Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Vocation: where our great passion and the world's great need meet

This article is from the inSPIRIT Journal, October 2002 issue. Ryan O'Rourke is a third-year theology student at Saint Francis Seminary who works for the Faith Community for Worker Justice and is a live-in volunteer at Casa Maria, Milwaukee's Catholic Worker community.

A Catholic worker
Ryan O'Rourke

Fr. Joe would always tell us that a vocation is where "....your great passion and the world's great need meet." Those of us in the college seminary and its director Fr. Joe would often gather in the evening to talk philosophy, theology, politics, and argue about whose turn it was to wash the kitchen floor. But mostly we talked about callings and how to fulfill them.

Such is the nature of college seminary. The college seminary is for men searching for their niche in life who think there is a possibility that niche might be the Roman Catholic priesthood. During the day we would go off to our different universities, and in the evening gather for dinner, prayer, and discussion. Some went on to the major seminary; others followed God's call to other places and occupations.

It has been several years since college and I still think often of Fr. Joe's words. I continue to search for that place where my great passion and the world's great need come together. The only problem is that, in my particular case, I am quite certain that particular lifestyle won't pay the rent. At 27 years old, no longer covered under the health insurance plan of my parents, I am starting to think more practically. What I really feel God is calling me to do with my life is no longer the only voice I hear. The voice of realism has crept in and now controls a certain sphere of influence in my decision making process where the voice of idealism once ruled supreme.

I find myself, like many my age, in the midst of a spiritual battle that marks the passage from one stage of adulthood to another. I feel faced with the choice of either following what I believe to be my calling or choosing the security that a good paying job with a benefits package will provide. As I look to the scripture for advice and inspiration, the answer seems obvious --- follow the calling and ditch the security. The scripture passage that has consumed my consciousness the past year has been Mt 6:31-33 that says, "So do not start worrying: where will my food come from? Or my drink? Or my clothes? Your Father in heaven knows that you need these things. Instead, give first place to his kingdom and to what he requires, and he will provide you with all these other things." I have come to the conclusion that next to "Love your enemies," this passage is the most difficult tp live out. Most of us try hard not to make a choice between our calling and our security --- determined to have our cake and eat it too.

When Fr. Joe told us that a vocation was where our great passion and the world's great need meet, he never told us that the world would not necessarily recognize its great need and compensate those who provide it. He never told us that the world would not recognize that it needs more poets than bankers, more musicians than insurance providers, or more peace activists than soldiers. He never told us that the world might indeed be hostile to what it needs the most. I believe there lies the most noble and difficult of callings --- the calling to provide a much needed service to the world without receiving anything in return.
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