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Marist Bulletin - Number 209

 

Closure of Marist Vocation Year Marcellin
19.08.2005

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Have you ever looked into a mirror worried that you might find signs of aging there? You adjusted the light, peered into the glass, you asked yourself: Is it my imagination or does my hair look greyer than a month ago or is there just less of it? And those wrinkles, were they there 12 months ago, and so forth? As we grow older, worries about aging and illness, and ultimately death so often preoccupy us and we look to external physical signs to confirm our fears or to reassure ourselves that we cannot possibly look the same age as everyone else born about the time as we were.

However, if you and I really want to discover whether or not life is slowly slipping away, we need but look to our hearts. Has yours or mine grown more passionate with each successive year, is the fire that was once there still as all consuming as before, does my heart or yours remain capable of wonder, of innocence, of being surprised? These are the true measure of vitality, life, call it what you will.

Today we come together to give thanks for God’s blessings during this year that we set aside to promote vocations in all areas of Church life, but especially to Marcellin’s Little Brothers of Mary. It has been a year of sacrifice and hard work, of satisfying encounters with many people—young and old--, a year marked by prayer, filled with grace, a time of promise.

We began our year long journey on the 8th of September 2004, a feast known traditionally as the birthday of Mary. And if the past 12 months have taught us anything, they should have convinced of this much: young people today are as generous as they have always been. And they do not take lightly the challenge of discerning their vocation: in making a choice, however, they are looking for something worth the gift of their lives.
And that is why passion, fire, and the ability to be surprised remain so important when it comes to religious life and Marcellin’s Little Brothers in particular. They are all signs of life, and of life in abundance.

Ronald Rolheiser, a priest and lecturer, wrote recently about giving a talk to a group of young adults planning marriage. He was trying to challenge them with Christian teachings on love and sexuality, and they were objecting constantly. Finally, when Rolheiser had finished a young man stood up and said, “Father, I admire your idealism but are you aware of what is going on out there? No one is living the stuff you talk about anymore. You’d have to be one person in a thousand to live what you are suggesting. Everyone is living differently now.

The priest looked at the young man, now sitting beside a young woman whom he obviously loved and planned to marry, and asked, “When you marry the young woman sitting next to you, what kind of a marriage do you want? One like everyone else’s, or a one-in-a- thousand marriage?

“One-in-a-thousand,” the young man answered without hesitation. “Then,” Rolheiser suggested, “You’d best do what only one-in-a-thousand does. If you do what everyone else does, you will have a marriage like everyone else. If you do what only one-in-a-thousand does, you can have a one-in-a-thousand marriage.” Those young men and women who look at religious life today are also looking for a one-in-a-thousand life. That is why what they see in us is so important. Do we still have fire in our hearts, passion, are we capable of wonder, innocence, of being surprised.

If we have been true to our vocation, or as we used to say lived a life of fidelity in the midst of our humanity, we should be all of the above. After all, the word vocation has the same Latin root as the word voice. So, a vocation appears to have something to do with listening. Listening to my life, those in it, listening to God also. But definitely listening. And what do we hear? Sometimes it seems awfully quiet out there, and on other occasions we find ourselves moved deeply by an encounter with another person, something we have read, a moment of prayer. Discerning a vocation means that you listen to what life is telling you rather than just telling life how you will live it. And sometimes you will find that what you hear when you listen well is not what you want to hear at all. But that is what discerning God’s will is about in the first place. The voice that speaks to your heart in a vocation invites you to become the person God meant you to be.

So, as we bring one phase of this year of vocation promotion to a conclusion and look ahead to continuing our efforts, let us first of all thank the Lord for his presence and his life of grace this past year, and for the Spirit so evident among us. Let us thank Mary and Marcellin also; both were listeners; both heard and carried out in their lives God’s dream for each of them.

A word of thanks, too, to Brother Théoneste Kalisa, General Councilor, and Brother Ernesto Sanchéz Barba, Executive Secretary of the Council’s Vocation Bureau, for their exceptional work designing and implementing this Institute effort on behalf of us all. Both put in long hours, generated many creative ideas, and managed to keep alive a spirit of enthusiasm throughout the last 12 months. Their contribution to our Institute and Church is a lasting one.

Finally, thanks to all of you—Brothers and lay Marists, people young and old alike—who participated in this Year for Vocation Promotion. Your prayers, energy, your efforts in so many ways, on the Institute, Province, and local level contributed greatly to the overall success of our efforts. We need to continue to work on behalf of vocations and will do so through a number of continuing efforts based on the work of this year.

And to my brothers in the Institute, a challenge to us all. What the year has taught us, in part, is that the best way to invite young people to our way of life is to have fire in our hearts, an evident passion in all that we do, and a love of the Lord and his Good News evident in our lives each day. Let us commit ourselves to be and do just that.

Many thanks.
Seán D. Sammon, FMS
Rome, August 15th 2005

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