Teaching Our Faith — On mission: vocation and discernment

This series of teaching editorials focuses on “Christ is Alive,” the 2019 apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis and our youth and young adult ministry efforts in the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Quite frankly, our world does not understand the importance of vocation and discernment. This is especially evident in the messages given to young people in 2020. Society says things like “follow your heart,” in relationships and “build your own empire” in the workplace. Young people take these things very seriously. But Jesus, on the other hand, says to follow me and build God’s Kingdom!

In “Christ is Alive,” Pope Francis provides practical ways to live out vocation and discernment. Regarding vocation, Pope Francis reminds us where its purpose can truly be realized. This is in respect to our relationship with God. “The salvation that God offers us is an invitation to be part of a love story interwoven with our personal stories.” God is calling us, first and foremost, to a profound relationship with him in this life. It is in this relationship, this love story with God, where we ultimately orient our purpose and true vocation.

Pope Francis points out that we are not on earth without purpose. We are on mission, and we have been endowed with gifts by God for the service of others. We are called to “share in his [God’s] work of creation and to contribute to the common good by using the gifts we have.” This means work is more than just a means to make money or a title to impress others. Work, as the Holy Father puts it, is an expression of our vocation. It is, “… an expression of human dignity … [and] an opportunity to give glory to God by developing one’s abilities.”

Through every talent, God has given us the ability to glorify him and bring joy to others. Whether this is in nursing, philosophy, teaching or computer science, the Lord has bestowed special gifts on us for the glory of his kingdom. Although these gifts might be realized in relation to a family, the Pope emphasizes that “devoting yourself to God in the priesthood, the religious life, or other forms of consecration” cannot be dismissed. Our Holy Father points out, “You can be sure, that, if you do recognize and follow a call from God, there you will find complete fulfillment.” How beautiful is that?

Regarding discernment, the Holy Pontiff guides us in how to think about opportunities presented. He urges us to consider: “… whether it is new wine brought by God or an illusion created by the Spirit of this world or … of the devil.” We are thus called to learn whether an opportunity, “has to do with the meaning of my life before the Father who knows and loves me, and with the real purpose of my life, which nobody knows better than he.” Although Pope Francis acknowledges that the Lord speaks to us in a variety of ways, he noted the premier importance of prayer.

He states, “… we simply cannot do without the silence of prolonged prayer, which enables us better to perceive God’s language, to interpret the real meaning of the inspirations we believe we have received, to calm our anxieties, and to see the whole of our existence afresh in his own light.” Thus, discernment, Pope Francis notes, “requires a certain degree of solitude and silence.”

Certain questions can be asked to help perceive our gifts and discern God’s calling for us. These include, “Do I know what brings joy or sorrow to my heart? What are my strengths and weaknesses?” Also, “What can I offer to society?” and, “Do I have the abilities needed to offer this kind of service? Could I develop these abilities?” Pope Francis also shares how others can aid young people in this discernment, which largely comes from unconditional listening. “The other person [discerner] must sense that I am listening unconditionally, without being offended or shocked, tired or bored,” he said. The Holy Father compared this listening to that of Jesus on the way with his disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). The listener is then called to help determine “what is most pleasing to the Lord, to his plans for their life.”

Pope Francis concluded his words on vocation and discernment with a wish. His wish was for young people to “Keep running, ‘attracted by the face of Christ, whom we love so much, whom we adore in the Holy Eucharist and acknowledge in the flesh of our suffering brothers and sisters.’ ” The Church, as he put it, needs our momentum, our intuitions, and our faith.

As young people, let us seize the fire of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, to quench the thirst of Jesus through our talents and to live our lives as an offering to the Almighty Father.

Luke and Ashley Schmid of Louisville belong to St. Margaret Mary Church. They met in their parish young adult group, Pax. They have been grateful for the opportunity to participate in archdiocesan young adult events and are expecting a baby this fall.

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