror on all sides. Who will give them hope and courage to rebuild their lives and their lands? Due to the ravages of armed conflicts, natural disasters, grinding poverty, discrimination (on the basis of race, colour, caste, sex, religion, culture), and injustice, millions are uprooted and forced to flee from their native lands, and risk facing all kinds of dangers—rejection, uncertainty, and even death around every corner.

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Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Biblical reflections for the eight days

For the eight days of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2021, we propose a journey of prayer:

Day 1: Called by God: "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (Jn 15:16a)

Gen 12:1-4 The call of Abraham

Jn 1:35-51 The call of the first disciples

The start of the journey is an encounter between a human being and God, between the created and the Creator, between time and eternity. Abraham heard the call: "Go to the land I will show you." Like Abraham, we are called to leave that which is familiar, and go to the place that God has prepared in the depths of our hearts. Along the way, we become more and more ourselves, the people God has wanted us to be from the beginning. And by following the call that is addressed to us, we become a blessing for our loved ones, our neighbours and the world.

Day 2: Maturing internally: "Abide in me as I abide in you" (Jn 15:4a)

Eph 3:14-21 May Christ dwell in our hearts

Lk 2:41-52 Mary treasured all these things

The encounter with Jesus gives rise to the desire to stay with Him and to abide in Him: a time in which fruit matures. Being fully human, Jesus grew and matured like us. He lived a simple life, rooted in the practices of his Jewish faith. In this hidden life in Nazareth, where apparently nothing extraordinary happened, the presence of the Father nourished Him.

We too need a long period of maturation, an entire lifetime, in order to plumb the depths of Christ's love, to let Him abide in us and for us to abide in Him. Without our knowing how, the Spirit makes Christ dwell in our hearts. And it is through prayer, by listening to the Word, in sharing with others, by putting into practice what we have understood, that the inner being is strengthened.

Day 3: Forming one body: "Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15:12b)

Col 3:12-17 Clothe yourself with compassion

Jn 13:1-15; 34-35 Love one another

On the eve of His death, Jesus knelt to wash the feet of His disciples. He knew the difficulty of living together and the importance of forgiveness and mutual service. "Unless I wash you," He said to Peter, "you have no share with me." Peter received Jesus at his feet; he was washed and was touched by the humility and gentleness of Christ.

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A Life-sustaining Virus and the Providence of God

Dr. Christopher Baglow

We are living in the Age of the Virus, unprecedented in scope and in impact on every facet of life, affecting everyone and every relationship. COVID is, in a negative sense, truly catholic, according to the root meaning of the word; it "pertains to the whole"—to the whole person, and indeed to the whole human family. Unlike the Church, it carries not the promise of life, but the threat of death. And yet, here's the stunning paradox—though this virus threatens our lives, we live because of yet another virus, which threatened life 150 million years ago, and became the lifeline, literally, that has sustained the life of every human being.

Genomic research has discovered that human DNA, and indeed the genomes of all mammals, contains leftover viral DNA that infected egg and sperm cells in the distant past. Eight per cent of the human genome is retroviral, and is sometimes referred to as the "junk drawer" of our genetic code. Retroviruses have an amazing, and mostly lethal, feature; they can insert genetic code into cells while blocking the host cell from doing the same. Around 150 million years ago, one such infection left behind this very feature in the genome of one of our mammalian ancestors, and it became a part of our inherited functional DNA. Through the trial and error process of evolution, the placenta—the key to the protection and nourishment of embryos in the womb, was (pun intended) "born" from the remnants of this virus, which triggered a genetic mutation that changed the DNA passed along to all future generations. Viruses bring disorder and death, and yet, in this case, viral DNA became a key source of order and a new way of producing life, a way through which every human being is nourished and brought into the world.

This is by no means a singular, lonely example of evolutionary good fortune; this kind of openness is a hallmark of our universe as understood through modern scientific inquiry. Emergent systems, arising from things much simpler and displaying new levels of complexity, distinguish our universe as one that is not closed and clock-like, but open and surprising. Science has revealed the universe to be a balance of order and openness, law and flexibility, symmetry and surprises. A fundamental order exists, but this order is flexible in ways that are open to the emergence of new, truly surprising levels of order. In this case, the biological tie between mother and child is the new level of order that came from an otherwise destructive viral invader.

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