"Here I am; you called me."
With these simple words Samuel answered God's call in the middle of the night. The simple little story of Samuel that we hear this morning illustrates that discerning a vocation is not a simple matter. Eli helps Samuel come to understand that the call in the middle of the night is coming from God. Though our situation may not be so dramatic, all of us need some direction, some help in discerning God's will for us. Religious communities and bishops appoint Vocation Directors to assist young people in determining whether they have a vocation to religious life or the priesthood. Seminaries and convents provide spiritual directors to help those who enter formation programs. Spiritual direction is also becoming more common place among lay people. Oftentimes, people seek this direction from their confessors or religious friends.
One of the stories from the life of St. Francis of Assisi that illustrates this need concerns Francis' question about the direction his life should take. He felt drawn to contemplation and a solitary or monastic lifestyle. At the same time, he found that he was invigorated by walking among and preaching to people in the piazza of Assisi and the surrounding towns. These two different vocations tugged at him in such a way that he felt it necessary to consult others. He asked brother friars and St. Clare to pray with him for a time to help him with his struggle. After a few weeks, they all reached the same conclusion. Francis was called to a blending of both. To this day, the Franciscan vocation is viewed as an active lifestyle with longer periods of time set aside for prayer and contemplation.
Prayer and meditation are the fuel that make our active lifestyle possible. This is clearly indicated in the Gospel. Only twenty-nine verses into the Gospel, and we find that Jesus is besieged by people seeking his healing power. Yet we also here of how he steals away to be alone in prayer, a prayer that motivates him to do the work given him by God. If Jesus needed such time alone, how much more so do we?
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator