Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 30, 2002
Know when God is calling you
Vocation directors host workshop to help discernment
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Cyril Doll believes God has been calling him to the priesthood. To help discern that call, the 26-year-old Calgary metal worker attended a vocation workshop sponsored by the Alberta Vocations Directors at Camp Oselia Sept. 20-21.
"I know God is calling me and attending things like this is one of the steps I think I have to do to prepare myself to fulfill that calling," he said.
With 24 other young participants from across Alberta, Doll, 26, spent time praying, reflecting and listening to lectures on vocations.
Several vocation directors from all Alberta dioceses, including the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy, helped the young audience in the reflections, sometimes telling stories about their own faith journey.
Father Myles Gaffney, director of vocations for the Calgary Diocese and guest speaker at the workshop, said religious and priestly vocations are everybody's business and called for the creation of "a culture of vocations" in the Church.
This, he said, involves praying regularly for vocations at the parish level and at homes and setting up parish-based committees dedicated specifically to inviting more young men and women to consider religious and priestly vocations.
"The work of vocations falls to the entire Christian community," he said earlier to some 18 vocations directors at the Catholic Pastoral Centre. "Parishes should take ownership of vocations promotion."
Many young people never pursue religious life simply because nobody tells them they have the gifts required for it.
"They should be told," Gaffney said, urging vocation directors and parishes to continue to use the Called By Name vocations program, a program that calls on Catholics to notify the parish priest and the bishop of anyone who is thinking of the priesthood or religious life, or who has the qualifications for it.
Normally the bishop of the diocese writes letters to these individuals inviting them to take the next step.
Gaffney said the call to the priesthood is not an option, but "a definite call that comes from God alone and it's a call to fullness of life with him in prayer, in conversion, in the seeking of holiness."
Those who feel called should have a qualified spiritual director who guides them through the journey and must be able to discern their vocation in an environment of prayer and contemplation, the priest said.
But prayer cannot be done in a vacuum and Gaffney suggested using the Scriptures and other sacred books as basis for prayer.
"We need something to focus on and we want the best of books, beginning with the Sacred Scriptures," the priest said, referring to the Scriptures as "God's mind" and "God's love letters to your soul."
Many of the Church's saints wouldn't even consider prayer without a book, according to Gaffney. For instance, St. Teresa of Avila said she was scared to go into prayer without a book. Mother Teresa had three books at her bedside her entire life-the Bible, The Imitation of Christ and St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to Devout Life. St. Th‚rŠse, the Little Flower, had the Scriptures at her bedside as well as The Imitation of Christ.
"You want to find the (right) book for you," Gaffney told the young workshop participants.
The Calgary vocations director than suggested several ways of praying.
The first is liturgical prayer, namely meditating on Scripture passages used during the daily Mass.
Another is arranging the Scriptures according to themes such as discipleship, healing and repentance.
A third way suggested by Myles, arguably the most fruitful way, is to read a biblical book in its entirety, prayerfully and quite slowly over a period of months.
"We come to prayer with our whole heart and our whole mind," Gaffney said. "To listen to the word of God, we make a conscious decision to be attentive.
"The call to the priesthood is not an option, but "a definite call that comes from God alone and it's a call to fullness of life with him in prayer, in conversion, in the seeking of holiness."
- Fr. Myles Gaffney
"We've got to read very slowly and very carefully. You never rush with the Sacred Scriptures. If I'm going to read them, I'm going to read them well. If I'm going to read the word of God, I will not scan it as I do with the newspaper."
Doll, the Calgarian discerning his priestly vocation, said the workshop was useful.
"I learned a great deal about prayer life," he said. "I learned about the importance of daily prayer, especially reading the Sacred Scriptures."
He first heard the call five years ago, but didn't do anything about it until last spring when he approached his parish priest. Doll is currently under Gaffney's wing. The priest runs a house in Calgary for men interested in the priesthood.
Doll said he would spend about a year involved in parish life before making a final decision on his priestly call.
"It feels awesome to be called by God, an incredible peace," he said.
"I always wanted to be a husband and a father, but I asked God one day and asked him what he wanted me to do as a career.
"And through prayer and meditation, I pretty much was convinced he was calling me to be a priest."
Christina Page, a 20-year-old youth minister in Olds, attended the workshop to be around others her age who want to pursue religious life.
"I guess it reminded me of the steps I do need to take," she said of the workshop. "It especially reminded me I do need to persevere in prayer."
Page has been thinking of religious life for years, but she never took the thought seriously until he heard Pope John Paul speak at World Youth Day in August.
"He said, 'If you are feeling a call to religious life, do not be afraid.' That really hit me and I decided to smarten up," Page laughed. She even broke up with her "almost" boyfriend to pursue her calling.
In late November, Page will go to Chicago to visit a Dominican convent for a week. The workshop "sort of prepared me for that visit," she said.
The young woman decided to give the Dominican Sisters a try because they approached her in Toronto during World Youth Day.