Hearing the Call Today
by Sr. Ann Stango, S.C.
a mural of Jonah being thrown into the sea
Bible history records the fact that each prophet heard a call from God, and seemed to know what he must do. Some of them, like Jonah, for instance, didn’t like the task he was given. And others, like Jeremiah, knowing exactly what God wanted from them, tried to back out. But in the end they did their job and God rewarded them with immortality through these many centuries. Jesus also heard God’s call and began His ministry. Then Jesus called his friends to follow Him. No one was forced; each had his own gifts, and responsibilities. Many said “yes,” and some said “no.”
The important thing here is that the prophets, Jesus, and his apostles heard the call. Maybe it was easier for them than with us. The call seemed to be clear, and neither Jesus nor the prophets or apostles took long to answer. It seems to me that over the years, many people heard the call, but took longer and longer to make up their minds to begin looking into following Jesus more closely. This is true even today for the basic call to Baptism. Parents take longer to baptize their babies, and older adults think long and hard before entering the Church.
Full-time workers needed
Since Vatican II the Church has called lay people to take their rightful roles in many aspects of Church life, and many have responded with enthusiasm and generosity. But today the Catholic Church needs more people to dedicate themselves fully to doing the work of the ministry. Traditionally, these people have been the bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters. In today’s language, we might say they found a life-long career in the Church.
The Catholic Church has grown through the grace of the Spirit dwelling within each of its members. From that perspective, why aren’t more of our members looking for full-time ministries as priests, brothers or sisters? Where is the call? Is it possible that Jesus through His Spirit is not calling many to follow Him full- time in Church ministry? I don’t think so.
The call comes at any time. One needs to hear it, pay attention to it, not be afraid of it and take the next step. Responding to a call takes some courage, even to begin to think about what it means to be a priest, brother or sister. A person can become fearful because it involves change, and change entails leaving the familiar and embracing a new way of living.
But it can’t be any scarier than thinking about getting married for life, can it? Don’t people always seem to be trying to “fix-up” men and women they think are good for each other and for marriage? We even see television ads offering to match up people! Where are the “fixer-uppers” in the Church who can identify those who would fit well as a priest, brother or sister?