One day in last February a young missionary was invited to my class to teach my students how to make rosaries. His name is David Gonzalez. Besides teaching how to make rosaries, Dave also explained to my students why we should always pray the Rosary and he actually prayed with them. I met him the same evening again at a friend’s home.
Dave is a missionary but not a priest. He is a member of NET Canada. Being a member of the NET team, he travels everywhere in Canada to preach to the young people about the Catholic faith. At this moment when this article is written, he is preaching to the young people in Halifax.
Dave once shared his thoughts on his vocation. I was given part of his sharing written in his own words:
‘Now, as I said before, I still struggle with the question of what God wants me to do with my life.
I’m still on that journey, and it’s probably going to be a long one.
But I’m listening, at least.
And if there’s one thing I know about my vocation for sure, it’s that whatever it is, ultimately it will be in imitation of Christ.
I know that whatever I’m called to do involves a cross.
That is, I’m meant to give up my life for the people around me.
All of us are!
And there are many ways in which a person can give his life up for the people around him.
That’s why there are many vocations.
How will you give yourself up for the people around you? That’s your vocation.
How will I give myself up for the people around me? That’s my vocation.
We are all called to live in imitation of Christ.
There are many ways in which we could go about this.
Our particular way is our vocation.’
Dave is a lay person but is seriously considering his priestly vocation. Although Dave is not sure what God wants him to do in the future, he is sure that his vocation is in imitation of Christ.
To imitate Christ is to be holy. Both Our Lord Jesus and St. Paul have asked us to be holy.
“In a word, you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” ( Matthew 5: 48 )
“I Paul, called by God’s will to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and Sosthenes our brother, send greetings to the church of God which is in Corinth; to you who have been consecrated in Christ Jesus and called to be a holy people, as to all those who, wherever they may be, call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” ( 1 Corinthians 1: 1 – 2 )
Sometimes we have a tendency to believe that we need to leave our family or profession and enter a seminary or a convent, where it will be easier to become holy. At the early stage of the history of the Catholic Church, many people felt the urge to withdraw from the world and live in the wilderness pining for a holy life. Their interest to become hermits was ignited by a few thoughts from the Bible:
- “If anyone comes to me without turning his back on his father and mother, his wife and his children, his brothers and sisters, indeed his very self, he cannot be my follower.” ( Luke 14: 26 )
- “In the same way, none of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his possessions.” ( Luke 14: 33 )
- “If you seek perfection, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor. You will then have treasure in heaven. Afterward come back and follow me.” ( Matthew 19: 21 )
- “Be intent on things above rather than on things of earth.” ( Colossians 3: 2 )
- “Have no love for the world, nor the things that the world affords.” ( 1 John 2: 15 )
These hermits, encouraged by the facts that Moses, some prophets in the Old Testament, John the Baptist, and Our Lord Jesus Himself did spend some time living in the wilderness, thought that living in the wilderness was the best way to achieve holiness. They lived singly and did not have a set of rules to follow. This practice continued for quite a while until St. Benedict founded the first monastery in 529. Later, in monasteries all over Europe, monks lived in small groups and had to follow some rules.
Very different from those hermits’, our understanding today is that God expects us to become saints in the concrete situations of our personal, family and business or professional lives. We are called not to follow the crowd where the current wind blows but are called to imitate the saints who found their own ways to achieve holiness. During the papacy of the late Pope John Paul II, many saints who were canonized came from all walks of life.
God calls us to be His faithful children in the midst of the trials and challenges of normal life in society. The call of God is that we be in the world but not of the world. We participate fully in society, in politics, in business, in education, in health-care delivery, etc.
I would feel happy for Dave if he chooses to become a priest as I am fully aware that there is a serious lack of priests in some parts of this world. However, I am happier to learn that he understands his vocation is in imitation of Christ. Imitating Christ is not the priests’ and nuns’ exclusive privilege. Every Catholic is called to imitate Christ.
Let us ask God today to teach us how to live saintly lives in our families and in whatever occupation in which we find ourselves.
Note. The following is a brief introduction of the NET team found on their website: ‘NET stands for National Evangelization Teams. We are Catholic Missionaries who share Jesus' gospel message with young people in a team format. NET Ministries of Canada challenge young Catholics to love Christ and embrace the life of the Church. NET Canada recruits and trains teams to evangelize to over 28,000 youth every year in churches, schools, dioceses, and school boards across Canada and Ireland.’
Although NET team has been in Canada since 1994, it originally started in USA in 1981. A close friend of mine from California attended retreats organized by NET USA when she was in California. She has been trained by NET Canada to become a core member of Lifeteen, an international Catholic movement that serves the Church by providing resources and faith experiences that help lead teens closer to Christ.
For more information about the NET team and Lifeteen, please visit their websites at: