"Do I have a vocation?"
- Written by Shane Neese
As Vocation Director for the Order one of the questions I hear the most is, “I’m not sure if I have a vocation. How do I know if I have one?” Every person has a vocation. I think many people confuse vocation with having a career. An example I like to use is that if you are a nurse, this is your job or career. It’s not a vocation. Or if you drive truck for a living, this is your career, but again, it’s not a vocation.
So what is a vocation? And how can everyone have one? And can we have more than one?
A vocation, simply put, is how we are called to serve God and each other. Some are called to married life, or married life and parenthood. Some are called to live their life Single. Some are called to serve in the priesthood or religious life. Obviously this small list is not a complete list, but should give an idea.
Everyone has a vocation. I say this because we are all called to love and serve God – how we do that determines in part our vocation.
Is it possible to have more than one vocation? Sure it is! Some are called to the married life and to serve God as a Religious or as a Priest. God gives us our vocation(s) and He gives us the strength to live them. We believe that just because God has called you to a vocation as a husband or wife, and perhaps a mom or dad, doesn’t mean you can’t serve him as Religious Brother or Sister, or even as a Priest.
The real question isn’t, “Do I have a vocation?” But, “What is my vocation?”
That question is one that I can’t answer for you (or those that ask me that.) So I ask a question: “How do you see yourself serving God?” Often I hear, “I don’t know.”
Let me share a bit of my story – it’s not typical by any means.
I was raised Southern Baptist, but from a very early age (actually around age 4 or 5) I remember telling my Mom that I wanted to be a priest. I didn’t understand what a priest was or that I would have to leave the Baptist church. As I grew older that desire to serve God and his people at the altar never went away. Sure I wanted to be a teacher and several other things along the way – including a country singer. But that desire to serve God never went away. In fact as I got older it felt like my heart was burning to serve. Along the way I realized I was called to the Religious life, but I also wanted a loving relationship with another person.
So, not knowing that I could have a dual vocation of Marriage and Religious life, I settled down and have been with my partner for going on 23 years. But that burning to serve God as a Religious and as a priest never went away, and although I was happy in my relationship, I was miserable because I knew I wasn’t doing all I was called to do.
Finally, thanks to a friend, I realized a person can have multiple vocations and I began the search to serve God as completely as I could. Enter the Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
I remember the moment I entered the Novitiate the fire that had been burning in my heart for over 20 years was quenched. From there I entered the seminary program and began my journey to quench the fire of serving God at that alter.
Yes! I’ll say it again, Yes! You have a vocation or two.
Is God calling you to serve Him as a Religious? Is he calling you to a deeper commitment of community? It would be my honor to discern and pray with you.
Homily for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
- Written by Shane Neese
Saturday 8th week of Ordinary Time
Gospel Mk 11:27-33
When I was about 15 years old, my Mom’s oldest brother spent a week with us. He was a Marine, and a Viet Nam veteran. He wanted to go climbing in one of the mountains nearby and I begged Mom to let me go with him. She finally agreed.
After several hours I was exhausted and asked my Uncle if I could head back down to the picnic area below. He said yes, but he wanted to keep on going up for a bit more. So I began climbing back down over the boulders and through the ravines. At one point, I heard a growling and I knew that ahead of me somewhere was a mountain lion. But I didn’t know where. I was terrified. If I made the wrong choice I could walk up on it while it was feeding or hunting and then I would be the mid-afternoon snack. But I knew not moving wasn’t an option either.
So I chose to work my way down the longer way, hoping to bypass the big cat.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus set a challenge to the priests, scribes and elders that questioned his authority to teach and perform miracles. He forced them into choosing either left or right by asking them where John got his authority. They were afraid to answer him. Either they had to admit who and what he was, or deny it and face the people who held John the Baptist as a holy man and a prophet.
Every day we are placed into similar situations. Do I choose left or right? And if I choose incorrectly, what is the consequence? Sometimes we choose wisely and sometimes we don’t – that’s life.
Obviously I made it down the mountain safely. What I didn’t know until a year or so later, was that my uncle was watching me and he was watching the mountain lion. If I had chosen the wrong path, he was watching and was there to protect me. It is the same way in our lives now. We may not always make the right choices, but God is there to protect us. Not necessarily from getting banged up and bruised, because we do need to learn, but he is there with us through it all, protecting the most important part of us – our souls.
Fear can freeze us in our tracks. Not moving is worse than making a choice. Fear will always be a part of our humanness. Faith in God, faith in his love and compassion is what will keep our feet moving in the right direction – toward him.