Saturday, May 28, 2016


Last night we hosted four young men from the University of Texas who have been spending several days in the New York area on a “vocation pilgrimage” arranged and led by a religious brother from the university who had been stationed in New Jersey some years ago. Newark Abbey was the last visit on their whirlwind tour of religious houses in the New York area.

Last evening a few of us monks sat down and shared our “vocation stories” with our visitors, telling them how each of us came to be a monk. As I listened to the stories, I started to notice some threads that wove in and out of the different accounts.

One thread was that almost always some person had directly asked or suggested that the young man seriously consider a religious vocation, or perhaps even invited him to come to visit their own monastery.

A second thread was that when the young inquirer arrived for a visit in a particular religious house or monastery, he immediately felt “at home” in the place, and then confirmed this first impression during subsequent visits.

A third was that each story-teller spoke about a desire, an inner attraction to a life of “something more” or “something deeper.” When we asked the four collegians why they were on this trip, they all mentioned this sense of being called to something different from the ordinary life that the people around them are planning to lead. The word “vocation” means “call,” and it was clear to all of us in the circle last night that a religious vocation is a very real thing.

Another thread that appeared a couple of times was that various friends, acquaintances and co-workers had come up to the person and said, “You should be a priest!” One of the college students said that a principal reason why he signed up for the trip was that in the past two months, four different people had said to him, “You ought to be a priest!” Four completely different people spontaneously saying the same thing within a short period made him get serious about investigating the idea.

This last thread, like the first one, involves a person speaking directly to the young man and either (as in the first thread) personally inviting him to come and visit his monastery, or (as in the last one) candidly encouraging the person by sharing their opinion that he would make a good priest or religious.

I find it heartening whenever I hear a young man or woman say “People kept saying to me

‘You would make a good religious (or monk, priest, etc.).’” Invariably that young person finds these comments at least provocative and at best encouraging. I wish everyone would take the trouble to offer that encouragement to some young person whom they know; often it turns out that this is not the first time that someone has told them that; or the observation helps confirm what the young person has been secretly feeling, but needed some reassurance.

So, while the Lord does so much of the vocation recruitment world by planting desires in hearts, or arranging that a seeker finds a place where they “feel at home right away,” it became clear to me in last night’s discussion that the Lord also uses all of us in various ways  to “call” people to religious and priestly life. I realized that I have a special opportunity and duty to encourage religious vocation in young me, since I teach in an all-boys prep school, and am always giving an example of religious life to my students.   

We should pray constantly for these four young men, and for all women and men who are trying to respond to that gentle voice in their heart. And we should also be ready to do our part by saying a word of encouragement to those same people, to help them hear the voice more clearly and respond more confidently.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Fr. Albert:

    Your thoughts concerning how the process of being called to the religious life unfolds was very insightful. In recent conversations with people on this subject, they were of the opinion that a person should not be "recruited" because the calling comes from God. I disagree and feel that we all have a duty to encourage others if we feel they possess certain qualities conducive to the religious life. I am a Lay Carmelite and I often wonder why there is no mention of "third orders", which by virtue of the formation process lay the groundwork for those aspiring to the greater ascent of becoming a sister, priest, monk or deacon.